Meditation 2: Dealing with Anxiety
Updated: Aug 12, 2019
Last week I introduced a simple 10 minute meditation practice to deal with anxiety. In it we were instructed to notice any thoughts, feelings or body sensations that emerge as we sit or lie in quiet stillness. Research demonstrates an almost 50% reduction in the intensity of difficult emotions like anxiety by using this one easy technique. I think its useful to point out that you don’t have to concentrate hard or catch everything that goes through your head. Apply a soft, feather-light, kind of attention. We are moving on today adding a little bit more depth to the practice. If you are just tuning in you might like to try Meditation 1 first before moving into this one.
Personally, I think of it as tidying up my mental desk. Each thought, feeling or sensation is like a paper littering the desktop. I note if it is a thought, feeling or sensation and file it away in my mental filing cabinet. I also take notice of whether the thoughts are set in the past or the future. It’s a thought stock-take of my inner world and helps me understand how much time I am preoccupied with the past and the future, rather than the present.
You might find something different that works for you. Why not be creative?
Are you a Harry Potter fan? You could imagine yourself in Dumbledore’s office plucking thoughts, feelings, and sensations out of your body with a magic wand and placing them in “The Pensieve of Hogwarts” to watch them swirl away.
You could imagine viewing them through a magic, crystal ball. Thoughts, feelings and sensations emerging out of mist and then dissolving.
You could visualize yourself in your happy place - maybe a beautiful forest sitting on soft, bright green moss by a trickling stream. You place each thought, feeling or sensation on a broad leaf, set it on the water, and watch it float off.
Or, if you have a sense of some kind of higher loving power in life, you could imagine giving these thoughts, feelings and sensations to that source.
Some great stuff happened for me, a few weeks after beginning this practice. I noticed:
*a generally quieter mind: less racing thoughts; less jumping from thought to thought; more mental space
*less discomfort with difficult thoughts, feelings, and sensations
*able to settle in to stillness faster and enjoy it more
*feeling relaxed and peaceful at the end of the practice
*recurrent themes emerging that I was able to deal with, making changes that resulted in less anxiety
*less emotional reactivity
*quicker recovery when confronted with stress
*an improved ability to concentrate, plan and make decisions
*being more in the moment, able to savor and appreciate simple pleasures
*being more able to let “stuff” go
Its no magic wand, but it is a helpful tool that assists me to manage my emotional life. As Dan Harris, the American news anchor of YouTube fame who suffered a rather spectacular panic attack mid-news broadcast says, meditation makes you about 10% happier. Who doesn’t want that? Add some breathing exercises, yoga and a touch of nature and you could be feeling pretty good.