Why you don't need a key to escape your anxiety
Spoiler: The door is unlocked
"We had a problem with the door."
The guy on the other end of the phone had just checked out of one of the Airbnb properties my partner and I own and apparently, they couldn't get the keypad lock to work.
"I just locked the handle," he said helpfully.
My heart sank. We haven't seen a key for that lock in years.
"Oooo-kay," I began. "That could be a problem, since I don't know if we have a key."
"I'm sorry," he said, worriedly, "we just didn't want to leave the house unsecure."
I thanked him for that and assured him it would be okay. We'd figure it out. No worries!
After I hung up, though, I immediately began to worry. My anxiety spiked and the loud voice in my head piped up, unhelpfully: "What are you going to do now? Break in to your own house? What if the neighbors call the cops? You'll get arrested! You're going to need a locksmith and you know how much those cost, and how much time it's going to take to arrange all that. And why DON'T you have a spare key, anyway? This is a nightmare!"
We've all been in this place – following the voice of anxiety down the rabbit hole, believing all the terrible outcomes our storyteller voice insists are inevitable. This time, though, was different for me, and further proof that the spiritual practices I've been working on are paying off.
Chapter 31 in A Course in Miracles states: "In every difficulty, all distress, and each perplexity Christ calls to you and gently says, 'My [sibling], choose again.'" (ACIM, T-31.VIII.3:2)
Whenever the voice of anxiety cranks up, A Course is saying, that's our moment of choice. We can choose to follow the anxiety rabbit down its miserable hole, or we can choose peace. I knew, because of my schedule, I could not get to the house to clean it for a couple of days, and I was not willing to torture myself with "what if's" for that long. I had to let it go, so I chose to say to myself, "You can't do anything about it now, so let it go. It will work itself out."
The relief was instant, because that was the absolute truth: I could do nothing at this moment, so instead of worrying, I told the doomsday storyteller in my head to shut up, and I let it go.
For those who feel following the advice of some metaphysical teaching is too woo-woo, then let me give you the science behind this choice. Neuroscientist and author, Jill Bolte Taylor, who had a stroke that affected the left side of her brain (our thinking, reasoning and anxious side of the brain), says we have a choice in which side of the brain we use in times of anxiety and stress.
Because she was deprived of her left brain's logical functioning, she experienced the world differently – with an open heart and mind, without worry or stress. In her latest book, Whole Brain Living: The Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters that Drive our Life, Bolte Taylor writes about the 4 "characters" we carry in our brain. The first two, which reside in our left brain, are analytical, cautious, independent, fear-based and internalizes shame and self-judgment. This is the home of our fight, flight or freeze reactions. The two characters in our right brain are fearless, trusting, playful, grateful, compassionate, collective and aware. This is the place we enter when we get into the flow of life.
Bolte Taylor offers tools to help us get into our "right" mind including recognizing that all emotions last about 90 seconds, and if we can ride them out for that long, we can collect ourselves into what she calls a "brain huddle," where we consult all four characters in our mind and recognize which one is running the show at the moment, and which one we'd like to be running the show.
If we don't like who is in charge (usually the anxious left brain), then, like A Course says, we "choose again."
"Using those connections to bring our Four Characters into a Brain Huddle at any moment empowers us to bring our best self forward and live our life on purpose," Bolte Taylor writes.
No matter which way you approach it, through the woo-woo method of A Course, or through brain science, the outcome is the same – the loud, anxious storyteller calms down, and you experience a sense of peace.
It was with this sense of peace, instead of trepidation, that I approached the door a couple of days later. I put my hand on the knob and turned. Locked. I sighed, then, instinctively, I pushed the door … and it opened.
The guest had locked the handle, yes, but he had failed push the door to make sure the latch had engaged. It hadn't. The door had been unlocked the whole time.
I laughed out loud at the miracle I was witnessing in the moment. I laughed with joy that I had spared myself two full days of nightmare scenarios and needless worry.
One of the most confusing passages for me in A Course is the one that reads: "I need do nothing except not to interfere." I always thought that idea would lead to dangerous inaction. If I don't "do" something, then how will things change? Well, there may be physical actions we do NEED to take on occasion, like jumping of the path of an oncoming car, but this experience showed me a deeper meaning: I need not worry. That is a form of interference.
Worry, to the ego, is "doing" something, even though it accomplishes nothing except to make us suffer. In this situation, I needed to do nothing. There was nothing I could physically do, since I couldn't go immediately to the house. The ego tried to convince me that "doing" the worrying part would be the next best – and logical – step, but that wouldn't solve anything and would only made me anxious.
So, I did nothing, and allowed the miracle to appear as the door swung open.
What are you anxious about in this moment? What horrible outcomes are being unfolded by your left-brain storyteller?
Here's one thing you can do: Stop listening. Realize that you've put your anxious left brain in charge and relieve it of its duties. Choose instead to listen to your right brain – your right mind – that knows worrying creates nothing but needless suffering.
You have the power to choose how you want to live your life. If you choose peace, you'll find that every door you worried was locked will magically swing wide open.
Your turn: What’s worrying you, and what choices are you making for peace? Have you tried the brain huddle, or choosing again? Let’s talk in the comments.
Are you enjoy The Motley Mystic? If so, why not share it with your friends? It’s free to subscribe!
Are you looking for spiritual guidance?
I am a trained and certified spiritual director who can help you deepen your connection to the Holy and guide you as you seek spiritual growth and transformation.
If you’ve been feeling out of touch with the Holy or simply want to explore new practices to strengthen your spirituality, I can help you. I use a motley collection of techniques based in traditions such as Buddhism, Christianity, metaphysics and, of course, A Course in Miracles.
Contact me at email@example.com for more details.
You can now read The Motley Mystic and all your favorite Substack authors through their new app! Download it today.
About the Motley Mystic:
The Motley Mystic is an online community for people who have realized that the truth speaks with many voices. There is no one religion, philosophy, institution or dogma that captures the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth. No one needs to swear allegiance to one line of thought or belief to discern Truth, because Love is the only thing that’s real. That’s what we explore at the Motley Mystic - all the tools and strategies we need to remove our barriers to Love and live fully as our true, Divine Self.
Candace Chellew is the founder of Motley Mystic as well Jubilee! Circle, an interfaith spiritual community in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians published in 2008 by Jossey-Bass and the founder and senior editor emeritus of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for LGBTQ People of Faith. She is also a musician and avid animal lover.
Thanks for reading Motley Mystic! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.