Generalised Anxiety

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This topic contains 7 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Upasaka Tucker 9 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #2272

    Shinkai
    Member

    Hi Guys,

    I’ve been meditating a lot recently and getting more and more concentrated (around stage 4). I have also started to experience a medium-level generalised anxiety that can last for many hours during my day-to-day life. This is completely disconnected from anything I’m worried about (I’m not really worried about anything at the moment), and not triggered by anything specific, and continues even when I am engaged with an activity I enjoy. I have never felt like this before, never suffered from anxiety of any kind, and I have no idea what’s causing it. I was just wondering if anybody has had similar experiences, and whether it might plausibly be related to the stage of meditation I’ve reached?

    Thanks and best wishes,

    Ollie

    #2273

    Yes, this is precisely the point in my practice that I first experienced purification. As I am not a teacher, I won’t say much about how to deal with it other than to read the section on purification in the book. It helped me greatly.

    #2274

    Ivan Ganza
    Member

    I recently wrote this reply to someone on Reddit, I think it may be of help to you:

    In my experience these are signs of progress. Hitting the aversion to meditation means you are doing well. Clearly a large group of sub-minds have gotten on board with your intention to meditate — and if that is truly the case — I suspect for many people it inevitably makes the other parts of the mind (which are not yet onboard with that intention) basically rebellious, and a little bit worried. The assumptions and models they are holding about reality are being challenged! We are genetically coded to NOT easily change our assumptions and beliefs.

    And hence you start to experience aversion and restless.

    This is consistent with what I experienced myself.

    The remedy is to keep getting more and more of the mind on-board with your intentions. That can only happen by:
    – continuing to sit, stick with your sessions, and never give in to the rebels who want to dump the project
    – following the instructions for the stage you are at
    – giving space to the rebellious part of your mind: let it do what it will do as best you can
    – do your best to observe and let it come, let it be, let it go
    once the benefits of meditation start to saturate your mind the rebels are sure to (eventually) get on board one day
    – if you don’t energize them, eventually they will give up

    Based on everything you have posted it sounds like you are doing a fine job and seems quite normal honestly.
    It is not easy to deal with Rebels but you can do it.

    I’m sure others will have some great advise about how they face the restless when encountered.

    In my own practice, I encountered massive restless and agitation at some point pushing towards 45 minutes. From what I remember — I basically kept sitting and going back to the breath, back the instructions, over and over again. I let the restless be there as much as possible — did not engage it. One day I finally felt the restless just dissolve, poof, it was just gone and what a relief that was! Meditation really improved after that. Of course, that was not the end, but one step along the hike.

    Cheers,
    -Ivan (DT Teacher in Training)

    #2275

    Ivan Ganza
    Member

    Hopefully the first post helped explain a little bit of the why.

    In terms of how to deal with it. In my experience, especially if this is happening off the cushion, the best thing (but not easy) is to do your best to GIVE SPACE to these mental states. Let them play out and do what they do.

    Let it come, let it be, let it go.

    This as all things will eventually pass. For now it is a good sign, and probably necessary as your mind-system adjusts to new ways of thinking, new models, that are becoming apparent (even if just on a subconscious level) as you progress in your meditation.

    If you don’t engage the anxiety (or any similar mental state/event)–they eventually shift and change —

    If we do engage them, in a certain way, it invigorates them with energy so they would likely stick around longer, even get stronger.

    Cheers,
    -Ivan (DT Teacher in Training)

    #2276

    Blake Barton
    Keymaster

    Hi Ollie,

    Energy flows (piti) that arise in meditation can sometimes feel quite a bit like anxiety. For example, think about how drinking too much coffee can make you feel jittery or anxious. The piti can sometimes feel like drinking too much coffee. These sensations can carry over into daily life.

    Are you experiencing any other sensations or symptoms of piti? You might want to take a look at the Sixth Interlude in the The Mind Illuminated for more information.

    You said you have been meditating a lot recently. Have you significantly increased your meditation time or frequency? Sometimes this can cause energy overloads. It might be helpful to scale back your practice time a little bit to see if it makes a difference. You want to find a level of practice that does not cause overwhelm or strong disruptions in your daily life.

    Another option is that this is truly anxiety, and it is a result of purification coming up from your unconscious mind. In this case you want to apply mindfulness to the sensations of anxiety and any thoughts that might accompany them.

    Please let us know if you have additional questions or issues.

    Blake – Dharma Treasure Teacher

    #2277

    Michael Dunn
    Member

    Hello, Ollie

    The previous comments by Blake and Ivan cover a lot of great material which will be very beneficial to you so I will add something new that may be of help to you.

    During retreat times, when I increase my practice level a lot over my daily schedule, I can quite often get some anxiety. Numerous reasons have been stated above, all true, and I have found 2 good antidotes.

    1) Relax, relax, relax. Relax everything about the body and mind during meditation, relax your hold on the meditation object, don’t try so hard to concentrate, sit back. As Culadasa says a lot – find joy in your body and mind during meditation, place a smile on your lips, relax your heart and mind while still following the instructions to hold the meditation object in attention and having peripheral awareness. Do all the same with a joyful, relaxed heart and mind. When I do this I find I have greater clarity on the meditation object and less stress in my efforts to hold the object.

    2) Add walking meditation to your schedule. This has helped me to reduce my anxiety that comes in meditation a lot. If you sit 60 minutes per day, perhaps try a 50/50 split between sitting and walking variants of meditation.

    Hope this helps,

    Michael
    Dharma Treasure Teacher-in-Training

    #2278

    Hi

    Yes, it’s possible that it’s connected to your practice. If so, there’s lots of good advice above. But it’s also possible it isn’t connected to your practice. It’s just hard to say on an online forum what’s going on with you in particular. Thus it can’t hurt to be cautious, to monitor your anxiety, to back off on practice to see what happens, and if possible speak to other practitioners and teachers in person. If it persists it can also help to speak with a therapist – ideally one who has meditation experience or some spiritual practice.

    Be well

    M

    #2279

    Super agreed with Matthew. One of the Dharma Treasure teachers here in Tucson gave me this great advice last week, which is “mindfulness works except when it doesn’t.”

    I conducted a study maybe 5 years ago on meditation practice and negative emotion, expecting to see a negative correlation. Actually, what the study found is that when people first start meditating, negative emotion goes down. It then tended to go up, above baseline, before going down again, as people came to recognize psychological issues they previously lacked the introspective awareness to notice.

    The advertised goal of meditation is to cause you to realize that the part of the mind that feels like you, the owner or president of the mind, not only isn’t you, but it isn’t really there at all. When you start having this realization, however, it often feels like you are dying, because the thing that feels like your innermost soul is starting to disappear. This of course can produce a lot of anxiety, in addition to noticing anxiety that may always have been there.

    If mindfulness works, great. If it doesn’t, treating it the way people treat anxiety (mental healthcare, exercise, acupuncture, etc) is the thing to do.

    Last thought is: Are you part of a contemplative community, either in-person or virtually? Being around other people going through the difficult parts of meditation, I’ve found, makes the hard parts infinitely easier.

    Tucker Peck

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