Self-awareness is not just about understanding the Higher Self; it is also recognition of the physical needs of our body and the stresses and anxieties of the mind. In our Western society, we spend most of the day working with our rational minds. The mind controls the brain through its stimulus-response system, which we can feel through stress and body anxiety levels. Remember that stress is simply a feeling that requires the brain to make a response to some stimulus in our environment. Arousal occurs when the mind becomes motivated and the brain releases a dopamine drive that sets our sights on achieving a goal. Anxiety is the feeling that occurs when we are having difficulty achieving that goal. The body stays on the alert through anxiety until the problem is resolved. If the problem cannot be solved, the mind and body stay in the sympathetic mode.
If we persist in the ego-mind’s anxiety fields, our minds will become less efficient and begin to experience frustration. A state of generalized anxiety occurs when the problem persists over time because the problem is not clearly defined or when the brain cannot find a solution based on past experiences. The brain maintains a continuous alert state that is energized through the reticular system in the brain and the subsequent hormonal reaction of the sympathetic system in the body. Part of self-awareness is to become aware of these negative anxiety-based energy levels and take control of them by consciously reverting back to the Higher Self through the state of mindfulness.
To control our anxiety level, we can practice this simple exercise that I call the Magic Square. It is designed to physically take us out of the sympathetic state and into the parasympathetic.
I suggest the following:
• When you feel that anxiety is affecting your breathing or your ability to perform some task, you can visualize the four sides of a square.
Square Side I: Inhale in one four second breath until your diaphragm is fully extended and your lungs feel full.
Square Side 2: Hold this fullness for four seconds.
Square Side 3: Exhale in one four second breath until the lungs feel empty.
Square Side 4: Hold for four seconds.
• Repeat until you sense that you have entered into a state of relaxation which is the parasympathetic mode.
• After you return to an anxiety-free state, make a note of the time, place, and cause of the anxiety, and the effectiveness of the Magic Square procedure.
• At the end of the day, write a summary of the types of stresses experienced.
• Ask your higher self for guidance for improving your stress management.