Updated: Mar 14, 2019
(Please see “Worry” and “Fear” under “Meditation Documents/ Handouts” on the website.) Anxiety is a prevalent and often debilitating state of worry or fear that can be very limiting on our ability to achieve our fullest potential and be fulfilled in life. Anxiety if it becomes uncontrollable should be treated with therapy as well as medications, however meditation has been proven in research to ease the symptoms of anxiety. The reason why meditation is successful is because although anxiety may find its roots in some physical disorder or some past trauma, it can be reduced in strength due to the fact that in order to have its fullest effect it requires the conscious thinking mind to express it. Therefore, the more we have the ability to change our thinking the more we have the ability to alter how we feel. Anxiety ultimately finds its roots in some motivational basis, like a feeling. If we can learn to not trigger those motivational bases of anxiety we can overcome their effect on us. Two examples can describe the relationship between motivating basis and thoughts, one where the motivation inspires the thoughts, and the other where the thoughts inspire the motivation:
Lets say you have uncontrollable anxiety. This means that you are anxious even at times that are not particularly threatening. In this situation you might first feel the motivation of anxiety and then start to have paranoid thoughts that are inspired by it. To counter this situation mindfulness is an essential practice. With mindfulness you notice when this anxiety is arising in you and you build presence to it. By being present to something it means that you observe the feeling of anxiety from a place of objective centeredness. From this place you can have greater control over yourself and therefore your thoughts. Using the breath you can also increase your centeredness by taking deep breaths in and out. This allows you to avoid this motivational basis of anxiety from taking control of your conscious thoughts, pushing you into a deeper state of anxiety than you already are. From there you can continue to come from a centered place observing the anxiety until it will start to dissipate and you can let it go. Your greatest ally is total openness and patience with yourself while you train your mind to be more and more present in the midst of anxiety. Have compassion for yourself and your practice of overcoming anxiety will have a great ally. Eventually and best case scenario you can become completely present to your anxiety so that you can function in life and even fulfill your day happy.
The other example is when your thinking triggers the motivational basis of anxiety, which can perpetuate more anxious thoughts. One thing to always keep in mind is that it is almost never the situation itself that causes us anxiety. It is how we relate to it, more specifically how we think about it. If we think that this public speaking event will be the end of the world we will feel uncontrollably anxious and not be able to function. One thing to know is that what causes the most dysfunction in anxiety and worry is the resistance we have to negative possibility. We gather the information about our situation, then deem it a threat and therefore un-acceptable, or un-supportive, or un-loving, then emotionally resist it in our minds causing us anxiety. That's what gives all the power away to the thing that makes us anxious. Not to say at all that we want these negative things to happen, but it is essential to let go of resistance to them. Once we let go of resistance we can immediately feel a release as our mind no longer has anything to be against. To get ourselves to the point of non-resistance we can actively engage complete openness and acceptance of everything that is possible, the good and the bad. Then you just do everything you can to support the good, knowing that that is enough.
A lot of love and support from friends and family is important for people to be able to see that they can let go of resistance, that they can trust that where they are, who they're with, and what they do will be supporting and loving. Love and support is the ultimate emotional healer, and anxiety is always helped by it, no matter how hopeless it seems.
Resistance is thought to protect us from the thing we don't want. But in reality the only thing we resist is ourselves, since it is our thoughts of the things that we resist, not the thing outside of us. Therefore we only hurt ourselves by resisting anything, let alone negative possibilities, and we do a service to ourselves to let go and allow the truth to be what it is. Again, not to say we want negative possibilities, but we know how to engage them the best by being in a sober non-resistant state of mind. Non-resistance must be coupled with a strong sense of inner courage that comes form our internal faith and fortitude in ourselves that is greatly supported by our innate sense of “ok-ness”. This inner sense of “ok-ness” arises when we center ourselves, wether in mindfulness practice or during meditation. This natural “ok” feeling within is the place within us that knows everything will be alright no matter what happens. It's the center from which we derive a deeper knowing of ourselves and of our lives when we meditate. It is an inexhaustible strength.
Besides having mindfulness during the day it is important to have a regular meditation practice. Getting started is easy if you make it so, doing breath meditation by following the breath in and out for about 5 minutes a day can get you started. Then you can increase the time to 10,15, and 20 minutes. (see “Types of Meditation” on the website.) Also using guided meditations like the ones on this website under “Guided Meditation Audio” are helpful to transform the mind on a deeper level that will have long-lasting effects.
Anxiety can be crippling if we do not have practices to be present to our experience like mindfulness or sitting meditation sessions to transform our minds. May you overcome the gravity of anxiety using the tools of mindfulness and meditation that you may become the master of your own mind.