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Anxiety and a Pebble in your Pocket


Pebbles found on the seashore can be fascinating. Some are smooth due to being rolled against the sand by strong ocean currents. Others are rough. Some are broken and have become fused or stuck with other rocks, sea shells, or other elements in the ocean. Still, some of them look like a whole unit, but when you examine them closely, you realize the force of the ocean has fused them together so much it’s impossible to separate them.

Unlike these ocean rocks, we can defuse from our thoughts and other internal events.

Practice – Part One

The Pebble

The goal for this practice is to become an observer of your surroundings. Go on a fifteen-minute walk and use your senses to notice what you see, hear and feel along the way.

  • Look for pebbles and notice their shapes, sizes, and colors. Notice what your mind says during your walk. Acknowledge what it says briefly and come back to noticing.
  • As you continue on your way, find a pebble large enough that you can write a word on it. Once you’ve found your pebble, take a few minutes to observe it with any of your senses (e.g., sight, touch, and smell). Notice the lines, the shape of the pebble, the color, the smell, and the texture.
  • When you are finished observing and being with your pebble, continue on your walk and keep noticing what you see, smell, and feel on your skin. When you get back from your walk, place your pebble on a surface where you can see it every day.

For a few days make a conscious effort to be present with your pebble by using your senses.

Practice – Part Two

The goal for this exercise is to help you change the relationship you have with your thoughts, feelings, and sensations related to anxiety and practice embracing the discomfort a certain word brings up because you become fused with it.

  • Pick up your pebble and look at it. As you observe it, think of a word that represents your anxiety—a word that reminds you of your trial with it. Maybe it’s a sensation you absolutely dislike. For example, you could write “blushing” because you feel horribly embarrassed in social situations.
  • Some people may choose a word like time because they worry they don’t have enough time to do everything they have to do. Just thinking of the word time makes them anxious. Normally, they would not want to write time on their pebble because they don’t want to think about it.
  • Write your word on your pebble with a permanent black marker. Take a look at it. Notice the thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations arising as you read that triggering word.
  • Notice what your mind is saying as you hold your pebble. Acknowledge and defuse as needed. For example, your mind may say, “What am I doing? This is silly. I should not be writing this word that reminds me of anxiety. This is so dumb!” Your mind will show up as the Judge or Adviser. Notice that and defuse by saying something like, “There you are, Mind, providing advice as usual, of course. Thanks!” Then softly shift your focus back to noticing any feelings and sensations you’re experiencing.

Practice – Part Three

Next, practice making room for the bodily sensation the feeling has created in your body.

  • Become aware of your sensations in your body and observe them. Breathe in and out. As you breathe out, imagine the air flowing into the area of your body where the most noticeable sensation is located. Breathe into that area and around the sensation to make room for it in your body. Create space for it. Decide to allow the sensation to carry out its function without fighting it. Continue doing this until you feel you’ve made enough room for the feeling manifested in your body.
  • Place the pebble in your pocket, bag, purse, backpack, or whatever you carry your belongings in throughout the day.
  • Take this pebble with you every day and once in a while pull it out, and read the word on it. Notice what your mind says and then acknowledge and defuse as needed. “I’m noticing an unpleasant sensation in my stomach. Thanks, Mind.” “I’m not surprised.”
  • Notice how your body responds or reacts when you see or hear the word that triggers an unpleasant sensation. Expand the area of your body where the sensation is in that moment, and slowly breathe in and out for a minute, or as time allows. You can learn to make space for anxiety. Then place the pebble back in your pocket and continue on with your day.

This practice will help you increase your willingness to allow for the sensations that accompany anxiety.

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