The Anxiety Generation

Hello friends! Sorry I’ve been missing in action for a while. I’ve been thinking of you (the collective “you”, the online yoga family) so much, and often I procrastinate on writing because I can’t make up my mind which concept I want to write about that day! 🙂

This week, what’s been on my mind is the rather palpable, gloomy feeling that has been resurfacing a lot throughout 2010. It seems so many in my circle of friends are saying things like: “what is the POINT?” “I used to have so much more energy and fire, and I feel so burned out and unfulfilled.” “I’m simply surviving right now, keeping my head above water…I’m just glad to have any kind of job.”

Some of these feelings have to do with getting older: We now have parents starting to decline physically (some of us are sandwiched between caring for parents and young children) and we’re seeing the first signs of aging in our own bodies and minds.

But I also think this gloomy feeling is a reaction to our country’s economic collapse. Jobs and credit are available in much more limited supply, and things like pensions and the G.I. Bill are really a part of the past. Gone are the days when a barber could buy his own house with a white picket fence. We don’t feel “taken care of” by our country anymore.

We’re all beginning to wonder what the future holds and if it’s worth waiting for.

The GOOD thing about asking these questions is that they reflect a turning point in our consciousness, showing that we are now learning to live with less money and less “stuff”, and we are looking to fill our lives with more of the things that truly matter: things that are visceral, educational, spiritual. We’re trying to be more self-sufficient and grow our own food, proactively improve our wellness, and find our dream careers.

So what if, like so many of us, your current “gig” is not really involving your true passions and talents? How do you find the energy, focus and patience every day to continue to get through “the grind”, get closer to achieving your goals and dreams and find meaning in your every day life? I’d love to hear input from everyone on how you get through the day, the week, the month. I can share some “tips” below that have helped me “trudge on” time and time again:

1) Be grateful. Acknowledge the feelings of impatience and frustration, then move on… and return to the mental state of gratitude. You may not have the perfect job or perfect relationship, but perhaps you have wonderful friends, excellent health and are an amazing singer. If you examine your life, you will certainly find something for which to be grateful!

2) Meditate–daily. I will admit I’ve been bad about keeping up with this, but I have done it for long, consistent periods in the past and it really does work. Daily meditation helps to calm and focus your mind, and when your mind is trained to be in that state, you can then attract the things you want in your life. Here is a my all-time favorite meditation, the Shushmana Meditation. Try it and see for yourself how it can help soothe your anxiety and bring you mental clarity and life focus.

3) Move–daily.  Stay active!  You don’t have to go to the gym for 3 hours every day.  Just get out and move somehow, for at least half an hour every day.  Take a 2 mile walk during your lunch break.  Do some soothing Hatha yoga for an hour.   Try biking to work a few days per week if your commute is short. 

4) Write it down.  I wrestle with an overly-active mind, which loves to ponder everything from the world’s annihilation to me going bankrupt to my husband getting cancer.  Try this if you are having a worrisome, sleepless night:  Get a journal (use both sides of the paper) and scribble down all your random worries and thoughts.  Some might keep showing up night after night, but you’ll also notice a few slowly getting crossed off and eventually filtered out.

5) Turn it Off.  Perhaps the biggest problem is that in this age of media/information overload, our brains are overstimulated constantly.  Now, not just in our jobs but in our personal lives too we are expected to respond immediately to so many simultaneous things.  This is putting us into a state of exhaustion and anxiety, since the mind has trouble quieting itself.  Try to turn off the TV, the Iphone, etc an hour before you plan to go to sleep.  Try to wind down with some yoga or light reading.

6) Creatively envision the future.  There may be some milestones in life you wanted to achieve but couldn’t.  But remember that there are so many ways we could live fulfilling lives–many are ones we have yet to discover!  This world is so wondrous and vast, and your depth as an individual is even more wondrous and vast!   If your life doesn’t fit the picture-perfect “American Dream” of house, car, marriage, 2.5 kids, killer career, think about all the other possibilities in life people take on: you could be living communally with a dozen other seniors, making your own beer and maintaining gardens, or you could be exhibiting your own art in a gallery, or you could get married again at 79, like my dad did.

7) Think Micro instead of Macro.  I’ve found that zeroing in on the smaller things in life on a daily and weekly basis are what really help me to be at peace.  I look forward to cooking a nice meal for and talking to my husband.  I look forward to little weekend getaways or hikes.  I love the weekend farmer’s markets, or exploring new downtown restaurants during lunch hour at work.  I can’t wait to discover yet another great new musical artist on KCRW.  Plan fun things to do every single day!  As keyboardist Viv Savage of Spinal Tap has famously said: “Have a good time all the time.”

8) Remember what Eckhart Tolle says:  the things happening in your life are just your life situation.  They have nothing to do, really, with the true essence of who you are in spirit.  You are not defined by your job, or the perceptions of others.  Your true spirit is free and full of beauty and talent.  Everything around us is an illusion that is always trying to get in the way and prevent us from knowing this truth.

9)  Finally, just by “acting” at all, in any sense, towards your dream, means you are a success!  For example, in my spare time, I am constantly researching the yoga industry, and trying as much as possible to come up with ways to teach more yoga.  I started teaching friends for free.  Then I started renting spaces several times a week and inviting people to those classes.  Then I started doing some workshops at FIDM.  I came up with my personal approach to yoga and a strong brand.  My class attendance is sporadic, I’ve definitely lost more money than I make, and sometimes I ask myself “what in the world do I think I am doing”?  But I know that by doing these things, I am actually moving forward, getting closer to truly embodying the life I want.  I’m learning so much about what people truly want out of yoga.  This whole year has not been a delay, but a preparatory learning experience on the way to opening a (successful!) yoga studio. 

So feel free to comment and let me know how you are coping day to day, how you are getting closer to leading a life of meaning?  🙂

McKenna Rowe is the Founder of Chakra 5 Mobile Yoga, an experienced team of corporate yoga instructors that provides mobile yoga classes on location and by appointment at businesses, schools and organizations throughout greater Los Angeles. Call us to start your corporate wellness program today: 310-853-3885.

Posted in Philosophy