Anxiety is an essential element of our human experience, whether we welcome it as that or not. Anxiety readies us for future challenges- real or imagined, protects us from past situations that we learned through pain were harmful- relevant now or not, and tells us to get a move on from present circumstances that are wearing away at our well-being. In this sense, anxiety is of great service to us, and holds more wisdom than we give it credit for in our over-anxious western world. And yet, undeniably, none of us want to be guided through life by our anxiety as though the whole thing were just one great big emergency of past, present, and future threats. Otherwise, we might find ourselves forever chasing the promise of peace and calm just over the elusive horizon of our stressors until we’re at the not-so-elusive end of it all.
Despite that anxiety can make us feel more burdened than wise in our day-to-day endeavours, it’s worth remembering that anxiety is as much a part of our competence as human beings as anger, joy, grief, and love. Remembering this, we might begin to greet anxiety with more compassion when it arrives at the doors of our experience, whether its deeper wisdom is discernible to us or not.
When anxiety shows up, it wants to be loved, as you love your joy. It wants to be held tenderly, as you hold those dearest to you. And it also wants to talk over all of the other guests at the proverbial dinner table, making it hard to hear what anger, joy, grief, and love even have to say at all. That’s okay. Anxiety does not want to be rushed out and might often overstay its welcome. That’s okay. Anxiety comes with useful messages, though sometimes those can come as difficult riddles. And of course, none of us have set aside availability in our calendars for working out riddles. That’s okay. Answers can come quickly, answers can take years, and sometimes anxiety can just leave us not knowing. That’s okay, too.
Entertain your anxiety lovingly and tenderly, as Rumi guides us to do, but do so without indulging it. Cared for through the hospitality of awareness, anxiety will know when to go. It will also undoubtedly return, only wanting still, to be loved, and to be met again with compassion and curiosity, like you’d never met before.