Cultivating Skillful Means

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Clear seeing — antidotes to anxiety and fear

Anxiety is another afflictive emotion that we can counteract with skillful means.

Think about something which you are or recently were anxious about. What is the anxiety? Is it fear? How does it affect your ability to clearly see the situation and act upon that perspective?

Anxiety is a form of fear,  but one with a developed mental component.

In life we inevitably confront situations that concern us. What transforms concern into anxiety?

What happens when you begin to fret and let the imagination create negative delusions? Do you find that the more you indulge your anxiety, the more reasons you find for it? And that the more you indulge it the stronger it becomes?

What is the root cause of such anxiety?

Narrowness of vision and a lack of proper perspective underly our anxiety. Our anxiety causes us to fail to see how things and events come into being as the result of innumerable causes and conditions. Instead we tend to concentrate on just one or two aspects of our situation. The first step in overcoming anxiety is thus to develop a proper perspective of our situation. This we can do in a number of different ways. One of the most effective is to try to shift the focus of attention away from self and toward others. When we succeed in this, we find that the scale of our own problems diminishes. Ethics for the New Millennium

Clear seeing also involves recognizing that certain fears are our mental projections.

How might projecting your negative feelings on another cause you to feel fear?

If you have negative feelings. because of your own mental situation, you may project those feelings onto another, who then appears as someone negative and hostile. And as a result, you feel fear. To counteract such fear, therefore, you need to first use your faculty of reasoning and try to discover whether there is a valid basis for your fear or not.

Antidotes to anxiety

The Dalai Lama offers two antidotes that operate in different ways.

If there is a solution to the problem, there is no need to worry. If there is no solution, there is no sense in worrying either.

Reminding ourselves of this counteracts habitual worry and fear.

A practice that acts as a deeper antidote aims at transforming one's underlying motivation. The goal, for the Dalai Lama, is a mind motivated by altruism. The altruistic mind is naturally free of anxiety; it is, in fact, fearless even in the most anxiety-provoking circumstances.

Might examination of and awareness of your motivation be affective in your day-to-day life even if you are not driven by complete altruism?

Yes, just being able to stand back and ascertain that one's motivation is not to harm will affect one's level of anxiety.