ASK ABDI: HOW TO COPE WITH ADVERSITY?

QUESTION: I struggle to cope with adversity. I have been a yoga practitioner for six years, study the texts a lot, and meditate daily (with mantra). I understand, on an intellectual level, that I need to figure out how to cope with stressful situations better, even though I’m trying to do all of these things that are supposed to help me deal. I am frustrated that sometimes I feel almost WORSE than I did before all of this yoga stuff. I am unfortunately prone to beating myself up about it, like “why is everyone else attaining yoga, and I am just getting frustrated that I’m still a mess?!”

How can I cope? I am currently in and out of work and life situations, running from one chapter to the next, because when I stay put ultimately this stuff starts to come back out. I have not gotten to the roots. And I don’t know how to. And I am scared that it won’t work or I will just make myself mental or figure out that I’m just damaged or mentally ill. Do you have any advice for me?

ANSWER: You answer your own question by this statement: “when I stay put ultimately this stuff starts to come back out”. What you are up against is what we all struggle with: underlying anxiety. There is anxiety for many us around our childhood upbringing, but I am talking about a bigger one, namely the fear of death. All the running around that we all do is an unconscious attempt to mask this feeling. Ironically, facing and sitting with it is the only way we can be free of its powerful grip. We can not erase it, just be made aware of it. Much of our activity, including spiritual work, can be connected to this abject terror. To live our lives more fully, we need to be with our mortality. The practice of mantra meditation is powerful as the Sanskrit sounds have specific effects on the nervous system. In my own experience however, one can bypass the feeling of anxiety by mantra practice. I would suggest that you continue your mantra practice and allow another 10 minutes afterwards to sit and feel. Be in your body and be present. Sometimes it will be delicious, but many times you might feel a wave of anxiety that will make you want to run. Gently sit and be with it, and see what happens. Make room for your humanness.