Here's another chapter in my never-ending story of Observations About the Cosmos That Are Either Astoundingly Brilliant or Fucking Obvious.
I've figured out where anxiety comes from! And how to cure it!
OK, let's make that my anxiety. Your results may vary. Consult a qualified professional rather than this blog post if you're really being driven crazy by uncontrollable worrying.
The sort of anxiety I'm talking about manifests in me as a sort of negative mental background buzz. I'll be lying in bed before going to sleep at night, or my senior citizen afternoon nap, idly thinking about stuff in my life, and I'll notice that instead of my state of mind being neutral or positive, there's a mildly bothersome feeling of something is wrong.
That feeling is so common, usually I don't even notice it. Like I said, it's more like a gray mental background that makes thoughts and feelings which pass in front of it more darkly worrisome than they would be otherwise.
A mild tendency toward negativity is another way of putting it, as if my mind is habitually anticipating a less cheery future than the situation I'm pondering really deserves.
A few days ago, I had a sudden intuitive realization: what's going on here is a Time Problem.
Before I describe that realization, I'll note that this particular Observation About the Cosmos also explains a feeling I sometimes get after ingesting some vaporized marijuana. (In Oregon, where I live, marijuana is legal.) Here too, a feeling of anxiety seems to be a Time Problem.
In both cases -- stoned and not-stoned -- my mind appears to be operating on a different time scale than the rest of physical reality. The stoned case is easier to analyze, because for me and many other marijuana users, time seems to slow down when I'm high.
So, for example, after smoking some pot I'll be brushing my teeth with an electric toothbrush that has a timer and think, "This is taking longer than it should." It isn't, of course. When I stop thinking that thought and just focus on the physical act of brushing my teeth, any feeling of should goes away.
What I mean is, paying attention to physical reality as fully as possible makes my sense of internal time pleasantly mesh with the passage of events in the world. If I'm high after ingesting some marijuana, the events seem to go slower. Which isn't a problem, because I'm an integral part of those events. Time and Me are one, not two.
(If this doesn't make sense, smoke some pot, then read the preceding paragraph again.)
By contrast, I've noticed that in both my stoned and not-stoned states, a mild sense of anxiety arises when my Mental Time conflicts with Physical Time. Now, I realize that nobody, including scientists, has a genuine grasp of what "time" is. I'm speaking about it in the commonsense understanding of things happening one after the other.
So when I'd idly thinking about what I have to do in the future, or what I've done in the past, the sense of worry that often comes across me seems to have its root in a time mismatch. I feel out of sync, or out of sorts, because the objective passage of time in the physical world that surrounds me is different from the subjective sense of time in the mental world within my brain.
Another way of putting it: The world moves at a slower pace than my thoughts and feelings do.
Thus when I think along the lines of "tonight I've got to write a blog post about X," there will be a certain anxiousness associated with that thought -- because my mind is projecting an image of tonight and the physical world is still at 3 pm on a sunny Oregon day.
Sure, this is Meditation/Mindfulness 101, not an astounding fresh insight. But I still find this Observation About the Cosmos a revelation. For me. Again, your results may vary.
All I have to do to regain a sense of calm, a feeling of everything is just fine with the world, is to re-focus my attention on... the world. The physical world, not my mental world. Lying in bed, being aware of my breathing, the weight of my head on a pillow, any sounds coming from outside the room -- now I feel totally relaxed.
The world is going at the same speed as I am. I am going at the same speed as the world. World and me are in sync, together, in harmony, not at odds. Which feels good.
(Final attempt at a succinct description of what is essentially indescribable: Physical time moves at a constant speed for me; Mental time typically moves at a faster speed for me.)