Changing My Relationship to Anxiety with Meditation

I came across the challenge during a Google search of Sharon Salzberg. I have been using the 10% Happier app for a while during my meditations, and I really enjoyed Sharon’s Loving Kindness Meditations. Within the past week I’ve been experiencing a rather terrible setback with my anxiety, and I could see how I had been adding anxiety on top of my anxiety, until I got angry and depressed about my anxiety, which made me even more depressed and hopeless about my depression about my anxiety about my anxiety. Anxiety is such a strong emotion, and for the past four years, I’ve been struggling with panic attacks on a daily basis first, when about two years ago generalised anxiety and intrusive thoughts joined the party.

I’ve come really far in terms of my agoraphobia and panic attacks – I rarely experience them anymore, because my relationships with them has change. Paradoxically the relationship changed because I found the intrusive thoughts and generalised anxiety to be much worse, and so a panic attack in comparison seems utterly harmless. I am at a point where I need to change my relationship with the thoughts and the bodily sensations – I believe that I am able to do it, since I did it with the panic attacks.

Being aware of your breath helps to ground me, and gives me a sense that I am in contact with my higher self, who are able to observe my emotions, thoughts and feelings instead of interacting with them – instead of believing their stories. Sometimes it’s hard work to keep this attitude, because we are wired to react to fear in our bodies. It requires gradual, daily training of the mind to be able to do so – to be able to generate a new neural pathway in the brain that reacts differently to these emotions. Real healing happens, I believe, when we can look at such emotions the same way that we look at our other emotions; Joy, happiness, contentment, calmness, curiosity, excitement etc. As passing experiences in our bodies, passing thoughts in our minds.

I’m feeling a little tense today, as I’m writing this, and I experience some level of anticipatory anxiety of when the next wave will hit me, but I’m trying to embrace it, without keeping myself occupied to distract myself from the thoughts – even though it sometimes seems intriguing to do. I’ve learned from experience, that running from these emotions and thoughts by keeping yourself occupied only worsens them later during the day or the week. With meditation we have the option of learning our minds to be okay with whatever sensations we feel – it is quite powerful! I try to adopt a perspective of curiosity and joy about the next wave, because it gives me a chance to practice my response to them – the strengthen the neural pathway that I am creating gradually in the mind.

I look forward to learning more about doing this with compassion – because that’s the hard part.

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