Our environments, families, and culture have dictated what level of agitation to live at. Since human beings are very impressionable, people learn to maintain a similar level of agitation in their behavior patterns. Consequently, these deeper levels have probably gone unnoticed your whole life.
For instance, it's easy to notice if you have a very anxious neighbor if they are operating in more fear and anxiety than you. You may think to yourself, "This dude just needs to chill out." But if you asked your neighbor how he was doing, he'd probably say that he was fine. Clearly, you can see that this is not the truth, but that level of agitation is so normal to your neighbor that he has no perspective.
Developing perspective on yourself is one of the big steps on the spiritual path. Being able to drop into a space of awareness and witness your thoughts is the central tool in doing so. At earlier stages, other people can be very helpful in offering reflections about you, but the more subtle you go, the more you need to rely on your own awareness to sense the truth and where agitation and fear still reside. If you are sincere, you will begin to release more levels of fear and agitation from the body and your energy and move into a more settled state of peaceful awareness.
spiritual awakening blog post for someone early in their spiritual journey or at the very beginning of a spiritual awakening. It's not even for someone who has released just a few issues. This type of subtle releasing is when you can't seem to find any issues left, and you feel extremely comfortable knowing what most of your issues and blindspots are. You may feel relatively free, and this is a wonderful thing. However, you may notice from time to time that fear seems to come up. Or when you are really peaceful, you can feel these surges of old emotions even though you aren't thinking about any story to bring them up. This is a sign that you are now ready to go deeper into some of the habituated patterns of the body to more consciously release and unlearn them.
Because I want to emphasize that the body is a creature of habit. It is my personal theory that if we've been living in fear our whole lives, then we've taught our body to maintain a certain level of fear and vigilance. That has impacts on what hormones and other biochemical stuff is readily present and being pumped through your body. And I think that this is where you start to appreciate that everything is truly interconnected. If we don't help ourselves to really release these body processes and subtle levels of fear, this becomes the unconscious ground to rebuild new stories, fears, and an ego identity dedicated to mitigating and avoiding all that. Quite simply, you can go back to where you started.
By the way, if you want some more insights into what "fear" does to the body, click on the link below. Fear really is more than just an idea; that's why it's so powerful.
The Chemistry of Fear
Freedom From Your MindA lot of people find a great deal of spiritual freedom from their minds. Many others come to peace in their hearts and their emotional body. And while I separate these two things, obviously they're not actually separate. I simply find that these types of distinctions are helpful earlier on in our spiritual development. The deeper we go, the more absurd it is to carve ourselves into a heart, body, mind, and energy. It's all intertwined. Nonetheless, having understood your mind, what you think about, what you think you want, what old wounds you have, and so forth, it makes it possible to deal with upset energies and old levels of fear in the body because now you won't feed those issues. When the mind believes in them, it feeds them. The body has a tendency to continue to stay agitated, and if we get too focused on "fixing" ourselves, there's a subtle level of tension and agitation is being put on top of the agitation we are feeling. You can't release the subtle layer until you release this new top layer you've now created.
But the good news is that a lot of the simplest spiritual tools that you've learned still apply. Using the breath to embrace and release agitation is such a simple thing. But it is profoundly effective. The breath speaks the language of the body. By breathing in and out in simple even breaths, you are telling the body that there is nothing to fear. There is no threat to prepare for, which is what the body is doing when you feel "scared." The breath tells the body to turn off some of the mechanisms that may have been switched into the on position for days, months, years, and even your whole life.
However, since this is the body, it is typically the slowest part of us to catch on to change. As such, it may not immediately switch off the flood of fear hormones and all the biochemical stuff related to fear . You may simply find yourself kind of hovering in this space of agitation for some time. But eventually, that switch does turn off when you are not energizing it.
Discovering Subtle Mind StoriesOf course, we often find out that our minds have not been as clear of debris as we had thought. This is the power of really dropping into spaces of quiet and stillness. That's my general recommendation for dealing with really subtle levels of agitation. A personal retreat somewhere is really helpful. Getting away from all the media (TV, Internet, music players, etc.) help to make it possible to notice how fear and agitation are at work in you. Remember that much of Western Culture (especially in the U.S.) is about masking our feelings. The less external stimuli you have, the more you notice how much inner stimuli are pulsing through your veins to keep you at different stages of fear and agitation.
Without much stimuli, you can suddenly feel very anxious when nothing is wrong. This is actually a good sign. One: you are noticing the fear. Two: you are feeling it. That means it's coming up and is on the way out. However, the ego may suddenly rise up with a hundred different reasons that you can't do this. This is your test to simply stay focused on your breathing and not buy into any stories. As I said, this stage is particularly useful for those who already have worked through a lot of ego stories. If you haven't, you probably need to figure out the story (A story can be "I am not good enough;" "I am not worthy of love;" etc.). At which point, you've come back up to a more superficial (but important) level of work. In some of you may have to as you find out that your ego story that said you'd finished working with ego stories was just another...well, ego story.
The Deepening of Anxiety and AgitationDepending on your body and your journey, you'll find deeper or lighter levels of agitation and fear at work inside of you. It's also my general theory that we don't all have the same biochemistry of fear. I hypothesize that some of us get more powerful doses of fear chemicals than others of us. Nonetheless, we all have to work with what we've got to work with. And your breathing is a great practice to teach the body to let go and that these fear chemicals being produced are inappropriate.
They are. They are completely inappropriate. Because a woolly mammoth is not about to stampede you as you lie on your bed or couch breathing. This is essentially what fear is part of--the fight or flight mechanism. You may start to notice that you've been trying to run or fight for most of your life. This is actually a very important realization, and the more you turn off this mechanism inside you through simply breathing and being aware of it, the more clearly you will see your life.
Involuntary Resistance and Waves of Deeper and Deeper FearsIt is always humbling to see how deep our issues run. It is humbling to realize that in many respects we are just animals running off the two most basic programs of survive and procreate. The arrogance of the ego does not want to believe that. In not looking at this deeper truth, we continue to operate by these hidden agendas. In essence, we are controlled by them. It's ironic because most of our egos don't want to believe we are controlled by anything. We make our own choices, right? Wrong.
If you are sincere, you will be surprised at how much involuntary resistance comes up to just being with yourself. This is one of the deeper level "guard dogs" to getting to the inner switches that can keep us so wound up (and to be honest, it's not always a fear switch that's flipped on. There are a number of other switches that people can have turned on that make them feel certain ways all the time). Some times the involuntary resistance is more voluntary than others, and in some ways, everything this a voluntary choice even if it got made at a completely unconscious level.
For instance, as a child, we make huge numbers of unconscious choices about how to live based on what we see the grown-ups around us doing. This is a basic function of the animal-body to mimic what it sees. It takes a long time before we feel like we can actually make choices for ourselves about how to live, but by then, we are so mired in all of these unconscious choices that we aren't actually making conscious choices at all. All these other hidden choices are dictating what we can see, hear, believe is possible, and so forth. That's why many of you may not even feel like you've made a conscious choice in your lives into your spiritual awakening or the start of your spiritual journey.
Because of this, we also seem to create a huge amount of involuntary resistance to even looking at these unconscious levels. Part of those unconscious levels includes family patterns and genetic dispositions. If we live in a family with a pattern of higher anxiety, we are more likely to operate at greater levels of fear. I don't intend to theorize too much about genetics, but I imagine that some people also have different levels of genetic disposition to higher levels of fear.
Finding and Releasing the AgitationIn stillness, your agitation will become apparent. Some of it may simply steam away. The more challenging the fear, the more likely you still have some commitment to it. So you may find yourself journaling once more after potentially not having picked up a pen in years. But after that, stop and go back to that feeling. Let your body release. Let that fear simply express itself and dissolve. That really is it.
This is that technique I've discussed about dissolving issues with awareness. It is a powerful tool, and we all have it. Most other spiritual tools are bridges to letting the awareness resolve issues. Your body doesn't actually want to stay agitated, and my experience is that the more you relax, the more your body wants to stay relaxed. The beautiful aspect of the body is that it naturally wants to let go, so once you crack through that habituated tension, you may feel odd for awhile. But that strange feeling will dissipate as you relax into a more deeply peaceful space.
Relaxed But Fully EngagedHowever, this relaxed space is still fully engaged with life. It is not a checked out, mindless bliss state. That sort of bliss experience tends to be an early stage phenomena. Over time, we mature into greater and greater states of restful peace. From this fully peaceful place, we have all of our mental, emotional, spiritual, psychic, energetic, and physical resources available to us. If we do need to take action, we are more ready than ever before to do so mindfully.
In general, this space is clear. It is calm, and this space is engaged fully with life.