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The Rabbit Hole of Worry

from Mysore streets
Nicole Newman

“To be addicted is bad. It gives you a kind of dependency. And all addictions are bad…To me transcendence comes out of your experience. You see the futility of something and the addiction drops.” (~ Osho)

Most of us are addicted to something.
Emotional states, work, pleasure, pain, drugs, caffeine, nicotine, Facebook, food, gambling, lying, obsessing, stealing, shopping – even yoga can become an unhealthy addiction.

I am addicted to worrying. If there is not something imminent to worry about, I create a daunting chimera. Breaking this cycle has been an arduous challenge. My worries create self-doubt, which snowball into a cocktail of confusion, anxiety, fear and unhappiness. The most frustrating part is that I know my worries are enervating and undermine my endeavors.   

Aggressively battling an addiction can be like cutting the head off of a hydra. The result? Several ferocious heads swiftly grow back in its place.
By definition, addiction is “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice, or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.”

Studying yoga in Mysore, India, has highlighted my addiction to comfort and the worry that ensues when I experience discomfort. I need a Western toilet, supplied with ample toilet paper and anti-bacterial soap. I need a pillow that properly supports my neck if I am ever to fall asleep. I need specific types of food at specific times if I want to practice without a belly ache. I need to adhere to my arbitrarily prescribed schedule of productivity if I am to have any peace of mind. My mind is filled with predetermined “if…then” scenarios.

Slowly and somewhat begrudgingly, I am accepting that my needs are actually wants and many times first-world desires or luxuries. Worry exacerbates the discomfort. India has cajoled me into experiencing the wisdom captured by the Rolling Stones: “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you might find, you get what you need.”

Slowly, I let go a tiny bit more each day. These mini-releases provide me with physical space, as my muscles release their death grip on my joints and mental space, as I have more freedom to engage my mind in interesting thoughts. My mom compares the mind to a pizza pie, which can only be divided into so many slices, just like the mind can only be occupied with a certain number of thoughts.

In addition to a deep-dive study of Ashtanga yoga, I came to India to face my worries. Intensive behavior therapy served straight up. For a person like myself, who is obsessed with cleanliness, order and (admittedly, a false sense of) control over life’s variables, India is a raw and palpable shock to the system. The first two weeks, I found myself clenching my jaw as I navigated the lane-less, polluted roads of downtown Mysore trying not to touch any part of the auto-rickshaw in which I was encased. Repulsed by people spitting and urinating in the streets, I was terrified that a communicable disease awaited me at every corner. Trying to gain a sense of control in India is like tussling with a tsunami. Inevitably, you’ll get knocked on your ass. Surrendering to this whirlwind of experiences has been intense, but well worth the emotional strife, as I notice tiny changes and shifts in my thinking and a strengthening of my character. 

But for every step forward, I often take 2 (and sometimes 3) steps backward. But I am starting to be okay with that because I feel seeds of personal growth taking root.  The best I can do is take up the gauntlet of maintaining equilibrium and fortitude as I surrender to life’s obstacle course.

Yoga for the Arts - New York