Anxiety – Can spiritual learning help reduce it?

anxiety
Nigella Lawson

 

Nigella Lawson is well known as a television cook who takes a relaxed and casual approach to cooking for her own pleasure.  However, it seems like most of us she is not immune from anxiety.

“At some stages of your life you will deal with things and at others you are overwhelmed with misery and anxiety.” (Nigella Lawson)

The trouble with anxiety is that there is usually no specific fear you can see to tackle; just a very alarming sense of danger or threat.

Some people are more vulnerable to anxiety – for example those who have had emotionally absent parents during childhood, who have an emotionally unstable temperament, or who have a currently stressful life-style.

However, anxiety is quite common. Many elderly people for example have anxiety about getting old, anxieties about health, mobility, access to facilities, and simple routine care and attention. and many younger people from time to time experience stress-related illness, bodily tension, worry, unease, even panic. Anxiety is so common a problem in fact that there just aren’t enough counsellors to go round to help us all feel better.

The question thus arises is there anything you can learn that will equip you to deal with life more calmly? Is there any spiritual knowledge that can effectively help reduce anxiety?

Jim’s anxiety

Jim’s problem of anxious worry concerned his sports injury. He was plagued with the idea that he was never going to recover full use of his arm. His thoughts about this kept going around in circles without getting anywhere. They kept him awake most of the night.

Jim is a young man. He said that his anxiety is worse in the morning or on weekends when he hadn’t so much to do. I do reckon that focusing on some useful activity does help distract one’s mind from one’s concerns.

“An idle mind is the devil’s playground.”

Jim found it helped to talk to a friend who was sympathetic to how he felt and who tried to put things in perspective and to see things from a different angle. The trouble was Jim kept asking the same person over and over again for reassurance, which unfortunately was beginning to drive that person to distraction.

Distraction and ventilation can only postpone anxiety. The same goes for tablets from the doctor or for that matter any drug such as alcohol. Something more radical is needed.

Anxiety and CBT

Cognitive-behaviour therapists maintain that it is possible to change anxious habits of thought that adversely affect us. Once you bring such attitudes out into the open, you can examine them in the light of day and challenge them if unrealistic. Looking for more sensible ways of thinking it becomes possible to adopt a calmer attitude.

They thus encourage the anxious person to notice the illogical thoughts which accompany anxiety and discard them as mere habits of thought, which can be replaced by some rational common sense.

Anxiety and Swedenborg

An idea along these lines, but in my view a little more powerful, can be found in the books of the eighteenth century mystic and philosopher, Emanuel Swedenborg. He has given posterity a great deal of meticulously recorded information regarding what he claimed were his daily awareness of spirits inwardly present with him. He writes about certain spirits who he says he has seen and heard in a psychic way, and who, when present with him, were the source of an anxious state of mind.

“I have talked with them, they have been driven off and the anxiety has ceased, they have come back and the anxiety has returned, I have observed its increase and decrease as they drew near and moved away.” (Emanuel Swedenborg)

Anxiety and Buddhism

Professor David Loy whose studies in comparative philosophy and religion have been published widely, points out that Swedenborg’s startling and counter-intuitive idea – that we don’t really generate our own thoughts – is also found in Buddhism’s doctrine of ‘no self’ where it is said to be an illusion of self-hood.

“Since there has never been a self, only the illusion of self, the point of the Buddhist path is not to eliminate the self but forget oneself, which is accomplished by becoming so absorbed into one’s meditation exercise that one becomes it. For Swedenborg as much as the Buddhism, the path is letting go of oneself.” (David Loy)

For Swedenborg the reason for the illusion are spirits inflowing their thoughts and feelings into our consciousness. He is saying we don’t create our own thoughts because they come to us from elsewhere. A spirit is unconsciously present within our mind if it can harmonise with our desires: he or she secretly enters our way of thinking and is accepted by us as our own.  According to this view, the influence, of calming thoughts from angels and anxiety-laden thoughts from lower spirits, accounts for much of what we understand as our mental and emotional life.

In line with this way of thinking, as long as you identify with your anxiety-laden thoughts, then unfortunately you will continue to be under their control. The alternative is to be mindful of such anxious thoughts, learn to dis-identify with them, let go of them, neglect them, become unattached to them, and see them for what they are, the harmful fantasies of unwanted secret companions with whom you are free to distance your self.

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotionconal problems

http://www.spiritualquestions.org.uk/

Posted on3rd April 2014CategoriesConsciousness, Spirit awarenessTags, , , , , , , Leave a comment

Heaven and Hell

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life after death

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Heaven and Hell

You must be joking! ‘Heaven and Hell,’ what images do they conjure up in today’s world. Heaven- cute little cherubs with wings, sitting on fluffy clouds, playing harps or feasting in paradise without ‘Weight watchers’; Hell- mediaeval tortures, spooky red devils with horns and tails, furnaces, fire and brimstone (whatever that is.) Either way count me out!

And yet do you, like me, have a sneaky suspicion that there must be something more to this life. Do you ever wonder whether life carries on in another dimension and if so what it could be like? Do you ever think that there just might be some grain of truth in these out dated concepts of heaven and hell?

We often use words like heaven and hell to describe our own inner feelings. If everything goes wrong at work and the things that we attempt are thwarted and leave us frustrated we might feel that we have had a ‘hell of a day.’  If things go right and we feel pleased and happy we talk about ‘being in heaven.’ We can see from this that there is a relationship between how we feel and heaven and hell. Heaven and hell essentially are states of our mind or inner being and not physical places of either bliss or torment. Our actions and reactions, our thoughts and deeds, our loves and desires build heaven or hell within us.

Emanuel Swedenborg tells us that when our physical body dies the essential person, the spirit or soul passes into the spiritual world. Although the spiritual world may appear insubstantial to us on earth it is ultimate reality.

In the spiritual world there are communities where groups of people live and work together as in this natural world. We ultimately find ourselves living with communities with whom we feel at ‘home’ and who have similar natures to our own. If, whilst on earth, we have tried to think of others before ourselves, have had a belief in an entity greater than ourselves and tried to live according to principles then we should find ourselves living in a heavenly society. We really should be ‘in heaven.’

If, on the other hand, we have spent our lives being awkward, miserable, intolerant, selfish and dare we say plain ‘evil,’ then it is easy to see that being in a community of ‘angelic’ people would be anathema to us. We would be happier being in a company of like- minded people where we could continue to ‘make life hell.’

The choice is ours.

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The World Needs More Love Letters

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

Hannah Brencher
Hannah Brencher

Hannah Brencher age 24 years felt lonely in the big city. Two and a half years ago she found a way of easing her own feelings of sadness and at the same time helping other isolated people.

She began writing letters to strangers and leaving them all over New York city to find tucked into park benches or magazines in cafes. Words of encouragement like “Don’t give up on your dreams” and “Someone believes in you.”

This all started as a comforting habit but as others joined in it turned into The World Needs More Love Letters project as now there are approximately 13,000 people involved. Now a veritable army of volunteer letter writers has formed and Brencher’s spark of an idea is spreading around the world.

Hannah, who is originally from New Haven in Connecticut, tells Positive News: “My hope was that people would feel like they would be given a proactive recipe: that they could become folded into something larger than themselves – something that blesses the days of others. My letters were filled with honesty and encouragement and words of love. I wanted the recipients to know love wherever they were standing.”

There are now approximately 13,000 people involved, young and old, men and women, from all walks of life.

And judging by the response to the projects web site this is really helping people find connection and encouragement they need.

http://www.spiritualquestions.org.uk/

Posted on25th April 2013CategoriesMeaning and inspiration Leave a comment

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From depression can come spirituality and empathy

Curtis-Childs-depressionby Curtis Childs, as interviewed by Chelsea Odhner

I was raised in the New Church. Both of my parents are Swedenborgians. My education was split evenly, from elementary school through college, between Swedenborgian and non-Swedenborgian schools. I have been told that I talked and thought about religious ideas from a young age. I took it pretty seriously.

A good part of the way through my eighteenth year, I began a very distinct phase in my life. It was marked by the onset of major depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. I got overpowered by my internal world. This internal world was running everything in my life. It was horrible. I became unable to control what was going on in my mind. There was an immense gravity pulling me toward thinking about things that worried me. I would become trapped in looping thoughts and fears about a lot of things. This pattern hit its peak when I was about twenty-one or twenty-two. Eventually, I didn’t like Swedenborg’s teachings at all.

The Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg became hazardous to my health for a little while. Swedenborg’s teachings are awesome, but I found that they have the potential to be a little bit dangerous because they can give your fears a lot of ammunition. If you are open to spiritual concepts and to thinking deeply, your fears can become cosmic. A lot of my fears had Swedenborgian elements to them. The worldview was imprinted on the inside of me, and my thoughts would use this against me. When I would read the Writings, I would get into a bad mood. It was my understanding of them. I would think that Swedenborg was saying one thing, when now I take that same thing to mean something entirely different. I developed fears around concepts that really shouldn’t exist. It got to the point that reading the Writings wasn’t doing me any good, so I stopped.

During this time, I began reading other sorts of spiritual literature, some along the new age route. I read about near death experiences, which had a deep affect on me. I see now that exploring beyond the Writings of Swedenborg allowed an important expansion to my spirituality.

The lowest period I had was at Bryn Athyn College of the New Church. I was overwhelmed. I quit school because I was so depressed. It was just so hard. I was still getting good grades, but I couldn’t handle it mentally and emotionally. I moved back to my home-town in Michigan. After some time off, I decided to enroll in the communication program at nearby Oakland University.

An incredibly valuable lesson I learned during this period was that I wasn’t going to cure depression through religious thinking. I had to get everything else straight. You can’t out-think bad nutrition; you can’t out-think lack of exercise. I used to think that everything that was going on inside of me was either emotional or spiritual. I didn’t understand that our physical health affects our brains as much as it does. Part of what brought me out of my depression was physical exercise and antidepressants. I also made use of energy medicine and talk-therapy. I came to understand that I had to take care of myself holistically.

I also attribute the lessening of my depression in large part to growing older. It just takes time. I’m twenty-six now, and in some respect, I feel like I’ve beaten the depression, in other ways I feel like it has just slowed down. One thing I learned is how powerless I am, and that led me back to a search for God.

Over the course of my time at Oakland University, I came back to Swedenborg’s Writings and they became the core of my worldview. On account of my familiarity with Swedenborg’s teachings, I found myself able to contribute a lot of positive ideas to the conversations that took place in my courses. Swedenborg’s worldview is really kind in its essence, and I liked having that attitude towards everything. I liked the sense of identity that it gave me. At Oakland University, I would share my Swedenborgian worldview, and I found that people felt fed by it. At some point, I remember having the realization that I liked reading Swedenborg’s works again. I began to understand his Writings at a level that I had never known before.

I’d say the core of my spirituality is a deep level of empathy towards humans that was built up in me in part during my depression. I gained it through suffering. I know what humans shouldn’t have to go through. As I read Swedenborg’s Writings, I found that his teachings never were discordant with the empathy I felt in my heart.

It’s ironic, because at one time the problems I had were rooted in Swedenborgian concepts. But now, it is through Swedenborg’s teachings that I’ve gained a perspective that frees me from all of my fears. The reality of what he’s describing is an environment that a lot of my fears can’t survive in. The vision that he casts of what is in store for us and what is operating on our deeper levels provides hope.

Out of so much chaos have also come many gifts. One is the inspiration I’ve been given to make short, Swedenborgian-based videos. I publish them on YouTube and have had overwhelmingly positive responses from watchers, even from people well outside of the Swedenborgian realm. I want to make it possible for others to experience the relief that comes when it turns out that something that has been haunting you isn’t true, or when you hear about a reality that puts your fears to rest and awakens your greatest hopes. I see my involvement in this work as a convergence of my innate human desire to not want others to suffer and my fascination with Swedenborg’s revelation.

My life has been so intense and miserable at times, but it has definitely softened up my will. I have had the mixed blessing of constantly being under assault internally. This experience has kept me vibrantly interested in spirituality and in God. It’s funny, but hell has added so much to my spirituality.


Curtis Childs is an active contributor to Kidslive at kidslive.newchurchlive.tv. You can check out some of his YouTube videos at www.youtube.com/user/offTheLeftEye.

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Just as light devoid of warmth is totally unproductive, so is faith devoid of love.”

Arcana Coelestia 3146

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