Happy Halloween. All Souls Day. Have fun. Stay safe.
Meditation for the day, continuing from the text:
Before I go further into how I study wisdom, I should share a bit about why I study wisdom. I have come to say that our challenges are the greatest teachers, and this has been the case with me, as my emotional struggles have guided my studies. My personal battles with anxiety extend over many chapters of my life and are worthy of their own book, but since this is not the focus of this book, please accept a brief overview.
I am a very emotional person. Which basically means that the state of my emotions, whether joy or despair, has a strong affect on me. I have always been this way, and this was never really a problem until the end of college. I had always been surrounded by my clan, my tribe – family, schoolmates, teammates, etc. Throughout my whole life I had my people. But then at the end of college, the social nature of my life rapidly changed.
It is during transitions that we are at our most vulnerable. And as college ends, ones tribe disperses, ones daily routine is over. You graduate and everyone says, good luck, go off on your own and build a life. Now for some people this works out fine, but for me, this transition triggered tremendous anxiety.
It doesn’t sound bad now. But when you are in the midst of anxiety, the rational mind is swallowed whole by the emotional mind and the emotional mind is sending out incessant alarms. It is scary, as scary as anything I have ever dealt with. To have alarms going on in your head and have no idea what they mean and where they are coming from is a waking nightmare. Anxiety is a nightmare. It seems like a malfunction of the brain.
I could not sleep more than a couple of hours and then I would shoot up with all this harried energy and I would just survive hour-by-hour in discomfort. But no one had ever explained anxiety to me. I had no idea what was going on. Finally I spoke to a trusted older friend and he told me that I needed to get into therapy immediately.
With the help of therapy and medicine, I began to understand my mind. But the essential question remained, a question that has guided much of my research ever since - how were we not teaching people about the very real and looming threats of anxiety and depression? Looking back on my darkest nights of anxiety, I feel lucky to have survived. And I do not say this to be dramatic. Every time I hear about a young person taking their lives, I feel their pain. I know their pain.
I felt called to respond. And twelve years later, I am still working on my response every day.