Stop Anxiety in its Tracks with this Basic Question.

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 10
Shares 10
Hearts 1.0
Comments 3.0
Editor's Pick 0.0
Total Ecosystem Rating 0.0
25 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.

Taia Butler  

The mind is beautiful.

Our capacity to strategize, plot, and plan, is what allows us to build cities, invent amazing technologies, and coordinate vast interactions across the network we call the Internet. The human mind is indeed amazing.

And, yet, it is also true that the human mind can be obsessed with its job. It’s like a workaholic—one who doesn’t want to take downtime or weekends off.

The mind wants to keep on calculating and planning even when we lay down our heads at night. It wants to plan our to-do lists while we make love or watch a sunset. Rather than enjoying our lives and being in the present moment, the brain steps in and tries to control, strategize, and predict future outcomes—it can seriously get in the way of life!

Truly, this is an exhausting way to live.

I speak of these things from personal experience: I am in the process of healing from PTSD, and I have come to realize that my brain has especially adapted to worrying, as it is a highly-attuned and impeccable danger-sensor.

Most of us, regardless of whether we have dealt with trauma or not, struggle with some amount of anxiety and stress.

Many of us have turned to meditation or yoga as a path to freedom. We sit motionless on a cushion or we move our bodies on a yoga mat, and we come into present moment awareness. We breathe in and out; we say affirmations and mantras; and we remind our minds to calm down.

Yet, for so many of us, when we return again to our lives, when we stand up from the cushion or put away our mat, we are confused on how we stay with the feeling of presence—the feeling of peace. How do we remain in the relaxed state?

Last week, I began the process of applying for a teaching position that I very much want. I sat down at my computer, fresh from a beautiful night’s sleep, ready to begin the process. I felt excited and good.

First, I began to write an application letter—all was well, I was smiling. But then I encountered a snag: as I scanned the application materials list, I realized I needed to submit student evaluations from my previous years of teaching. My breath became shallower, as I searched my home in vain, only to confirm the sinking feeling that yes, indeed, all the documents I needed had been lost when I’d moved the previous year.

I began to panic, my palms began to sweat, and my heart began to race. Minute by minute, moment by moment, my sense of well-being disappeared, and I began to feel my body tighten, and my breath contract. The inner critic began her relentless tirade: Why are you such an idiot, Anya? Why aren’t you more organized? Why are you so sloppy? What the hell’s the matter with you?

At this point, I was way too triggered to take the time to roll out my yoga mat or find my meditation cushion. No way. I had to do something—now.

So, I tried a new method I’ve been practicing, which, lately, has been a real life-saver for me. I closed my computer, remained seated right there at my desk, and asked myself a simple question: “What is happening right now?”

I took a few slow breaths and then repeated the question.

“What is happening right now?” 

Then, slowly, I began to talk to myself, aloud, “Well, I am a woman who is 33 years old, and I’m sitting in a chair. I am a woman who is wearing blue jeans. A woman who has a roof over her head and food in the refrigerator. I am a woman who is unable to find some documents. That is what is happening right now.”

In asking and answering the simple question mantra—what is happening right now?—I was able to move my brain out of past and future mode—out of overwhelmed, panic mode. I moved a bit closer to a calmer, observation mode, and a bit closer to inner peace.

Asking yourself a question mantra, such as “What is happening right now?” or “What is the reality of this moment?” (or something along those lines) can help you detach from the swirl of mind-stress, and help you enter the reality of the actual present moment, aside from any emotions and the stories the brain likes to tell.

Even if the outward conditions of your life seem to be crashing down around you—you are still alive, you are still breathing, and you still have blessings to count, and the answer to your question mantra can always be: I am here in this body, breathing, and alive on planet Earth.

While I was living in Puerto Rico a few years ago, I once got lost in the jungle and I was totally alone. My water was running out, my cell phone had no signal, and daylight was running short.

After screaming, “Help!” at the top of my lungs for about an hour or so, I sank down in the dirt, exhausted, and utterly panicked.

Then I took a breath. Then another shaky breath. And then I asked myself the question:

“What is happening now?”

“What is happening now?”

“What is happening now?”

In that moment, my eyes were instantly drawn to a purple patch of flowers a few feet away—they were gorgeous! They were delicate, with yellow centers and petals that looked like clouds. Next, my eyes were drawn upwards, up the trunk of a majestic palm tree.

Coconuts were hanging from every branch, and tears of joy began rolling down my face. It was in that moment that I woke up, and realized the sheer beauty of my surroundings. I realized the beauty of life. Whether I would die that day was unknown. What was known was exactly what was happening in that moment. Such beauty—such wonder.

Just a few hours later, I was able to find my way out of the jungle. By bringing myself into the present moment, I was able to, when the time was right, rise up from the dirt, take a deep determined breath, and move forward, renewed. My intuition felt stronger, calm, connected, and I was able to sense how to get out.

As you say your question mantra in times of trouble, allow yourself to see what is really happening in that moment. Allow yourself to see, feel, and perceive. Allow yourself to relax and trust.

And you will see—time and time again—that all is well. All is beautiful. There is nothing wrong and nothing to fix. You are you—and you are alive. So beautifully alive!

There is so much to be thankful for.



Author: Anya Light
Image: Taia Butler
Editor: Taia Butler

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 10
Shares 10
Hearts 1.0
Comments 3.0
Editor's Pick 0.0
Total Ecosystem Rating 0.0
25 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.

Read The Best Articles of January
You voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares.

Anya Light

Anya Light, Ph.D, is an author, intuitive guide, Reiki master, and poet. Her cuddles are like kissing angels. She is seeking writers to join her blogging community.

Ombretta Cardia Oct 6, 2017 5:53pm

Thank you for sharing this experience. I am sure I will need to remind myself of my "Centre" very often, having 2 kids that sometimes make me lose the plot!! And not only. I used to suffer of panic attacks, now I just get too anxious in some occasions and sometimes is for silly things, I realised that. I found a pattern of my anxiety growing a few days before full moons, has anyone experienced the same? Do you know of any correlation between? Thank you

Anya Light Jun 9, 2017 2:50pm

I'm so happy to hear this, Tiffany! Bessings & light to you!

Tiffany Cook Gothie Jun 8, 2017 10:58pm

Since I read this article last week, I have used this incredibly simple technique a number of times...and holy cow it works. By the end of my response to the question, I've moved passed the emotion of whatever the intense experience was. It's fantastic!

Anya Light Jun 8, 2017 11:28am

Namaste, my dear!

Sandra Jelly Jun 8, 2017 7:25am

Beautiful! Namaste

Anya Light Jun 7, 2017 7:39pm

Tim Dibble Sending you hugs & blessings for your transitions, dear Tim:) Namaste

Anya Light Jun 7, 2017 12:40pm

Thank you for reading and your comment, Brian. It's so good to connect and share. I'm happy to hear that you've also discovered the simple magic of simple questions to bring us back to the present moment. I'm sure you help inspire many with your being. *Namaste*

Anya Light Jun 7, 2017 12:38pm

You're very welcome, my dear. Your journey inspires so many others. Thank you for your comment!

Brian Barry Jun 7, 2017 11:27am

Thank you for writing about your life experience and your process for arriving in the now. I too have recently begun a similar process when feeling unattached, fearful, which I ask, "Where am I? What am I doing? Who am I with?". The questions are along the lines of those presented within an article I read here (I SO wish that I could remember the author!). They stop me in my tracks and make me present and force me to look around and to be here, now. In my youth, we used to call this a "reality check". Like you've so precisely noted, it's processes, mantras, questions like these that can calm the mind and call a "timeout", which is often what is best at that moment.

Annie Hill Jun 7, 2017 10:22am

Thank you, as a yoga teacher I remind everyone to try and be in the present - except myself- whilst in the present while teaching - out of the class the worrying persists so i will remember and practise What is happening now! Thank you again

Anya Light Jun 6, 2017 10:42am

Dear Kaitlin, you are a beautiful, strong, sensitive woman. So often our society and culture tell us that to be sensitive is bad. But that's just not true! I can tell from your writing that you have so many gifts that are a result of being sensitive. I just want you to know that as you continue to learn and grow and deepen within yourself, you will learn how to center and your gifts will be able to shine through more easily. And the anxiety will dissolve, slowly, over time. Blessings to you on your beautiful journey, my dear!

Kaitlin Autumn Rose Morris Jun 6, 2017 8:39am

I needed this a great deal. I have been constantly stressed out about every single thing here lately. Lately I've been questioning whether or not I need to clean my house (right after I JUST got through cleaning it!) because the first time wasn't good enough. And even in general, I feel I am falling short a lot of times. This really helped me put things into perspective and gave me an idea on how I want to handle my anxiety in the future. Thank you so much!

Anya Light Jun 5, 2017 10:12pm

You are very welcome, Laura! My pleasure! Thanks for reading & learning & growing with us:) xo

Laura Blush Jun 5, 2017 9:42pm

Thank You for this.

Anya Light Jun 5, 2017 9:04pm

Love & Light received with thanks, Sue! I appreciate the work you do in the world. The times--they are 'changin! For the much much better! :) Also...from your comment it seems like you might resonate with some of my other writings, at ...lots of inspiration for lightworkers and wayshowers. sending love to you!

Tim Dibble Jun 5, 2017 9:00pm

Facing similar changes, career and moving from a cheap rural area to the big City of D.C. Trying to downsize and convince my mother of downsizing as well. Hopefully this mantra helps get through the near catatonic state the challenge provides.

Davies Sue Jun 5, 2017 8:11pm

Fantastic article I too have it as and it's only through understanding and learning about our mind, bodies responded can we help our own healing processes... I have also gone further to write a social story for children to help equip them for the future with these techniques!... love and light to you x sue

Anya Light Jun 5, 2017 6:15pm

Oh wow, how cool! I am not yet familiar with Cushnir's work. Thanks for sharing!

Anya Light Jun 5, 2017 6:14pm

My absolute pleasure! I'm glad it resonated with you, Aviva:)

Amanda Koch Maki Jun 5, 2017 5:00pm

This is exactly the question Raphael Cushnir asks in his brilliant (and short) book Unconditional Bliss ( I highly, highly recommend it because it really teaches a whole method based on this one question. I've done a workshop with him, too, and he's a lovely soul!

Aviva Furman Jun 5, 2017 4:57pm

This is beautiful. Thank you!

Anya Light Jun 5, 2017 3:49pm

Thanks for reading, Pauly:) Change can certainly be challenging at times, and it's so wonderful to have go-to techniques that help us maintain center. When we are at center, we are at our best and change flows smoothly Sending love to you, Pauly!

Anya Light Jun 5, 2017 3:48pm

You're very welcome, Beth!

Pauly P Petrosky Jun 5, 2017 1:46pm

Thank you for this! My anixeity has been on high alert with a pending move and life change, and it can seem impossible to get ahold of it in those panicked moments. Looking forward to using this beautifully simple question as an anchor!

Beth Cohen Jacobson Jun 5, 2017 1:40pm

Timely. Thank you.