Anxiety, Trees and Clouds

Stefan graciously contributes to Nectar this month, with timely and needed words from his own blog-  a beautiful post from 2013:

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With lots of resistance to feeling it, I wonder why I would resist the presence of anxiety but not the tree’s presence across the field. Granted, the anxiety is very unpleasant* but it is it really unbearable? Don’t I perceive it just as I perceive the tree? Is it essentially different? It is here and it won’t go away, not now or anytime soon anyway. Can I turn to anxiety just as I would look at a tree? I quickly realize that by focusing in on the pain my resistance grows. I just can’t be with it in this way. It is too much, it is too painful. Forcing to meet it head-on does not help.

This is when I actively begin to notice things I am seeing through the window. They are there too. What if I spread my attention, noticing non-threatening things, going from tree to tree, occasionally weaving in the sensations of pain and anxiety?

Just like this tree is here, this cloud, this chair, anxiety is here. It is just one of the things present. Would I want for the tree to go away? Would I want this cloud to change? That pain is here just like everything else is.

Letting my gaze wander I keep saying out loud: Here is a tree, here is a house, there is a goat, here is anxiety, here is a treetop, there is a cloud, there is a wall, here is this pain, here is a tree, here is a fence, here is resistance, here is the vibration of my voice. The wind blows through the leaved branches of the maple tree. Breath blows through the tightness in my chest.

By and by, anxiety becomes part of the landscape. It is simply what it is, no need to resist it, no need to take it personally. No need to zoom in on it in a vain attempt to blow it out. The ground under me holds it just as it holds me. A sigh of relief, when I feel that support. I don’t have to hold that pain, the earth does.

The pain doesn’t disappear by this recognition but I feel supported and ready for the day.


Stefan by Maud smallStefan Laeng has studied Sensory Awareness and related practices since 1980, With Charlotte Selver, the originator of Sensory Awareness, he studied and worked extensively from 1991 until her death in 2003. In his work, Stefan also draws on his background in Buddhism and Gestalt Therapy. His explorations of Sensory Awareness as a modality for mental health professionals have enlivened practitioners in the field. For years the Executive Director of the Sensory Awareness Foundatin, he is now at work an an extensive biography and oral history of Charlotte Selver. Stefan lives with his wife and son in Hancock, New Hampshire. He offers workshops in the USA and Europe.

For more information please visit Stefan’s website.

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