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Anxiety while meditating (and not only)

Hello everyone. I'm a new member here, and new on this path that I've been studying on and off for the last few years. Over the last year, though, I've been studying and practicing a form of eclectic Buddhism if there is such a thing. I feel like Zen and Theravada Buddhism resonate the best with me, and have helped me understand myself and those around me better.

Without making this post longer, I wanted to ask you if you've ever felt anxious while meditating. Like there is always something else to do, and you have this feeling of urgency, of "let's get this done faster, I need to do that, and then that". It's a visceral feeling, something similar to what you feel in your gut when you're angry. I know that the mind is running in circles, but I feel like there's more to it than that. This whole anxiety thing seems to be present in anything I do, like there's always something more interesting to do than the current thing I am doing. To make things worse, at the end of the day I feel like I haven't accomplished anything. And, to be honest, I don't know how to control this. Have you ever experienced this? How do you manage to focus on the present moment and just do what you have to do? Thank you!

Comments

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited February 2015

    Hi welcome =)

    Ah well noticed.

    What you describe 'anxiety' is in fact always present, you are just noticing it.

    How to focus: 'hello anxiety', 'hello must make progress', 'hello more interesting thought'

    'Hello and welcome'

    RodrigoZerotibellusanataman
  • HamsakaHamsaka goosewhisperer Polishing the 'just so' Veteran

    Yep, me too :) It was one of the first things I noticed when I began meditating, and in looking, that sense of being on edge -- a physical feeling in my belly -- is OFTEN there. Sometimes quieter than others. Sometimes it's 'loud' enough I'm all caught up in it and lose mindfulness. And I really relate with the sense this feeling MEANS something. Like a low grade 'warning'.

    Even so, this is just how our bodies are built. To be highly alert for any dangers, encroachments . . . the early humans that had this quality probably stayed alive longer. Now that there are no hyenas to come steal our babies, we have a jackass at work to get upset over, or the sound of a siren, or that phone call you don't want to get.

    What helps me is to practice with it, when I am mindful of this feeling of anxiety. Where do I feel it in my body? What are the qualities of sensation? Pressure, heat, cold, buzzing, electric? In this I'm not 'judging' it, even though it's not pleasant. I'm exploring it. And what do you know, then I'm off caught up in a thought about having to work tonight, don't forget to stop for gas and be sure and check the cat's food and water . . .

    I try and relate to the sensations as if I were curious, like, what will this feeling change into? Then I avoid . . . well, trying to avoid it, or get rid of it. I guess I avoid aversion. Avoiding aversion. I am averse to aversion. And now I'm exploring the averse to aversion sensation . . . check that back tire before you leave . . .

    lobstertibellusCinorjer
  • Thank you for your answers, I find them all very helpful. It might sound weird, but it feels good to know you're not the only one going through this. And it seems to be "normal procedure". :) I'll try your suggestions out and see what results I get.

    @Hamsaka, I find it very interesting that you described the exact feeling I have when this thing starts, its physicality is something that intrigues me.

    Again, thank you all for your answers and suggestions. They really are eye-opening.

    Bunks
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @Hamsaka said:I guess I avoid aversion. Avoiding aversion.

    Yes, that is important, allowing things to be with a kind acceptance, not trying to suppress or get rid of.

    tibellus
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    @tibellus -- What you describe is one of the reasons I favor counting breaths (from one to ten and begin again). Basically, since diversionary sensations crop up, both pleasant and unpleasant, it is useful to have something that lacks intellectual or emotional savor to return to. Breath-counting has no sex appeal and is capable of steadying the scene.

    Some dislike breath counting and some feel it caters too much to a novice practice. I do not agree.

    Whatever you decide, I wish you the best.

    lobstertibellus
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @genkaku said:>> Some dislike breath counting and some feel it caters too much to a novice practice. I do not agree.

    When I was teaching samatha I never introduced counting because I felt it was more trouble than it was worth. But I accept that people have different views on this.

  • howhow Veteran

    @tibellus

    What you are trying to address is what makes real meditation difficult to do.

    Your are directly challenging some of our most deeply habituated conditionings.

    Anxiety is one of our ego's most fundamental tools for propagating itself.
    An inherent and occasional survival instinct that once aided our awareness of the dangers around us has been co opted by our ego as a personal bodyguard.
    It is simply a survival reflex that has been promoted far beyond it's capacity to be functionally helpful.

    To meditatively return anxiety back to more of a part time position requires a dropping of the habitual fear impulses that justify our continued defensive posturing.

    This requires an abject surrendering to all that we fear in meditation.
    A willingness to meditatively accept it all as it is.

    I think few folks are really willing to do this.

    lobsterShimtibellus
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @tibellus,
    The worry trap:

    "I'm worried and I ought not to worry-but because I can't stop worrying. I'm worried because I worry ! "

    tibellus
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited February 2015

    OP, breathe. The anxiety, or the push to be doing something "productive" with your time instead of "just" sitting, is your busy mind at work. This is why breath technique is key to getting in the right frame of mind for meditation.

    Take very slow, very deep breaths. Instead of filling the lungs, bypass the lungs and push the breath down with your diaphragm. Your belly should rise and fall with the breath, instead of your lungs. As you breathe in, watch the breath entering, with your mind's eye. Watch it passing down your air passage, past your lungs, down into your belly. Hold it there for a couple of seconds, then, in a controlled manner, let it slowly rise. Watch its slow ascent. Visualize it passing through your mouth or nose, and out into the air or sunshine (meditating in the garden/backyard is great!) Do this a few times at the beginning of each of your sessions. Stay focussed on the breath. This technique has been shown in labs to calm the nervous system, and shut off the stress hormones that make you antsy.

    Let us know if it helps. =)

    tibellus
  • My teacher says that is called 'hot boredom' and that it eventually drops away to 'cool boredom'. Sound fun?

    tibellus
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    What does "cool boredom" look like? You mean like disenchantment or something?

  • @SpinyNorman I don't remember but I read it in Never Turn Away by Rigdzin Shikpo if you are interested. I am kind of a leaky cup!

    From my understanding it is the result of 'hot' dropping away. So you are just yourself. Like a mountain stream just is what it is and doesn't have to do anything to make itself a mountain stream.

    lobstertibellus
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    Hi @tibellus - welcome to the general anxiety club! There's lots of us here :awesome:

    I, like you, suffered from anxiety all my life until I bit the bullet about 5 years ago and went to a pyschiatrist.

    What I found was that I was carrying a lot of anger and guilt toward my family from things that happened while I was growing up. Does that sound familiar?

    A year in therapy sorted that out for me.

    I've since discovered through watching my mind (both during meditation and outside meditation) what the triggers are for my anxiety. My solution is twofold:

    1. Avoid situations that trigger my anxiety if possible.
    2. If these are unavoidable, make the breath my main point of focus and keep reminding myself to remain calm.

    It's helped so far.

    I really hope you can get this sorted. I would suggest therapy as a good starting point.

    lobsterShoshintibellus
  • VictoriousVictorious Grim Veteran

    @tibellus said:

    Without making this post longer, I wanted to ask you if you've ever felt anxious while meditating. Like there is always something else to do, and you have this feeling of urgency, of "let's get this done faster, I need to do that, and then that". It's a visceral feeling, something similar to what you feel in your gut when you're angry. I know that the mind is running in circles, but I feel like there's more to it than that. This whole anxiety thing seems to be present in anything I do, like there's always something more interesting to do than the current thing I am doing. To make things worse, at the end of the day I feel like I haven't accomplished anything. And, to be honest, I don't know how to control this. Have you ever experienced this? How do you manage to focus on the present moment and just do what you have to do? Thank you!

    Hi.

    Maybe you are already full of advice but maybe perhaps will resonate with you too?

    1. Every eavning before bed calm your mind and think about three things you did well this day and three things you could do better.
    2. Every morning reiterate last nights things that you could have done better and try to do them better during the day.Not more than three things. Give regard to your goals in life when doing this.

    3. Never sit down for meditation other than in a happy and eager mind state.

    4. Decide once and for all never to regret a decision you make. Courses of action can be altered yes but never regretted.

    5. Trust that you can solve any problem set before you. Trust in your own ability and judgement.

    /Victor

    Bunkstibellus
  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran
    @tibellus I can only add that anxiety is caused by subconscious triggers.
    Meditation helps bring these triggers into conscious light.
    You may find the stressors aren't really that bad and then the anxiety is alleviated.
    tibellus
  • I'm amazed by the large number of comments. Thank you all!

    I'll try to answer to all your feedback now. :)

    @federica: thank you for the story, it's a good reminder of how everyone goes through the same struggles. I think I'll revisit it from time to time just to remember that.

    @genkaku: Thank you for your advice. I tried counting breaths, but it was more of a distraction for me in the past. I tried it a couple of years ago and noticed that just following my breath and consciously observing it seems to be working better for me.

    @how: I found your answer very insightful. just like @federica's story, this is something that I will return to. Thank you!

    @Shoshin: so basically it's running in circles. :D Also, you just reminded me I should read one of Alan Watts books that I have around the house.

    @Dakini: Thank you for your advice, but I don't understand what you mean by bypassing the lungs. Are you referring to diaphragmatic breathing or something else?

    @Jeffrey: the thing is I waste a lot of time "switching" from one thing to another. :)) That's where guilt and anger come in. I think is the so called "fear of missing out", where
    there seems to be something more interesting than the thing I'm doing at a given moment.

    @Bunks: Thank you for the warm welcome. :awesome: I found the sources of my anxiety - one of them is the fact that I am in a desperate need of a job and I seem to ruin every interview I get. I can't afford going to therapy and I am very reluctant to it anyway: I like to believe that this thing I something I can battle on my own. I'm probably delusional, though. :)

    @Victorious: Thank you for the advice. I will try to use this routine. I really like 4. "Decide once and for all never to regret a decision you make." It somehow resonates with one of the problems I had recently. I regret a lot of things, most of them being career choices that I made in the last few years.

    @Earthninja I think I've just started uncovering those triggers. It will probably take some time until I manage to get them all out into conscious light.

    Again, thanks everyone for your insightful answers.:D

    P.S.: I hope I don't sound rude or anything like that in what I post or comment here. English is not my native language, so there might be some cultural differences that I haven't completely grasped yet.

    Earthninja
  • OP: yes, diaphragmatic breathing.

  • @Jeffrey: the thing is I waste a lot of time "switching" from one thing to another. :)) That's where guilt and anger come in. I think is the so called "fear of missing out", where
    there seems to be something more interesting than the thing I'm doing at a given moment.

    I definitely identify with not wanting to waste my time. Do you believe in many births? I think it is a good idea to try things out. But don't take that to an extreme. It is like you have found a tap to fill your bucket of water. There might be other taps that are in better shape. But you've got your tap here and you're going to fill it. My advice is to find an actual teacher. Then stay with him/her until you feel you've learned what they had to teach.

    lobstertibellus
  • @Dakini, I will definitely try that. Thank you!

    @Jeffrey That is one of the things I am trying to clear up right now. I feel like we have to learn some things during this lifetime, but I hope there will be more rebirths as I am a selfish person who wants to learn more and more. A lifetime wouldn't be enough. :awesome: Unfortunately, I haven't found a teacher in my area. Buddhism isn't very well developed here, but it has started to grow in the last few years.
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @tibellus said: Unfortunately, I haven't found a teacher in my area.

    Whereabouts are you? And have you tried the Buddhanet World Directory?
    http://www.buddhanet.info/wbd/

  • @SpinyNorman I am from Romania. I know a few places over here, some discovered through Buddhanet, yet I am still skeptical about them. Maybe too skeptical for my own good. :))
  • VictoriousVictorious Grim Veteran

    Be skeptical.

    As you well know:
    "Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them."

    From:
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.065.than.html

    But I learned a pretty good trick from a Jehovas Witness ones. When evaluating a group study those in the group that has practiced the longest. Determine if their qualities speaks to you in a good way.

    About number 4 on my list. Yes that one saved me from a lot of anxiety. The effect was almost instant.

    /Victor

    lobstertibellus
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited February 2015

    @tibellus said:
    SpinyNorman I am from Romania.

    You are probably near a Transalvanian Buddhist nest . . . approach with caution, garlic and a spiked vajra (kila) . . . you will be fine . . . most have been tamed . . . ;)
    http://buddhism-for-vampires.com

    meanwhile . . .

    I learned a pretty good trick from a Jehovas Witness once. When evaluating a group study those in the group that have practiced the longest. Determine if their qualities speaks to you in a good way.

    Exactly. @SpinyNorman says similar. It is up to you to learn - not to have the alleged, semi-mythical, sangha trained, Perfect Master\Mistress [What is that Mr Cushion? . . . says She is busy anyway . . .]

    <3

    tibellus
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @tibellus said: > SpinyNorman I am from Romania. I know a few places over here, some discovered through Buddhanet, yet I am still skeptical about them. Maybe too skeptical for my own good. )

    It's fine to be sceptical, but try to keep an open mind. It's fine to "shop around" and learn stuff from here and there. I've been doing it myself for 35 years!

    lobster
  • Skepticism has kept my curiosity alive, and as you said, somehow helped me keep an open mind. Pretty paradoxical, though. :smile:

    Thanks for the link, @lobster, I had no idea someone mixed these things together. This seems to be a lot of fun. :awesome: On a similar note, I recently saw Dracula: Untold. It was a really funny movie from a few points of view, one of them being the fact that they came up with a name for Dracula's son: Ingeras which is a distorted form of Îngeraș, meaning "little angel". The whole thing felt like a bad pun, Dracula having a son called Little Angel and all that.

    A little bit offtopic, but I wanted to mark all your comments as both awesome and insightful. Found out I couldn't do both.
  • A little bit off topic, but I wanted to mark all your comments as both awesome and insightful. Found out I couldn't do both.

    You are very wise and discerning (. . . ahem . . .)
    ah well, I am told it is the thought that counts . . . B)
    Many thanks.

    Yes I saw Vlad the Impala (what a deer) the untold story . . .

    You will find different levels or stories in every Buddhist building, the important thing is the life blood, the essence, the dharma if you will . . .

    So by all means be cautious, skeptical, wary but still go. It is a useful connection.

    Viva Vlad (he was a good boy really . . . perhaps the first opposition to those naughty early IS peeps . . .)

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @tibellus
    @Shoshin: so basically it's running in circles. :D Also, you just reminded me I should read one of Alan Watts books that I have around the house.

    I like the 15th century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne who said the following:

    "Those who fear they shall suffer-already suffer what they fear!".

    There's no fear in the now

    tibellus
  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran

    All I would say is this - Zen and Theravada - don't mix your cocktails... you probably need to settle on one or the other to begin relieving the mental tension that is the cause of your meditative tension. I remember when I...

    ...\lol/...

    tibellus
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    Mixing cocktails can get quite bewildering if you haven't gone deeply into the individual cocktails first. ;)

    lobstertibellus
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