In the past, I strove to remain serene. But it was very difficult for me, because I couldn’t put into practice my resolution in daily life. Although I deeply wanted to be free from anxiety, I couldn’t succeed. Anxiety and mental confusion always got the upper hand on me. What to do!
When Manuela and I got back to the house of the organization, I went to my room to lie down on my bed, and went over my past experiences and attempts to get over my anxiety and depression.
On the sides of the lake in my hometown, there were some apparatuses for doing gymnastic exercises. My friends used to do rolls on the rings. I couldn’t do that exercise, even though I knew how to do it in theory. I knew that it was not dangerous, and nothing would happen to me. I had a body structure suitable for doing that, but I lacked the courage to grip the rings and launch myself with my head downwards. I couldn’t put into
practice what I knew in theory. I was too anxious to do a roll.
How could I keep my anxiety under control?
There are many methods that claim to be a good treatment for anxiety and depression. Many of them consist in taking medicines. I have always viewed those chemicals with suspicion. They are artificial treatments for temporary serenity. Tranquilizers and medicines for mental diseases and personality disorders also have side effects and are addictive. A person’s inner balance is kept artificially on these drugs. If treatment is stopped, the frail equilibrium breaks. Drugs fight the symptoms, not the disease. Undoubtedly, the medicine triggers a chemical, artificial reaction that affects the person’s behavior and impairs his free expression of emotions and ideas.
Once, I talked about this issue with a psychiatrist. I expressed to her my opinion about drugs and addiction. If mental disease is kept under control by medicines, then the patient has to take them for his whole life.
“Don’t be so upset! Many body diseases can be controlled by taking medicines. For instance, think of the pills to control diabetes or high blood pressure. They must be taken daily and for life. That kind of medicine doesn’t provoke any scandal. Unfortunately, people are embarrassed to take drugs in the treatment of mental or emotional diseases,” said the psychiatrist.
As for me, I have always refused anything that was artificial and unnatural. I was convinced that if I had taken drugs to cure my anxiety and depression, my spontaneity would have been impaired. They would have undermined my spirit of adventure, my desire for knowledge, and my spiritual quest to understand the meaning of life. Furthermore, my critical and judgmental capacity would have dwindled away, as well as my passion for travel. So, I never turned to medicines to resolve my emotional, existential, and psychological problems.
Once, a Buddhist friend of mine taught me a kind of meditation.
“The technique I will teach you,” he said, “doesn’t provoke any side effect. It doesn’t break the natural equilibrium of your character. It strengthens your spirit of adventure and desire for knowledge instead of reducing them. In fact, this technique removes the negativity inside you and the hindrances that interfere with your inner growth. Hence, whenever anxiety and depression are about to invade you, use this technique.
“Just sit down and watch your breathing. Watch as if you were an external watcher. Don’t judge the thoughts that pass through your mind. Confine yourself to watching them. Pay attention to the air that comes in and out of your nostrils. Then, when you inhale, imagine that a white light passes through the crown of your head, floods into your body, and purifies it. When you exhale, imagine that your exhalation is a black smoke that carries out your negative thoughts, worries, and delusions.”
From then on, whenever I meditated in that way, my anxiety subsided a little. One day, when I was jogging around the lake, I stopped by the apparatuses. I stood facing the rings and meditated for a while as my Buddhist friend had taught me. Then, I grasped the rings, bent my head downward, made a jump, and lifted my feet toward the sky, without hesitating. Finally, I had done it! It was an easy exercise. My anxiety had prevented me from doing that. Both the white light and the black smoke didn’t exist. They were a figment of my imagination, but so was my anxiety.
While traveling in Tanzania, I resumed that meditation technique. I did it whenever I could, even that day, in the organization’s house. The results were good. My depression and anxiety subsided a little.
This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind