Listening your way out of the anxiety, fear, and worry wormhole.
There is nothing like back pain to bring you into a state of total despair.
I was just standing there. I was looking into the bathroom mirror getting ready to bend over to grab my shaving cream, brush, and bowl from under the sink. But I hadn’t started to move yet.
Out of nowhere, I felt this crunching movement in my lower back on the left side, somewhere around my glute/sacrum. The movement occurred completely on its own. It was creepy… like something or someone was in there with a light jackhammer, jostling things around without me having anything to do with it.
Right after that, pain. Not terrible as I had expected, but pain, nonetheless. It wasn’t debilitating. I finished shaving. And I decided that I could do some mobility work on it… so I spent time on my vibrating foam roller, hung upside down, and used my psoas release tool on it.
And while none of these things brought relief, I felt pretty okay.
Went for a hike with the family. The walking actually felt good. Mobility for the spine.
No better, no worse. I changed up my morning routine and went for a 30-minute walk instead of my usual 5 min walk/15 min run. I also skipped yoga for the first time in about 3 months. Status quo.
Things were about the same. Went for my morning walk. When speaking with clients, did so from my seiza bench on the floor. This gives me all sorts of posture options including a rounded back position that feels really good.
I started to have really negative thoughts about my back. These thoughts quickly jumped the track into other areas of my life that typically trigger me – financial, worthiness, enoughness. My mind started spinning stories, and I was a captive audience. These stories were about something way direr than just a tweak of my back.
It went something like this: This back pain is obviously evidence of something bigger and way worse… a tumor. Yes… I must have cancer. My mind started gathering it’s evidence and linking things together that have happened in the past… little aches and pains that are currently lingering or have come and gone. They all became part of this intricate story about my eventual demise. The story included me going through chemo… wondering who in the world might show up to support me while going through it all. Would anyone? Probably not. I could see the impossible pain and difficulty it created for Julia. And it even included having to say goodbye to my family, to my son. How would life ever be the same (it wouldn’t), and then, who might show up for the funeral? How would I be buried? Cremated? Ashes spread in the ocean… yes… that would be great.
I don’t know how long it took my mind to create this story (probably milliseconds), but I sat with it all day. Perhaps it came to me the night before in a dream/nightmare. In fact, now that I’m writing this, I think, in fact, that it did.
As the day progressed, hour by hour I felt myself going deeper down the rabbit hole of despair, listening to the story over and over again in my head, feeling it getting more real by the minute. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritual, I was spiraling down. While ironically, physically, I could feel things slightly improving.
That evening, I had a conversation with my spiritual friends, Natalie and Brett. They assured me that this pain, this movement in my back, my foundation, was all part of the spiritual plan. That my spiritual (and physical) foundation is transforming, moving, making room for something new, and there is work to be done. This spiritual message manifests in the physical through the need to slow down (required when your back is out), and shift. And that sometimes that involves pain.
That conversation helped quite a lot… at least it stopped me from tumbling further down the rabbit hole.
I woke at 2am to Bella barking. I was in a full panic/terror. The story from the day had taken a hold of me and I was having a full-on anxiety attack. The story was more real than ever. I was 100% convinced at that moment that I was dying.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, I remembered two things.
Master Thought Formula
We exist at the level of our LISTENING.
The Master Thought Formula is something that Jim Fortin teaches that is a short mental process to help gain control of an out-of-control mind. You do it by repeating the following sequence to yourself… as many times as it takes:
- My thoughts are illusions.
- I am not my thoughts.
- I AM the THINKER of my thoughts.
- I turn my attion to: ___________
It doesn’t sound like much, and to be honest, I had never really “used” it before. But I started going through it. At first, it did NOTHING. But I continued… even though it really didn’t make sense and my mind couldn’t really even conceive of what it meant. And after at least 10 times through, I started to notice some SPACE opening up… space between what I had perceived as ME… being IN my thoughts, and me being the THINKER of my thoughts. Inside of this space, a new possibility started to open up. The possibility to CHOOSE something different to think and put my attention on.
The other thing that came to me was the concept that we exist at the level of our listening. The details of that are the subject of an entirely different blog post, but suffice it to say that the way we perceive the universe is shaped and created by where we focus our attention, and what we are listening for. It’s like we each have satellite dish receivers… and whatever we turn them toward is what we see, hear, taste, touch, smell, experience, and think. We don’t experience everything in the universe simultaneously, our perceptions and minds narrow it down for us… and when you realize that you have the POWER to CREATE yourself through how you think and listen, WOW. It’s like a superpower. I had considered this in theory and heard others talk about it, but there is nothing like having the experience of it for yourself and having it work, almost like magic!
By creating space with the Master Thought Formula and focusing on creating my listening, I pictured my perceptions (and listening) like giant satellite dishes and felt myself starting to turn them, ever so slightly, to a different angle and frequency, that I started receiving and listening for something different… something I chose. As I started to experience this new frequency, I could feel the fear, anxiety, and worry start to dissolve. And soon thereafter, was fast asleep.
The fear, worry, and anxiety were completely gone, and the pain in my back noticeably decreased.
Back pain gone. Anxiety – gone. And what I’m left with is pure appreciation and gratitude for the perfection of the process. I see now how it has to happen the way it does for the real growth to happen. Faking it doesn’t work. Neither does reading about it, or hearing someone else talk about it. To really get it, you must go THROUGH IT… like this. Something happens. The mind attempts to create meaning out of it. When it doesn’t work, it gets more desperate to grasp and control. All attempts at that fail. Mental and emotional panic ensues. Fear, worry, and anxiety grow. Out of this loss of control comes your willingness to do just about anything to pull yourself out… and not knowing whether you actually can. And in those attempts, using the practice of the Master Thought Formula and conscious listening… you pull yourself out of the spin, realizing your fullest power as the creator.
The process was not fun, not one I would choose to repeat. But the result and lessons learned… PRICELESS.