last year

A Cure for Anxiety (?!?)

It seems that we live in the Age of Anxiety.

Generalized anxiety, social anxiety, panic, PTSD, OCD…and just plain old nervousness and worry.

Who *doesn’t* struggle with some form of anxiety?

With so many smart people looking at the “problem” of anxiety and what to do about it – from drugs to cognitive behavioral therapy to Somatic Experiencing to yoga therapy to psychedelic-aided therapy to ayahuasca, there are a lot of different proposed remedies.

But are they really working? Maybe for some. But not for the majority. Clearly not.

With all those smart, educated, experienced, good-hearted people working on it, it might seem arrogant or naive that I would claim that I have a better cure.

But I do.

And I’m going to share it with you.

I lived for the first 32 years of my life in anxiety. It grew to the point at which I was in panic all day and all night…for many years. I felt like an electric current was going through my body, electrifying my nerves, causing me to feel unable to find any ease or okayness.

From the age of 11 I struggled with OCD and anorexia. In shame, I hid and avoided. I starved myself and over-exercised. I washed my hands dozens of times a day. I turned around clockwise, then counterclockwise, to try to manage my anxious feelings. I counted, I tried to blank out unwanted thoughts and images. I tried to do social things only to find myself running away back to the relative safety of my home. But even my home wasn’t safe. I would lie awake at night in terror, imagining all kinds of things that might be happening – ways I might be being harmed by invisible things.

It was so bad and I failed so completely to make things better (even after years of therapy, meditation, yoga, affirmations, breathwork, prayer, hundreds of self-help books, countless workshops, and on and on) that eventually I grew hopeless. Nothing could help me, I believed. I thought I was broken. Damaged. Beyond hope.

Eventually I became homeless. I searched everywhere I could go – traveling all around the country – for something, anything that might help. But things kept getting worse.

Only when I had thoroughly exhausted everything else that I could think of was I finally humbled enough to open to the real answer.

And the real answer turns out to be radically different than everything else I had ever sought after. Hence why I had been overlooking it. And why the vast majority of people, including really intelligent, well-researched, good-hearted people also overlook it.

It is completely counterintuitive because it is NOT about getting rid of unwanted symptoms. It is not about getting RID of anxiety. It is not about defeating anxiety or breaking free of anxiety.

It is about actually discovering directly what anxiety is and welcoming it home.

In the past six years I’ve coached many people to successfully discover this for themselves. They also suffered from anxiety – whether OCD, social anxiety, phobias, or other variations – and now they don’t.

So I am confident that what I am about to share with you is the real answer.

Now, let me say that there are many things that can help to reduce anxiety symptoms. Things like mindfulness, yoga, certain breathing exercises (though others can make anxiety worse), gentle exercise, good nutrition, healing relationships and improving communication skills, and improving sleep. And I view all of those things as being well worth exploring…as an adjunct to the core “practice” that I will share with you, but not as a replacement.

On their own, those things rarely, if ever, actually cure anxiety. They don’t address the core of anxiety. They don’t help a person to directly meet anxiety and discover what it is. So even though they can be supportive of good health and well-being, they can also mask the core of anxiety and prolong the struggle and suffering if they are done *in place of* direct meeting of anxiety.

The essential cure for anxiety is, as I have just hinted, the direct meeting of the experience. Not trying to get rid of it, calm it, change it, fix it, solve it, or anything else.

How does one go about direct meeting?

Simple. Do nothing.

But because most people are so addicted to doing something, they have no idea what doing nothing even means! They want to try to restrain something – force the body to be still (which typically means rigid), force the mind to be blank, etc.

That’s not what I mean.

When I say “do nothing”, what I actually mean is to explore in your own direct experience – without using words, labels, ideas, concepts, or any referencing to any past – to discover what it is that is already doing nothing. What it is that is already open and free and still.

When you discover this which is always already still, you will also discover that no bodily movements or movements of thought or movements of sensation or emotion cause any problems or interfere with this stillness.

And this stillness or spaciousness is the anchor that you can rely on.

What you can notice is that most of the time, your attention is with thoughts. Even if those thoughts aren’t in words, you can see (if you are observant) that most of the time your attention is with trying to figure life out, trying to find future safety or fulfillment, trying to understand, comparing what is to what “should be”.

All those processes are the processes of the bodymind. It’s doing its job, trying to stay safe and acquire what it wants and needs. That is fine. And, in fact, there’s no need to try to fix that or change that. We don’t need to calm the mind or still the mind or get rid of any agitation in order to discover the true cure for anxiety. We can be free of anxiety even with all the same circumstances, feelings, thoughts, and sensations.

Instead of giving more attention to all that stuff, what you can do is allow attention to rest for a moment. It is like hitting the “pause button” on life for a second. Like setting down your heavy luggage that you’ve been carrying around. Like putting down the armor and weapons and ending the battle for a moment.

Anyone can do this. Even if you are in the midst of a panic attack, you can choose to do this for just one second. Or at least for half a second.

It is like learning to ride a bicycle without holding onto the handlebars. You don’t have to take your hands off and hold them up in the air for ten minutes while you ride the bike. At first, it is enough just to lift the hands off the handlebars for half a second. That gives you a taste. It proves to you in your own direct experience that it is possible for you.

In the same way, you can take your hands off the mind and thoughts and fixation of what all of this is and what it means and what is going to happen and what you need to do…for just a second. Just let it go for a second.

And in this one second, you can notice that you are.

Not the idea of what you are. Not the idea that you are. Not something that is debatable. Not a philosophical argument.

Just the obvious, intimate recognition that you are.

Don’t complicate it. I’m not talking about something special or extraordinary. I’m talking about the very, very ordinary sense that you are.

Everyone can recognize this. In fact, everyone does recognize this. So I am fully confident that you do. Even if your mind complicates it a second later and starts to doubt. The instantaneous recognition always is that you are. There is no way around it.

This is so simple, so easy to overlook, that most of us overlook it our whole lives. Most of us will even dismiss it if someone points it out to us.

And for that reason, many people suffer needlessly.

At first, this glimpse may be very short. And maybe you’ll go back to overlooking it a second later. But if you trust in this process and continue to look in this way by dropping thought fixation for a moment and simply recognizing what it is that is already effortlessly free and aware now and always, this undoes anxiety.

In fact, in the moment of allowing attention to rest and recognize the spaciousness that allows everything, there is no anxiety.

Anxiety is an idea that we believe in. We choose that idea over the direct experience…until we stop making that choice and instead choose direct experience.

When we begin to choose direct experience, we are instantly putting a stop to anxiety. Because in direct experience – in the direct recognition of the open aliveness that is at the heart of who we know ourselves to be – there is no anxiety.

But this doesn’t necessarily get rid of or change the sensations. And this is where people often get hung up. Because they continue to check to see if the sensations have changed. And they do that by looking to thoughts.

As soon as they look to thoughts, they typically find anxiety. The mind quickly labels the experience as anxiety and the story is off and running – all so fast that many people don’t even realize what is happening.

But again, if you pause and just allow attention to shift from mind and rest, you can notice that which is effortlessly receiving all and which is always already free of anxiety. Even though the intensity of experience may continue, there is no anxiety.

The cynical mind claims this is a sleight of hand move – that all I’m doing is taking the label off anxiety, but that anxiety remains.

And yet, that is not true. The habit of fixating on anxiety actually generates anxiety. The more we fixate on anxiety – even in the sense of trying to get rid of it – the more anxiety we generate. But when we allow attention to rest and we tune into the spaciousness that knows nothing of anxiety, this is like a reset. We are actually allowing the nervous system, the bodymind, to entrain to the frequency of no-anxiety.

Intensity of experience is not a problem in and of itself. Orgasm is intense, but how many people complain about orgasm? Love, ecstasy, bliss, pleasure…all intense, but not a problem.

What we call anxiety is intensity of experience combined with conditioned reactivity. The conditioned reactivity colors the experience and makes it “bad”. But when we stop feeding into that conditioning and instead entrain to the spaciousness of being, we are actually undoing that conditioning, allowing a reset so that we can perceive the experience as it is rather than as we have been conditioned to perceive it based on the past.

So at first, this can seem like a doing. It can seem like a practice that you have to do because it can seem challenging. But the more you trust in this process and access unconditioned being, the more that conditioning falls away and you will find that you naturally experience less anxiety and even when you do, you can access unconditioned being and entrain to that.

This process is extremely effective. And, in my experience coaching people over the past six years, I see that few people actually apply it successfully in their lives on their own. It normally takes some coaching and accountability for people to truly apply it and get the results.

So if you are highly self-motivated, awesome. Apply this and I promise you, you will see the results.

But if you find that you’re struggling, needing support, clarification, and guidance, don’t feel that you are alone. Reach out and get support – if not from me, from a mentor who you can trust who truly knows how to directly meet all experience, someone who lives it and who can guide you. Keep reading my blog posts and books and watch my videos for support and guidance.

And if you want more intensive support and guidance, please know that I’m here in full support and available for that. The best, most effective system I know of that helps people get rapid results with this process is the Access Points program that I co-facilitate. It is an eight week program with daily support that helps people discover ever-present, unconditional peace in their lives. You can join us for a free introductory meeting here ->

Whatever you do, don’t suffer. Suffering is a choice. I promise you, no matter how bad your anxiety or suffering seems, peace and freedom is available to you. Ten years ago I didn’t believe there was any hope for me. The amount of suffering I used to experience is actually difficult to believe. I remember what it was like, but now it is very much like remembering a dream. There is a way. It is just in the last place you ever thought to look. It’s not about fixing or getting rid of anything. It’s about a deep surrender to life which has you here.

Joey Lott

Joey Lott is the author of numerous books, including The Best Thing That Never Happened and The Little Book of Big Healing. He lives in southern Vermont with his wife and children.

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