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An Antidote for The Age of Anxiety

Humans are arguably the most adaptable of animals. We live in arid deserts, frozen tundra, overpopulated cities and outer space. Adaptability has been the cornerstone of our survival; but it also has a dark side. Sometimes we habituate in ways that are corrosive to our well-being. As songwriter Bruce Cockburn put it, “The trouble with normal is it always gets worse.” For example, we have come to accept the constant presence of anxiety in our lives as a normal part of our human condition. It runs through our beings like an undercurrent – edgy, restless, unfocussed. As with any form of fear, our anxiety is reactive rather than responsive. That is, it is not moderated by wholeness. It is ungrounded. As our entire culture normalizes to anxiety, reactivity becomes the norm – the world around us feels like it’s being pulled apart at the seams. That’s where we find ourselves now: ours might be dubbed The Age of Anxiety. The question is, what can we do about it? The answer is as easy to point to as it is elusive to implement. We’ve heard it often enough: just become grounded; find inner peace; just be present. The evident solutions make sense, but how to actually move towards them is another matter. Our stumbling block in that regard is that we’ve normalized to a stubborn denial of the body’s intelligence. We have come to believe that thinking happens exclusively in the head; living by that belief, we resist the body’s sensational intelligence and become mired in a world of abstractions. And when we subdue the body’s intelligence like that, we slide inescapably into anxiety. Consider this: when we restrict our thinking to the abstracting realm of the head, everything begins to feel abstract. Our very lives come to feel abstract. We feel disconnected from reality. And that state foments anxiety; and that state feels normal to us. The intelligence of the body doesn’t disappear. It’s always there. It feels and knows things that utterly elude the restless, anxious intelligence of the head. It knows how intimately we belong to the living world around us. It feels the sensitivity coursing through each moment of the present and knows how to join that sensitivity. And it knows that resting in that sensitivity dissolves the relentless tug of anxiety that is our constant companion, and enables us to open to the tangible embrace of the borderless moment. The body’s intelligence is our primary intelligence. Reuniting with it, I believe, is the foremost challenge we face as individuals and as a culture. That reunification requires an utterly personal journey of discovery – a journey that necessarily moves counter to the cultural instructions we've grown up with.

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