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Lions Roar : March 2017
Anxiety BRUCE TIFT explains how we can use anxiety on the path to waking up. IF YOU’RE HUMAN, you experience anxiety. The choice is whether to experience anxiety in the service of neurosis or in the service of waking up. Anxiety is a necessary part of our evolutionary makeup. It prepares us to deal with possible threats to our survival. But today, because most of us are living more than biological lives, our fight/flight/freeze responses are often unskillful and inaccurate. Feeling anxiety doesn’t necessarily mean that something bad is about to happen to us, but it often feels that way. In therapy, we investigate our out-of-date efforts to avoid feeling our deepest emotional vulnerabilities. We learn that, as adults, we can tolerate experiencing the rage, grief, or abandonment that we had to disconnect from as children. Stay close (and do nothing). With this slogan, we turn toward our lack of self-compas- sion rather than try to get rid of our sharp edges. For the moment, we do nothing to fix ourselves. We just sit with open, non-judging curiosity about the ways we lack self- compassion. We ask ourselves: Where did this story come from? What is its root? Is it really true? This open investiga- tion seeds self-compassion. Begin kindness practice with yourself. Most of us try to be kind to other people. Often, however, we don’t offer that same kindness to ourselves, and our inner voice is harshly self-critical. With this slogan, we begin to “wire-in” a new voice, actively directing kindness toward the unwanted parts of ourselves. May I accept myself the ways I am at this moment, without exception. Little by little, self- compassion can become our new default mental habit, and that naturally leads to compassion for all beings. We practice self-compassion not just for ourselves but also for everyone around us, embracing—as the bodhisattva Kwan Yin does— all of the cries of the world. THÉRÈSE JACOBS-STEWART is a licensed psychotherapist based in Min- nesota. Her most recent book is A Kinder Voice: Releasing Your Inner Critics with Mindfulness Slogans (Hazelden). PHOTOBYEMILYRUMSEYPHOTOGRAPHY LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2017 61