Question: I have suffered a lot from anxiety. Have been to many psychiatrists, and they have always advised me to be secure in my environment. But I have found that all that is something very false.
I can have faith, and I believe that my life can be good. Everyone advises me to be comfortable in my environment, but I keep escaping from everything. I also keep escaping from the fact that I am anxious. I am very confused. The psychiatrists have advised me some medications, but I have never taken them.
When I face the fact that I am anxious, then I start panicking. I lose all focus and become very anxious.
Acharya Prashant (AP): I am going to say something, and don’t take it as just wordplay.
It is not just anxiety that bothers you, it is your anxiety about ‘anxiety’. Just as we are afraid of so many things, we are also fearful of ‘fear’ – “What if I become afraid?” Similarly, we are anxious about anxiety.
Now, is there anything right now that makes you anxious?
Acharya Prashant: Still you talk about it because you are anxious about being anxious. Let anxiety come and go, why must you resist it? Why must you plan to kill it? Is anxiety here right now? But do you see what you are doing? You are planning behind its back, like a soldier, like a fighter, you are planning at the back of anxiety that – “When anxiety will return next, I will slaughter her.” Where is she? Is anxiety here right now? Are you anxious right now?
Acharya Prashant: You are not. But the very thought of anxiety, is making you anxious. So is it really about anxiety, or about the imagination that you have about anxiety, the name that you have given to anxiety?
Please go into this.
Is it something that is troubling you right now?
Acharya Prashant: But you have given it a bad name. You are saying, “Oh it is such a vicious thing, the next time it comes, I have ammunition ready to kill it.” And by planning all this, you are hastening the arrival of anxiety. If you are anxious about anxiety, aren’t you already…..?
Listener 1: One will get more anxiety.
Acharya Prashant: You already have more anxiety, because you are already anxious about anxiety. Now why can’t you let anxiety be? Why is it so important for you to have clean, sanitised, decorated self-image? Why can’t there be moments in which you go really bonkers? Why can’t you take it as not a contempt to be afraid, terrified, shivering, troubled? Why is it a disgrace to be anxious? Why?
Is it not so that we have ideals in our mind, that the really wise man, the really Spiritual man, is never found anxious?
Question 2: Isn’t anxiety good? It prepares us for action.
Acharya Prashant: It may be ‘good’, ‘bad’; even those are labels. We are not trying to jump to the other extreme. There is one fellow here who says, “Anxiety is very bad, I need to slaughter her.” And then we have a counter-opinion that says, “Anxiety has something of the good in it.” We don’t want to jump from there to here. That is just a polar leap. We don’t want that. We are saying, “Let it be good. Aren’t we entitled to good things? Let it be bad. Don’t bad things have a place in life?”
Why must ‘bad’ be so bad that it shakes you up? Why must ‘good’ be so good that it becomes a temptation?
You cannot have depth in your life, unless you have gone through the entire rainbow, the whole spectrum. You need to know what it means to go so mad, that you pull-off your hair. If you haven’t been through all that, you will remain an incomplete person.
There are scholars, and monks, and learned people who cut-off parts of the mind. They suppress something within themselves so much, that it becomes almost obliterated. And I tell you, that leaves them with more incompletion.
You need to pass through the entire spectrum of living.
You need to experience maddening anger, you need to experience the razing force of lust, you need to experience the terrible temptation to be dishonest.
And you need to go through all of this, without suppressing it, without being equivocal about it, without giving it a false name.
You need to call dishonesty as ‘dishonesty’, lust as ‘lust, and anger as ‘anger’, and shame as ‘shame’, and yet stand firm.
And when you are though it, you must be able to laugh at it. And even more wonderful, when you can laugh at it, even in the middle of it.
Blessed is that One, who can point at himself saying, “You know what, I was such an idiot.” And absolutely blessed is the One who can say, “You know what, I am an idiot.” If you cannot say, “I am an idiot,” at least say, “I was an idiot.” Even that is alright.
As a person, please understand, you are not designed to be perfect.
All perfection is just idealism; fanciful imagination.
The Truth might be unlimited, and free of all kinds of distortions and stains; you are a man, and man is limited.
Life has a total diversity of colours; you cannot remain contemptuous towards them, you cannot dismiss them.
Anxiety is one of the colours.
There may come a time in your life when anxiety disappears, but you cannot postpone life in expectation of that particular moment. And yes, that moment indeed does come. But will you keep forever waiting for that moment, that – “There will come a time when I will experience no anger, no anxiety, no gear, no sorrow”? Will you stop living?
In fact, the more you wait for that moment, the more you are delaying it. Till the time that moment is not there, enjoy what you have. And what do you have? You have anxiety? Good, good for you.
When you will find that you are no more angry even in the face of the greatest provocation, you will miss being angry. Till the time anger is there, let it be there; don’t be so hostile towards it. It is going to go away. But by engaging yourself with it, by being hostile to it, you are making it stay.
When you allow anger to be there, only then you can examine it, know it, look at all its details. If you suppress anger, how will you know anger? How will you learn anger?
And we have been taught to suppress so much, because all of that is so much ‘bad’. It is bad, so don’t experience it. And if you are experiencing it, don’t acknowledge it. “Don’t acknowledge that right now you are riding away of lust. Hold yourself tight. Pretend to be alright.” This way you never come to know lust. “When you are in the middle of sorrow, don’t let tears flow. Act as if you are composed.”
You must allow yourself to be totally disintegrated, because disintegration is what you are experiencing then. So let the disintegration come to the fore.
Question 3: From where does this idea come that if you are experiencing pain, and at the same time you also laugh at a joke, then it appears that your pain was not real or true. So to somehow prove that the pain we are experiencing is there, and is real, we focus only on that as if one even is completely different from the other one.
Acharya Prashant: You know, there is a person who is in tears, and you go to him and you tell a joke, a really nasty joke. And the nastiest jokes are mostly of the vulgar variety. And the joke is so overpowering that the fellow cannot help smiling. He will smile, he will be forced to smile, and after that he might get angry at you.
“You exposed the falseness of my tears. You made me smile at this moment. Why did you? You should have sympathised with me, you should have consoled with me. And instead of that you made me smile. And that too through this vulgar joke. You have exposed that something within me is still smiling.”
The tears were false, so what? Does falseness not have a right to exist? If it can override even the Truth, who are you to object? ‘Maya‘ has been called as the favourite daughter of ‘Brahm‘. Who are you to complain? Who are you to complain?
But do you see the pride associated with suffering? “I am crying right now, respect my tears.” And how do you respect somebody’s tears? By becoming tearful along with the crying one. If somebody is crying, you better start crying with her; that is how you offer your respects.
When I say, ‘false’, I only mean that which does not stay; I do not mean that which needs to be hated, or renounced, or denounced.
The false is here to stay, you better make peace with it. And there is no peace possible, without making peace with the false. If you wait for the false to disappear, continue to wait; the false will not go away. And even if it has to go away, why must you wait? You need Peace right now, don’t you? Why wait?
Make Peace with the false.
Spirituality is not about waiting for some ideal sunrise.
It is about being there, this day; not that particular sunrise.
You see, when I look at you, I see a certain helplessness on your faces. Do you know what is amounting to this helplessness? You see that there is a very powerful presence of false in your life, and you feel incapable in front of it. Now these two need not necessarily go together. While the false may be present in a big way in your life, yet it need not make you feel helpless.
You can be perfect even in the middle of imperfection.
There can be Truth in the middle of the false.
But you have assumed that unless you fight, and defeat, and delete the false, there is no possibility of Truth.
And when you look at your strength, you find yourself not capable enough. You say, “I cannot defeat the false,” which means, “I am condemned to live in the false.” No! Even if you cannot defeat the false, you have no need to defeat the false.
You can live in the Truth, even in the middle of the false.
You can be Joyful even in the middle of anxiety.
Are you getting it?
So let anxiety come. Anxiety is being given you by your very physical cells.
You were a dear once, a leopard attacked you; your anxiety comes from there. You were a bird once, the snake took away your eggs; you are still anxious. Anxiety will remain. Anxiety has very deep roots. You remain free of anxiety, even in the middle of anxiety.
I am repeating this: Those who wait for the perfect day will keep waiting. That perfect day may never come. And even if it comes, it does not come as per your calendar. Don’t keep waiting. Today is as good a day as any.
Give yourself the license to be outrageous.
Give yourself the freedom to be unburdened.
There is no obligation at all to be carrying the loads that you are accustomed to.
Why must you look like this? ‘Outrageous’ is the word, ‘silly’ is the word. Why can’t you be a little silly? Why must you look so composed and respectable?
Listener 1: We have been trying to control the monkey in the mind.
Acharya Prashant: You have been so harsh with the monkey. Why must the mind-monkey deserve such hatred from you? Let it be. If it is afraid, let it be afraid. If it is anxious, let it be anxious. If it is hopping from here and there, let it hop.
Listener 2: Don’t bother.
Acharya Prashant: Even if there is botheration, let it be.
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Acharya Prashant is an emerging champion of socio-spiritual awakening in the world today. An alumnus of IIT-Delhi and IIM-Ahmedabad, and a former Civil Services officer, Acharya Prashant is an acclaimed Speaker, Vedanta Teacher and author of over 50 books. Apart from that he wears various hats: a veganism promoter, an environmental activist, a science activist, a campaigner against superstition, and a champion of essential human freedom. Know More