Calming Anxiety: A Trust Exercise

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The doorway to trust is awe.

When our lives are full—crammed full—we become anxious, angry and reactive. When this happens, our sense of self can move out of gentle awareness and into panicky self-consciousness, fear and anxiety.

Awe creates space for our souls to reconnect with life itself. Awe is cultivated through attention to the particulars: moments, glimpses, small gifts, presence.

Exercise

Take ten minutes to cultivate awe.

Take a deep breath in and breathe it out slowly. Do this several times. Unclench your body, and become relaxed physically. Allow your body to calm your brain.

Become conscious of your environment, and as your gaze takes in your surroundings, seek for a ‘particular’ to focus on. It might be the tiniest red flowers that cling to the sides of grass gone to seed. It might be an old photo of your child. Allow your eyes to rest on this one thing, gently absorbing it, just as it is. Receive this one thing as a gift to your life.

Take in the beauty of what you are beholding, for its own sake—not for what it will do for you or what you need to do for it. For instance, if it is your child, try to avoid becoming saturated with concern or taken up with tasks to be done. If it is grass gone to seed, consider the tiny florets and resist the call of the lawn mower. Allow yourself to comprehend in some small way the goodness, truth and beauty of the particular thing you are gazing at.

Hold this small and beautiful piece of life in your sight and recognize that you are also a sign of life, beauty and grace—not in that you are productive, but simply in your being. As you contemplate this, perhaps a prayer of thanksgiving will begin to arise in you.

Let your gratitude grow, and flow out in a cloud of amazement at the generosity of God who gives diverse and marvelous life to all. Stay in this place of amazement and gratitude for a few minutes.

Perhaps you might draw a small picture of what you are looking at in your journal. Perhaps you might record in writing what you are grateful for.

What you have done in these few minutes is to give your soul a chance to breath in awe. We have put our eyes again on the Lord of life, Creator and Sustainer of all things.

The movement into awe shifts us from self-consciousness into self-awareness. We are not victims, our value is not in the assessments of others, and our life is held by God.

Walk into your day with calm assurance and open awareness.

Don’t look at life as ill disposed,
as tight and closed
within the gilded cage
of dull tranquility,
like a bird that lost its melody
and flaps its clipped and tired wing
against the silken bars
but can no longer sing.

The flight of grace revives
the song of praise
that died upon our lips.
(Adrian Van Kaam)


Marilyn Elliott is a member of Soul Care Collective’s Steering Committee.

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Vice President for Community Formation at Asbury Theological Seminary and has been a church leader in the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination since 1979. She has wide pastoral experience in partnership with her husband Steve. Together, they have lead three churches over 31 years, provided missionary member-care and pastoral retreats in Chile, Argentina and Venezuela since l985, and formation teaching during Field Conferences in Eastern Europe and Indonesia.

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