It was early in 2005, just when I came to London to live and study here. I remember I went into a shop in Camden and wanted to do the simplest thing in the world – get a bottle of water. It does sound simple, doesn’t it? You go into a shop and you get it. The problem for me at that time was that I needed to ASK for it; I needed to speak in English and communicate my needs to another human being in this foreign language. What happened during this short encounter was what I could call fireworks of stress, something which a friend of mine calls ‘a thought s**t storm’.
My mind went into overdrive, my heart pounded as if I was asking the shop assistant on a date, but I managed to get what I wanted. Stressed out, I left the shop beating myself up for some small grammatical error which I made in the single sentence I uttered. And so it went on for a very long time. I made many errors and I made sure I followed it up with a sufficient amount of self-flagellation. Speaking in English and connecting with people using this language stayed with me as a problem for almost 7 years.
What always fascinated me was how differently people react to same environment and circumstances. I remember my friend Julia who I studied with in Germany. She was always enthusiastic about her ability to speak German and ended up teaching this language eventually. She seemed to radiate this unwavering confidence, yet her German was not that great. Another friend, Peter, spoke this language at a level which would make many native speakers jealous, but was so self-critical of himself that he came across as shy, insecure, and as if he couldn’t really speak it.
Why do I mention this here? Because so many of us live in a very innocent yet very important misunderstanding as to where our experience comes from. If the ability to speak the language was the source of confidence, then Peter would feel wonderful and Julia would need to go back home and study more in order to feel as confident as him. But it was just the opposite. Same with me – if making mistakes was the reason of stress then why was I calm when I didn’t know that I made one? Or why was I sometimes stressed out even before making one?
Our experience is created on the inside. Nothing on the outside can make you feel anything. Your experience, whether it’s stress, anger, fear, love, joy or bliss, is created by the power of Thought. If you have fearful thinking you’re going to feel fear, if your thinking is loving then you’ll experience love. How is it helpful? – you can ask. When you realise that your experience is not coming from anything outside of you then you will automatically stop trying to change the circumstances and stop hurting yourself by holding on to your painful thoughts. Controlling your environment is very tiring and usually means that the environment wins. Understanding the true source of your experience will sooner of later result in peace of mind and this nice feeling which comes from this quiet mind.
The moment I started to understand it on a deeper level my mind slowed down, my experience of living in London and speaking in English evened out and now life seems very different. I started to share my understanding with others and I hope others will benefit from this and not only manage their anxiety better, but not experience it at all.