The AWARE Approach
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Welcome to the AWARE Approach.
The AWARE Approach is a way of experiencing anxiety, that has the effect of neutralizing it.
You can use it with general anxiety, strong waves of anxiety, and full blown panic attacks. You can also use it to neutralize fear associated with doing new things, and going beyond your currently perceived limitations.
There are two things to know straight away:
- Anxiety can not harm you.
- Anxiety always eventually ends.
In the body, anxiety is nothing more than nervous system activation.
And in your experience, anxiety is nothing more than thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
I know these thoughts can seem disturbing, and I know the feelings and sensations can be intense and disorientating some. But you are safe.
Anxiety comes and goes in waves.
And sometimes, when you’re in the middle of a wave, it might feel as if it’ll never end. But guess what? It always does. And with this approach, the waves can get shorter, and shorter, until you’re over them quicker, or they begin to disappear completely.
The approach is broken into 5 steps.
You might find that you only need Steps 1-3, Steps 1 and 2, or for some of you, just Step 1 might do the trick to end some anxiety you're experiencing. But I encourage you to learn all of them so you can get the full picture and apply the approach when you want to move outside your comfort zone and expand your possibilities.
Step 1 - Awareness
This step is about taking your attention away from being focused on anxious thoughts, and back to Awareness. Back to yourself.
For a moment, simply notice that you’re aware, that you’re experiencing.
You can ask yourself “Am I Aware?”, and simply notice the experience of being. Of being aware.
Or, if that feels too abstract, you can simply notice what’s going on around you, what you can see, smell, and hear, and the sensations of your body.
Simply Zoom your attention out for a moment, and witness everything you’re experiencing.
Awareness begins with an ‘A’, and so do the words ‘Acknowledge’, ‘Accept’, and ‘Allow’.
Within this awareness, simply acknowledge that currently, there is the presence of uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.
Anxiety gets worst when you try to resist it. This time, do the counter intuitive move. Don’t try to resist it.
Can you fully accept that the thoughts and feelings are there, no matter how intense or scary they are? Can you fully allow the thoughts and feelings to be there, and do whatever they’re going to do, whilst you remain the witness?
You can repeat to yourself the mantra “I accept and allow these thoughts and feelings.” Do this if it helps.
But the good news is, with awareness: You don’t ultimately have to do anything to try to accept them. In simply being aware of yourself as this awareness, you can notice that thoughts and feelings come and go, and this wide open space of awareness, does nothing to resist them. They flow in and out of the space, arising, and disappearing without a trace.
And awareness, the Real You, isn’t touched by them.
Step 2 - Welcome
We’re going to take the counter-intuitive move a step further.
Now, welcome the anxiety, be simply being in the spirit of openness, and being willing to experience all the sensations.
Before, you resisted anxiety, you tried to push it away, or shut it out. Now, you’re saying “I’m not scared of you anymore! So… Welcome! Come in!”
You can even imagine the anxiety as comical cartoon character with a silly or squeezy voice. You can imagine it doing a big act, perhaps frozen in terror and chattering its teeth over nothing. Or running around in circles flailing it’s arms and legs around in a comical over-reaction.
It tries to fight for your attention. It says “No! You should be worrying! You should be panicking! No! Don’t listen to Alex! Don’t listen to your deeper intuition! Listen to me! You’ve really gone and done it this time! Things are really bad!” And you just sit there, looking at it with compassion. You allow it to fully tell it’s story. But you smile at it and say “Thank you for trying to protect me. You did such a good job in the past. But I don’t need you anymore. You can go ahead and continue to do your thing. But, I remember The Truth. I am fundamentally, and existentially safe.”
Step 3 - Approach
This step is about turning the tables on your anxiety, by not only welcoming it in, but approaching it. Advancing towards it.
To the mind, this can seem like a scary, perhaps crazy step. But this is what turns the tables on anxiety once and for all and puts the power back in your hands.
The thoughts are usually fear about something happening. If the thoughts, (or, this comical character) is saying “What if I lose all my money?”, “What if they leave?”, “What if I get sick or die?”, “What if I go crazy and lose my mind?” you respond with “Ok. What if? So what?”
Take a nonchalant attitude to the thoughts. It’s like “Ok sure, well, sure, whatever. That’s what would be apparently happening wouldn’t it? I’d just have to deal with it, or, do something else. And anyway, can I really ultimately know that it would be that bad?”
Then, try to Amplify the anxiety, by Asking for more. Feel the sensations in your body, and demand more of them. Demand that they feel as intense as possible. You can even smile at them as you feel the buzzing energy pulsating through your body.
If the anxiety is going to have you sick and dizzy, make your heart race, or make your mind race with crazy thoughts you say “Ok, whatever, I’m not scared of you anymore! Do your worst!”
Feel the bodily sensations, and fully allow them to be there. Fully welcome what you’re feeling and let it do whatever it’s going to do. You can even say “Ok! Make me have a full blown panic attack, right now!” And of course… you find, you can’t will it to happen.
It’s like anxiety was coming for YOU, now you’re coming for it. YOU’RE dominant force now.
You can also move with the anxious energy. And when you move with it, it’s just energy. You can allow your body to do any movements its wants to do. It’s nervous system energy, that rises, peaks, and always eventually falls away dissolves.
Another part of approaching the anxiety is to discover what’s underneath. Sometimes anxiety is a cover for another feeling. Something you haven’t been allowing yourself to feel.
So as you allow the anxious feelings, check to see if you feel anything else. Feel inside your body for what you really feel in there. Is there anything that needs to be seen? Is there any other emotion in there that needs to be allowed, or released?
If you sense any anger, it’s ok to allow yourself to feel that anger. You don’t have to act on it. You can simply allow the presence of the thoughts, the bodily sensations, and the inner heat, and allow it to flow through.
If you sense any grief or sadness, it’s ok to allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling, and allow it to resolve. Sometimes a good scream or cry is all we need.
Whatever you’re feeling, the good news is: You’re over the top of the wave.
In the past, you probably tried to resist the emotional waves, and supress them.
But, you’re open to the emotional flow. Which means these waves sometimes rush in, peak, and inevitably subside… and release.
This approach isn’t about releasing all anxiety in one go. It isn’t even about getting rid of anxiety. It’s about getting rid of your fear of it. It’s about allowing yourself to experience these anxious feelings without getting more anxious about, and without getting stuck in them.
When you allow yourself to feel more, welcoming the feelings, and allowing them to rush through, they might even seem a little more intense at first.
But the result is, they rush in, peak, and subside sooner. You’re up and over the hump sooner.
The storm clouds may still rush in from time to time. But they dissipate faster, and the a sunny day is revealed once again.
Remember: The the sun always eventually comes out once again. The clouds always eventually dissipate or float away, and so does anxiety.
Step 4 - Release
This step is about releasing anxious thoughts and feelings, by letting go.
It’s about releasing all the holding on, that’s been going on in the body and mind.
We often don’t even realise when we’re holding onto anxious thoughts and feelings, and we get stuck on them. And we often don’t realise how much we’re holding on in the body, tightening our muscles, contracting in nervous readiness, or frozenness.
Releasing happens, by simply noticing anywhere you’re holding on, and letting go.
If there are thoughts playing on loop about a particular situation, can you simply let them go?
Can you just drop them, release them, and set them free? Can you stop identifying with them, or believing in them and simply move on? And if the thoughts keep going around in loops, can you drop and release any desire to control that? Can you allow them to lose their momentum and unwind?
Now, notice where you’re holding on in the body. Feel for where you are tensing and holding on. Sometimes its in the neck, shoulders, throat, chest or even deeper in the body. Feel anywhere you have an inner contraction. Can you relax into that feeling? Can you relax the muscles and physically let go.
A technique I like to do is: Feel for the strongest feeling sensation. Feel it fully for a moment. Take a deep breath, and imagine breathing into the sensation. Hold the breath at the top for a second as you relax into the sensation as much as possible, letting the sensation soften, and expand. And then, release, with a nice long extended exhale and you relax and let yourself go limp on the exhale.
It’s like the sensation is this cool, solid mass. And as you penetrate it with awareness, and breath into it, it starts to heat up. It becomes softer, and more mailable. And as you continue to turn up the heat it eventually starts to bubble, and boil, and dissipate like a gas.
It can be helpful at this point stretch. Move the body around. And shake it out.
If whilst welcoming anxiety you start to shake, that can actually be a good thing. Many people try to supress shaking as they think it’s weird or something.
But, many animals in the wild instinctively shake as a natural method of discharging energy from their bodies. And it’s actually a way your body can release trapped fear and anxiety.
Sometimes as the releasing is happening, certain muscles may shake, twitch, or vibrate. This is a sign that they’re releasing and relaxing.
At this point, you’re probably already feeling the relaxation naturally. As you allow, welcome, and even advance toward anxiety, you allow yourself to transition fully through the emotional wave and on the other side, there’s a natural relaxation that happens in the body.
The nervous energy is leaving. You can help it along by slowing down the breath, and extending the exhales, perhaps with a big long groan, or a sigh. [sigh]
This activates the bodies calming system. You’re moving from fight, flight, or freeze… to calm, poised, and comfortably alert.
Step 5 - Engage
The next step is about Engaging with the things anxiety previously held you back from.
Anxiety can feel so immobilizing. But with this approach, you move with it.
You have the option to rest and relax, to lie or sit there, and fully experience the bodily sensations and what you are feeling. You can meditate or contemplate with it if you feel called to.
But often, it’s time to engage in activities. What has fear, stress, and anxiety been holding you back from?
How does it change things, when you approach them with this new approach? Now, you can begin to experiment and discover this.
You can use the energy generated with anxiety and channel it into things. You can immerse yourself in housework, a creative activity, or work on your business. You can approach and engage with the physically or intellectually demanding activities.
It’s not helpful to trigger TOO much stress at once. Take things step by step. Face head first into those things that usually trigger this stress and anxiety, and allow yourself to move with the feelings. Stretch yourself a bit. And then release, let go, rest, relax, and repeat the cycle.
Each time, what previously triggered intense emotions, will start to trigger less and less, as the fear around it leaves. And it’s possible to trigger all the trapped fear around something, and release all of it, so you don’t feel ANY fear around it anymore.
You can fully surmount fear and anxiety by incrementally and deliberately exposing yourself to the tasks or activities that once immobilized you with fear.
This approach is not just about overcoming anxiety. It’s about feeling free to do all the things you’ve always dreamt of doing. Because this time, you have a new approach.
As you approach and move past these perceived limitations, you'll find your fears diminishing and your confidence growing. You’ll find yourself feeling expansive, as you think about what life can be like without fear holding you back.
Now you can approach these activities, knowing that even if they trigger a wave of emotions or anxiety, you can welcome the feelings, allow the sensations to rise and fall.
You can allow approaching activities to trigger feelings of stress, nervous system activation, and adrenaline, and instead of backing down, move with the energy. You can say “Thankyou brain and body. Thankyou for giving me the alertness and energy I need to tackle this task at hand.” You can use the energy, by driving your attention into the present moment, and repeatedly bringing your attention to the task at hand.
Activities and tasks that require a heightened degree of energy and focus often trigger feelings of stress, agitation, and confusion at first. But this can be the gateway to The Flow state. At first it feels frustrating and uncomfortable, but you persist, and before you know it, three hours have gone by and you’ve done a ton of stuff in what seemed like no time at all.
The AWARE Approach isn’t about getting trying get rid of anxious waves. It’s about getting rid of your fear of them. And with that, they will subside.
This Approach is also a way of releasing all the repressed fear, anxiety, and tension in your body, layer by layer. It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion. Every time a wave rushes in, peaks, and inevitably subsides and leaves, another layer of fear and contraction within the body has been peeled back and released forever. And with each layer you’re getting to the core of it.
As you’re releasing fear and anxiety in the body, often over time, the intensity of the anxious waves get less and less. Until many events don’t trigger anything within you anymore.
Or if you do feel something triggered within you, it might just to be just a little hump. You might just breath into it for a moment, fully feel it, and let it go.
But, don’t focus too much on at outcome in the future. And don’t judge yourself for however you feel or however long it takes to process what you’re feeling. Instead fully accept wherever your body and mind is on its journey. And begin to discover the acceptance and peace that’s here now.
The AWARE Approach is a process, that starts off conscious, but eventually goes unconscious. At first, it’s like you’re consciously following a process.
But with time, you naturally find yourself moving through the steps faster and faster. And one day you realise, it’s happening automatically, and you’re haven’t even been thinking about or aware of it. You’re reprogramming your body and mind with a resilient, empowered response to fear. You’re revealing more and more of the qualities of your True Nature. Your beingness. Your freedom.
See you in the next session.
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