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What is anxiety?
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
6 min
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Question: Why do I often feel anxiety?

Acharya Prashant: Anxiety is a thought. If you want you can be anxious right now, you can call thoughts of anxiety, and you will see that you have become anxious. Call forth the memories that make you stressful, and within few minutes you will feel stressed. Just call those thoughts of stress and those memories that disturb you, and you will find that within two to three minutes you will be stressed and disturbed. This can be done right now.

Anxiety is thought. The presence of thought implies the lack of attention. In understanding, thoughts cannot dominate.

Man is a sandwich; there is a dual nature that is available to us. We can live in reality, while simultaneously imagining an alternate reality. You can be here in a physical way while your mind can be somewhere else. Now, the reality and the imagined reality can never meet each other. And that exactly is the conflict. You are here and your mind is somewhere else, and that is what leads to anxiety.

All anxiety is imagination. In understanding of the present, energetic action starts and anxiety disappears.

That is why some wise man has said, “Action is the antidote to despair.”

So, if I really understand what is going on and what is going on is going on ‘right now’, then from that understanding action will result; clear, direct, forceful, energetic action. And when I am in the middle of the action, there is no anxiety, no disappointment; there is only the beautiful and smooth flow of action.

But the brain loves to be lost in anxiety. It does not want to be in action, it only wants to be ‘anxious’. To remain in thoughts, in a constant flux, in a search; is the nature of the brain.

When you really understand what needs to be done, anxiety disappears and action happens.

Suppose fire breaks out in this room, and there are two fellows here. One of them understands what fire is all about, who understands the danger of fire. Will this person keep thinking whether he should break upon the roof, or should he cut open the bars of the windows? Or will he just run away from the open door? Does he require thought for his clear and direct action? He understands, and from that understanding flows the right action. He will just act, and in that moment of acting there is no anxiety.

Anxiety lies in not acting, and non-acting happens when I do not understand. To not to understand is to be stuck in thought.

If I really understand, then there is no time interval between understanding and action. I do not pause in between to think.

Understanding leads to instantaneous action; there is no space left for anxiety.

We have never lived this way, so it is a bit difficult to understand. But look at it this way; you have been holding a rope thinking that it is a sacred garland, that’s what your society, parents, education have taught you. And then something accidentally happens and you pause, become attentive, observe. And you find that it is a snake, a cobra, a hissing King Cobra! Now, is there any space for you to pause, or there will be action spontaneously? You will throw it immediately, or will you be anxious about it?

In Real understanding there will be no time interval between understanding and action. So where can anxiety come? When can anxiety come? Anxiety comes out of lack of understanding. I can be disappointed, frustrated only when I do not understand.

Understanding is Intelligence, and Intelligence is ‘you’; your Essence, the subject. Anxiety comes due to non-action, and action is not forced action.

Do you require willpower to throw away a Cobra? Do you require motivation to throw a Cobra? That action is spontaneously born out of understanding, not out of mental motivation. Such action does not require willpower, it does not require motivation, it requires a clear and simple mind.

So when we are in anxiety, we will look at the anxiety, we will not be lost in it. You look at anxiety, the entire process of anxiety, how it is happening, just as you look at a mathematical equation, an experiment in the laboratory; closely without prejudice, without desire, like you look at an experimental set up in a Physics lab.

In a lab, do you desire, or do you just watch what is happening? You just watch. That’s what a scientist does, that’s what a truthful man does when he is watching – he is just watching; there is no desire. So you watch what is this anxiety thing, and in watching there is understanding.

In understanding there is action; there is no room for anxiety. Anxiety never leads to action.

See, we have been taught by the society to be serious. Seriousness is fear, anxiety. We have been taught that being serious, being anxious leads to good results; which is rubbish.

Excellence comes from enjoyment. Excellence does not come by being serious, or by worrying. A worried man can never excel.

How can you excel in something if you do not enjoy it? To excel in something you need to enjoy it, rather be anxious about it. Enjoyment is in the present, and anxiety is in the future.

If you don’t get it, try enjoying in the future. Try right now. Can you enjoy in the future? No, enjoyment is ‘now’, all else is hollow imagination. You cannot excel in anything which you do not enjoy.

So, when you are anxious, just remember that your mind is making a fool of you.

~ Dated : 20 March,’13

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