“We suffer more in imagination than in reality. “
Seneca. Letter 11
Short quote – powerful message
This is one of Seneca’s shorter quotes but it says volumes. All of our toxic modern anxiety is manufactured within our minds, conscious and subconscious.
Reality is the moment that you are experiencing right now. If you are truly experiencing mindfulness it’s impossible to think of the future. All thoughts of the future are in essence based on your imagination.
Recently I suffered a kidney stone attack. I’d just returned from a ten-day camping trip with my two children. We weren’t home for more than 30 minutes when I bent down to pet my dog and began to experience pain in my back. I thought I pulled a muscle, thinking “shit I’m getting old”.
Within 20 mins of thinking that, I was lying on the ground in agony calling 911. It was the most pain I’d ever experienced. The funny thing was because the pain was real, I was able to deal with the suffering without much trouble.
The kind of suffering that I experience from anxiety is surprisingly different. Even though there are physical symptoms associated with anxiety the real suffering comes from the conscious mind.
Is it possible to experience the suffering of the mind the same way we suffer from a physical injury? Yes, I think we can through the practice of mindfulness.
Mindfulness for anxiety
Anxiety has been described as fear of the future. The future you created for yourself is done so with your imagination. It’s ok to plan for the future, it’s when you invent unlikely situations in your mind that will fuel anxiety.
Mindfulness keeps you grounded in the here and now. It trains the mind to be an observer of your thoughts and feelings which make it easier to acknowledge what’s going on then letting it go.
It trains you to be aware of what you senses are experiencing in the moment. Imagine you are walking through the park with your little girl. You can feel the warmth of her hand as she holds yours. The sounds of children playing and the breeze through the trees fill your ears. You recognize the smell of the freshly cut grass. And the flavour of the ice cream fills your mouth.
Of course, it’s impossible to experience all these sensations at the same time but you can focus on each one individually. The practice of meditation is essential for learning how to use your senses to focus on the moment.
Controlling your imagination to lessen anxiety
How does this make suffering in reality more tolerable then suffering in the imagination?
When you suffer in reality there will be an ending to it in some form. You can lessen the suffering by being an observer of what you are feeling and from what you are experiencing with your senses.
When you create suffering with your imagination it’s difficult to imagine an ending to it. You can actually intensify and prolong the suffering with negative thoughts. For the next week try to focus on what are experiencing through your senses whenever you are feeling anxious. Ask yourself after if you felt that it helped reduce your level of anxiety.
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did please like and share on your favourite social media site.