“Your mind is a garden. Your thoughts are the seeds. Your harvest can either be flowers or weeds.”
― William Wordsworth
If anyone can easily understand how much internal thought impacts daily life, it would be a person with anxiety. How often do we think a scary or negative thought and allow it to affect how we behave? Certainly none of these thoughts are purposeless, but their function varies more than the anxious brain would care to admit.
“What if I forget my keys?”
That’s an example of a functional thought. At least, it is if you deal with it in a functional way. If you’re worried about forgetting your keys as you walk out the door, then an appropriate response would be to put your keys in a place where you are less likely to forget them, such as in your coat pocket or on a hook by the door.
Now, what’s the alternative? What would be an example of a dysfunctional thought?
You’ve put your keys where you are certain you will not forget them. Now you can stop worrying about it, right? But will you? A dysfunctional thought would be to continue to worry about something even after you have done everything in your power to prevent it from happening … Sound familiar?
So, I like to be prepared. What’s the big deal?
The future is always uncertain, and most often, that is a common source for anxious thoughts, especially for anxious people. What might begin as a brace for the unexpected becomes an exhausting repetition of terror. Gradually, your efforts to prepare become an obsession with those unexpected events until you find yourself focusing more on what could happen rather than what is happening in the present.
So, what does that have to do with meditation?
Meditation is exercise in mindfulness. You might be thinking, “I’m mindful enough! What I need is to relax!” But you might be surprised.
I have found that taking the time to acknowledge my anxious thoughts through meditation allows me to relieve stress by dealing with those thoughts and feelings in a functional way.
As I sit calmly in my meditation space, I close my eyes. I breathe deeply and steadily in through my nose and out through my mouth. I begin my practice by focusing on my breath, not attempting to change it in any way, just allowing it to come forth, and bringing my attention toward the space between each inhalation and exhalation.
Then, I expand my awareness. I pay attention to my body. I might realize that my neck is a little tight, and I will intentionally relax the muscles as best I can. I repeat this step until I have scanned my entire body for traces of tension. Once I have done this, I allow my thoughts to flow freely.
But I thought meditation was an act of clearing your mind of all thought?
That is one method, but it is only one of many. For me, attempting to clear my mind of all thought would be more stressful. I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of thoughts! So, instead of attempting to suppress them, I embrace them. A thought crosses my mind; I acknowledge it, and I give it a proper examination. I might even jot down a quick word or phrase in my meditation journal, to remind me of what I was thinking or feeling at that moment.
But here’s the important part: once I have done that, I let the thought go.
This is the act of being in the present, and it is one of the reasons why meditation has been so influential toward healing my anxiety. As much as I would like to change my anxious thoughts, I know that simple suppression is not the answer. The first thing that I need to do is accept that I am who I am, and my thoughts are a part of that person. The next thing I need to do is practice a conscious effort to not let those thoughts rule my life.
Hah! Easier said than done!
I know, I know. It’s a lot more complex than all that. It’s not always easy to remind ourselves that dwelling on what may happen only makes us miserable. And of course, there will always be something for us to be anxious about. But as I’ve said before: “Every journey begins with one step.” That’s all this is: one step toward a less-terrifying future. Take it.
Stand by for a long-ass Disclaimer… This is why you should never let someone with anxiety run a blog:
I’m not trying to put words in anyone’s mouth.
Unless otherwise directly stated within the content, all views expressed on this site are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.
I’m not liable for anything.
Under no circumstances shall I (or any directly affiliated companies) be held liable for any indirect, incidental, consequential, special, or exemplary damages arising out of or in connection with your access or use of or inability to access or use this site and any third-party content and services, whether or not the damages were foreseeable, and whether or not I was advised of the possibility of such damages.
I’m Human. So are you.
I assume no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions contained within the content of this site. The information contained in this site is provided on an “as-is” and entertainment basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness, timeliness, or of the results obtained from use of any information on this site. I will not be held responsible for anyone’s use of this site or the content found within. Such use is conducted strictly at your own risk.
I respect the efforts of others.
This site contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available for the purpose of commentary and other similar uses. I believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use copyrighted material on this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you believe that one of the quotes I used was credited in error (this can accidentally happen, since there are tons of incorrectly-labeled quotes out there), please notify me using the “contact me” form.
I wrote this stuff. Respect my efforts.
All applicable content is protected under copyright law. No part of this publication may be reproduced or sold without my prior written consent.
I don’t tolerate nastiness
I reserve the right to remove any public comments that are self-promotional, rude, or not contributing to the topic at hand. This blog is designed to help support people with anxiety and mental illness. It should be a safe place for those people. Let’s keep it civil.