The Well-Directed Mind

In my post about the in-between spaces, I mentioned the importance of harnessing the anxious energy floating around in our minds. I likened anxious thoughts to a team of Huskies about to run a sled race. There are times when we need to unhitch the team, settle them down for the night, and rest, but there are also times we need to slap the reigns and take off across the snow.

The issue occurs when we stand there, Huskies at the ready, and never go. We stare at the snowy expanse, arms frozen with fear or resistance, and the Huskies, impatient at being held back, turn on each other, descending into a cacophony of barks, snarls, and mayhem. You can try to reign them in, try at last to unhitch them, but at some point, that energy needs to go somewhere. You can’t hold it back too long.

Oh! And think of the places it will take you! When you do release the dogs, the sled soars forward, and you find your breath caught away. Your first thought may be one of terror, anxiety, and you try to look back over your shoulder, wondering if you can still make for home.

But give it a minute. Release the reigns more. Loosen your arms. You start to notice the sound of skates slicking over fresh snow, and a majestic landscape opens before you, unmarred by any other passersby. The dogs are going, running, caught up in the very thrill of it, and as your spirit melds with theirs, you find your heart lifting, soaring!

This is how the mind works. This is why anxiety festers. We know we can calm the mind through mindfulness, meditation, exercising, or journaling, but how do we release all the energy that builds? When fear or resistance and the hounds of creative energy are at odds, we visibly feel the strain. For myself, this results in panic attacks, lower energy, and a lowered sense of self-esteem. I have a harder time making decisions or moving past resistance because all my energy is focused on trying to hold on to tons of straining sled dogs.

The answer is simple, and yet not always easy to do. As Sheryl Paul in her work first brought to my attention, the opposite of anxiety is creativity. Anxiety is creative energy held at bay, where it descends into chaos and cacophony.

So the key is to find and send your energy into a creative outlet. That may be writing, drawing, dancing, gardening, editing, training a dog, or whatever connects you most deeply to yourself. In my mind, creativity and spirituality are linked and are one and the same. I don’t mean religion when I say spirituality (though they may be synonymous for you) but a connection to your core self, to your creative energy, to an aliveness or deep sense of purpose or connection.

Engaging in creativity regularly helps release the pent-up energy of anxiety. I encourage doing a creative activity often, rather than waiting for a panic attack to hit (where you likely will find it very difficult to focus on re-channeling that energy).

So, with all that in mind, gather the reins, loosen your grip, and . . . release the hounds!

Challenge!: Pick a creative activity that brings you joy and a connection to yourself or the world. Do that activity three times this week and note how it makes you feel. If you’ve been feeling resistance toward your normal mode of creative expression, try starting with something new or something where you feel more freedom to play around. Share what you learned and what your thoughts are below!

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