Panic affects us all at different times, but for some it dominates their day-to-day life. “I had panic all through my childhood until I was 13. I grew up at the base of the Himalaya Mountains and I was afraid of snowstorms, earthquakes, fire, and sometimes for no reason – I was just fearful, I did not sleep well, I panicked very easily.”
We are talking with Mingyur Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, about his new book, Joyful Wisdom. He is openly honest about what he has been through. However, Mingyur did something with his panic that few of us are able to: where most of us feel overcome by panic or try to suppress it, he made friends with it — he turned his enemy into his ally.
“There are two ways we actually make panic worse: we say ‘Yes, Sir’ to it, or ‘Get Out.’ If we say Yes Sir then we do anything that the panic wants us to do, we let it rule us. But if we fear panic or try to get rid of it, and we say Get Out, then this just makes panic into the enemy. Either way, panic gets bigger and we become less able to cope.”
So how can you turn panic into your friend? The answer is surprisingly simple: by becoming aware of it. “Awareness means seeing it, feeling it, and then panic becomes many different pieces: physical sensations, emotions, frightened images, words, thoughts. So awareness is of all the different pieces, it is not just one big thing. If you are not aware of the pieces then you are a victim of it; awareness is saying hello and inviting the panic in.”
Turning your panic into happiness:
1. Become aware of the panic. Seeing it for what it is without judgment, that it is neither good or bad.
2. Shift your focus away from Yes Sir or Get Out. Normally, when we are panicked, our breathing is shallow and rapid. To help you shift the focus you can bring your breathing down to the belly, away from the panic. Soft belly breathing: breathing deeply all the way in and out, then relaxing and breathing in again slowly, with a soft and relaxed belly.
3. Develop love and compassion by becoming a friend to yourself. Then you can understand that others panic, that every person in every moment, every breath, every thought, every movement, is looking for happiness. We are no different, we all want the same, we are all part of the big family.
Amazingly, Mingyur was just 13 years old when he discovered the transformative power of meditation. The more he practiced, the more he was able to be with the panic and not let it run his life. “Meditation enabled me to witness my panic. Normally my busy monkey mind ran the show by telling me to be panicked or to hide. Meditation gave me greater freedom as it gave a job to the monkey mind and I become the boss.”
“Who makes problems? We humans. And who is the controller of the human? The mind. And how to control the human mind? Through meditation. If you can control the pilot, then the pilot can control the plane,” says Mingyur in our book, BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You and The World.
In this way, panic can become our friend and teacher, something we can learn from about ourselves. “Panic pushed me into understanding myself more deeply, it opened my heart so that I have greater understanding that others are suffering too.”
Sitting quietly in meditation, silently repeat: May I have happiness and causes of happiness. May I be well, may I be peaceful, may others be well, may others be peaceful.
See our award-winning book: BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jane Fonda, Jack Kornfield, Marianne Williamson, Ram Dass, Byron Katie, and many others.
Our 3 meditation CD’s: Metta—Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi–Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra–Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at: www.EdandDebShapiro.com