Anxiety — “What you resist persists”

June 22, 2009

I’m working on a special series of meditations, “exercises” really, for anxiety. I’m editing one right now using deep breathing. In it, the first thing I suggest is bringing attention to the anxiety. This is quite the opposite of the usual tendency to want to run away from it. Anxiety builds in a kind of vicious cycle. Anxiety is an expression of fear, and part of what creates it is the fear of the anxiety itself. We resist the anxiety, try to run away from it, and that resistance does indeed cause it to persist.

Anxiety, like any other feeling state, comes and goes. Feelings come and go like the weather, but when we get involved in them either through resisting them or ruminating about them, they tend to be prolonged. Let go of the resistance, and the feelings can “pass through”.

This is only one small piece of the approach I am using for anxiety, but it is an important one. I’ll write more when I’ve finished my Anxiety Solutions project.

June 2010 Update — It’s almost exactly a year since I wrote this post and we’ve just finished our anxiety program. What was going to be a series of meditations evolved into a program with meditations, suggested daily exercises and journaling. You can read about it here.

No right or wrong way to meditate

September 16, 2008

Meditation is about your own self-discovery. Learning to meditate is about discovering your own natural ability to shift into a way of being that is natural and effortless. It’s about finding what already exists in your own awareness. My goal with my guided meditations is to create a platform from which you can make your own discoveries, so there is no right or wrong way to do them. Meditation is a happening, not something that you do. However it happens for you is just right.

Yesterday I answered an email question making this point, and today I received a reply back which was so beautiful. It’s all about this very point, in this case as it applies to someone experiencing anxiety. I’m sharing part of the email exchange here because I think it might be meaningful for many of you.

Question:
“I have always had an interest in meditation and have known for some time that it would help me get over my anxiety and panic attacks but only in the last 3 months have I made it a part of my daily life and the results have been dramatic. Just knowing that the peace that meditation brings is available to me whenever I need it has made a huge difference to my day to day life and your podcasts have been instrumental in this. I really can’t thank you enough for taking the time out of your life to do this for others.

However, the anxiety I feel often manifests itself physically as a tight chest and shallow breathing. During meditations I have found that focusing on my breathing when it is already laboured sometimes makes this worse as I become more conscious of the unpleasant sensation and this feeds the anxiety. My breathing does eventually become effortless but generally only when I take my mind off my breathing.

I imagine that this may be the case for others who suffer from heightened anxiety and would love to hear your views and opinions on the matter.

Thanks again for making the podcast and the website. It really has been a huge help for me to make meditation part of my daily life.”

Answer:
“Thank you so much for your open sharing of your journey with anxiety.  It’s wonderful …that you’ve made meditation part of your life. You are very welcome for the podcast — it’s so inspiring to hear from people with stories like yours!

These meditations are really meant as a springboard for the discovery of your ability to relax and enter a meditative state. Although we do have a Breath Awareness Meditation among the podcasts, and some other meditations refer to breathing, there are many that don’t involve awareness of the breath. Perhaps you’ll find that certain meditations are more useful than others at different times.  For example, when you are particularly anxious, the breath meditation may not be the best one for you. You can trust your intuition on this! 

And when you are doing a meditation you don’t need to follow the instructions precisely.  There’s no right or wrong experience or way to do them. They are there for your own exploration and discovery. You discovered that at certain times taking your mind off your breathing works best. You can trust yourself and do just that!”

Questioner’s Reply:
“Thank you so much for your reply. The fact that you said that there is no right and wrong experience and that the meditations are there for our own discovery really has helped me see the breathing issue in a different light. Even if my breath isn’t effortless then that’s ok because this is my experience and whatever happens during my meditation is right for me. I’d get frustrated in the past thinking that because my breathing was difficult then I was doing it wrong somehow. Of course you mention these things in your podcasts but sometimes you have to be told something many times before you take actually take it on board don’t you?

As I have realised many times since I started meditating, the relaxation and peace I’m looking for only comes when I stop frantically trying to find it. The first time I ever felt the complete peace that meditation can bring I felt so stupid! I’d been looking everywhere for this feeling during my anxiety and there it was all the time, quietly waiting for me to stop looking. Just that knowledge made all the difference.”



Discovering “aliveness” in the breath

November 24, 2007

When we observe the process of breathing, really observe it, even for a moment, a very profound meditation happens. I recently received a newsletter from the Advaita Fellowship (Wayne Liquorman), and am quoting from it below, as it is such a beautiful understanding of the gifts that observing the breath can bring.

“This aliveness we are talking about is worth investigating. It is here, in this moment. It is as close to you as your breath. In fact, your breath IS this Livingness. You do not have to remember to breathe. Your breath is literally breathing you. Stop reading the words on this page for a moment and investigate this phenomenon of breathing….

(If you did not stop, but simply read on to this sentence, I fully understand…you are a lot like me….however there REALLY is something to be seen in the stopping for a moment even if you are an “advanced” student and have examined your breath many times previously.)

Perhaps you were able to see the way in which your breath “just happens.” You breathe even when you forget to breathe. There is a force here that operates independent of your decisions and intentions… It is this Life that is living you even to the extent that you falsely believe yourself to be living IT.”

Breath in the Heart Guided Meditation

June 13, 2007

We’ve just added the Breath in the Heart meditation to our podcast. It’s a variation on meditations in which you follow your breath. In this case, you maintain awareness of the breath and the heart area at the same time. This helps open and enliven the heart chakra. The heart is the seat of love and connection. Attention on the heart helps to awaken the energy of love. This meditation can be especially soothing as you connect into the energy of the heart. At the same time, it can bring our awareness to any emotional pain which is present in the heart chakra. The pain may be from past hurts or from our current situation. If we are grieving, bringing attention to the heart will help facilitate the feelings of grief. By allowing these feelings to be present, they can move through and resolve.

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