Disengaging your panic button

I’ve been going on night walks lately. I used to do this back in the day when I was a struggling screenwriting living in the gutter of the Hollywood Hills. I used to stare at all the mansions nestled like sparkling gems and dream I’d would be in one one day, staring down at the glittering hive in my bathrobe with a cigar dangling from my mouth. Joke. No bathrobe. Just a cigar. This prevented me from actually being present during the walks, which is a pretty accurate metaphor for the way I used to live.

These walks today are different. I’m not looking at houses anymore. I’m focusing on my state (how I feel), my breath and most importantly connecting with self. Because sometimes, that’s all growth is. A connection with self.

Life turbulence, addictions, and chaotic relationships force us to disconnect with ourselves daily. And in this disconnection our subtle panic is born. Because something’s wrong. Our body feels it. There is danger ahead. But we don’t know how to cope. We don’t understand it. We don’t know what to do. And so we run toward our vices. We lose ourselves in unhealthy things, behavior, and people. Then we internalize and hate ourselves for falling which makes us run toward our vices again. And suddenly, we’re in this very sticky loop that turns us into prisoners. We can stop this process if we focus on disengaging our panic button as if it’s a time bomb on a moving school bus. It’s the only way we can reconnect with ourselves again. Or maybe for the first time.

And I’m starting to believe this is key.

To everything.

Disengaging our panic button.

Our fight or flight is what keeps us running at a low frequency. It blocks potential and joy. Even if it’s subtle, that state of worry, dread, fear, and anxiety locks you and keeps you in your head. What is meant to keep you alive is actually keeping you from living. Life happens in the now. Not what was or what will be. You know this. You’ve heard this before. But there’s a difference between knowing and doing. Most people know. Very few do. We’ll get back to the doing in a minute.

I think I’ve been in fight or flight most of my life. I mean, a lot less these days but still there’s an under current that exists. I wonder how much of it is from what I absorbed as a kid. Panic was my dad’s middle name. The sky was falling every day. We were always in debt and my parents worried constantly about sales from the family business. My dad was very irresponsible with his words and injected fear into his kids without knowing the harm. I think I soaked up that energy and it became a way of thinking. To always worry. And worrying puts you into that fight or flight state. It plays out in everything, relationships, friendships, work, family. But also on a grander scale, spiritual, potential, purpose, and universal alignment. Basically, when you’re in fight or flight, no matter how subtle, good shit doesn’t happen to you. You’re only attracting more worry and uncertainty. And then throughout the years, you gradually disconnect with yourself and walk through life like a zombie. Sometimes subtle is more dangerous. A dripping faucet can eventually drown you.

A random thought but I think it’s important.

Someone asked me what my definition of enlightenment was this morning. If you strip it down, it’s living in the now. That’s it. There’s no lightbulb that needs to go off. When you are truly living in the present, you are enlightened. All your senses are heightened. Your unique energy is flowing through you. You are in a high frequency state, instead of being locked in your head (low frequency). But most of us, including myself, struggle with living in the present for more than a few minutes at a time. Enlightenment isn’t a light switch. It’s a space, and available to everyone. We just have to stretch it.

Anyway, back to my feelings and the doing piece. First, you have to know what is disconnecting you from you and the present. What is creating your subtle panic? For me, obsessing about where I should be at my life right now, who I should be with, what my life should look like, and if I’m going to be “successful”. That language always creates a subtle panic. What is it for you? What thoughts are you consumed with daily? What drowns you?

THE DOING (to disengage your panic)

Once you know what kind of thoughts and thinking patterns are setting off your panic, it’s time to do something about it.

1.Acceptance. This is the first step in resetting. You have to accept where you’re at in your life right now. Who you are. Who you’ve been with. All the experiences that come with that. Everything that’s happened, whether there was a choice involved or not. Accept. Accept. Accept. Accept your past. Accept your story. Accept all the things you can’t control. You can’t? What’s holding you back from accepting? Do you need to forgive someone? Do you need to forgive yourself?

Acceptance is a practice. It’s not just something you do once. It’s an on going conversation. Most of the time, an argument. Once you’ve made a decision to accept something, someone, a situation, chapters of your story, you must practice it daily. Set the intention and lean into it fully. There will be resistance, which is why you haven’t been able to accept it. But this inability to accept will always keep you stuck and in subtle panic, pushing you down into a low frequency. Most people don’t accept because if they do, it means they lose control. But the truth is not accepting is what makes you lose control. So maybe practicing acceptance means letting go of trying to control.

2. Breathe. Literally. I often forget to breathe and I get all pent up and feel like someone is tightening a straight jacket on me. Be conscious of your breath. Breathe from your belly. Imagine all your anxiety leaving your body as you exhale. Feel the release. Take deep inhales. Do this often. As much as possible. When you feel anxiety, come back to your breathe.

3. Let go of your thoughts. This is the most important piece. It’s what disengaging your ticking time bomb looks like. See you thoughts come and go as if you’re watching them from a snow globe. Notice them but don’t grab them. Because when you grab your thoughts, they grab you. They will grip you and suck you under. Behind every thought is a feeling. Feelings are what drown us. And since most people have negative thoughts throughout the day, they carry negative feelings. Worry. Dread. Discouragement. Anger. Resentment. Regret. Guilt. Shame. All these feelings active your panic and give you anxiety. So refuse to hold on to your thoughts. Instead, observe them. Then let go and watch them float down the river. This is a practice. It takes time. But remember, the more you do it the easier it will become. Your ability to be present will become much easier.

4. Feel the world. We live in capsules. Cars. Offices. Elevators. Rooms. We go from one capsule to the next. Years and years of this and we start to grow separate from earth, soil, trees, and wind. This disconnect brings us unease. It isolates us. There is a reason why some people feel calm near the water or the mountains. They are connecting with nature which is a way of connecting with themselves. It brings them peace.

I’m a city boy. I grew up in concrete. I like machines. I’ve never made any effort to explore nature. But recently, I’ve been leaning into it. I went on a dirt bike expedition in Yosemite. I ride my skateboard on the boardwalk by the beach, taking in the ocean breeze. I ride my motorcycle through deep canyons. And I’ve noticed that it makes me feel more calm. Time slows down. You notice things. Like trees. There is tremendous power in this state, feeling calm. It’s the way in to connecting with your body and soul. And this connection is the only way to feel whole.

That’s what these night walks are about. A way to disengage my panic so that I can feel calm and reconnect to myself. But they don’t just have be rom walks. Connecting to yourself should be a way of life, in everything you do. A new way to live perhaps. To consciously make an effort to not alarm yourself. There is no alarm in the here and now. Only truth. So by disengaging your panic, you are living your truth. Everything else is not living. It’s existing.

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