Perception is everything. Perception creates a feeling and we act out of that feeling.
How is an attractive woman perceived? To her lover she is perceived as a delight; to the monk she is a distraction and to the bear she is simply lunch! Based on these perceptions, the lover runs towards her with open arms, the monk looks away and the bear eats her up.
Our perception determines our behaviour. An event arises in our field of consciousness; we perceive it in a certain way, which in turn creates a feeling, and we act out of that feeling.
When I first came to meditation, I spent my time trying to avoid anxiety, trying to push it away, resisting; afraid of what might happen if I didn’t keep it at bay. As anyone who has tried this approach to anxiety, you will already know that it simply doesn’t work. (What you resist, persists.) It usually creates even more anxiety. I perceived my anxiety as something bad, a kind of enemy, and so I became afraid of my anxiety. Ironically my anxiety was also caused by fear. I was caught in a loop of fear and anxiety. It was exhausting.
This started to change when rather than fight and resist, I decided to welcome anxiety into my meditation; to look with open curiosity and kindness. I tried to see it as a messenger, telling me something important. As difficult as it was at first, I tried to treat my anxiety as a friend. At first it felt like being stuck with an annoying friend; I felt strongly that I would rather do something else.
After a while I realised my old friend was often not there at all.
Please understand that he still comes to visit me but I know now how to simply be with him; to allow him to have his space. Fear is no longer part of my relationship with my friend.
He is one of many friends that inhabit my life, each with their own characteristics: happiness, anger, sadness, joy − all ephemeral, to be experienced in the moment. They all come and stay for a while, then they go.
“Nothing is permanent in this wicked world — not even our troubles.” — Charlie Chaplin