Vol-2 Ask Frank, Why does mindfulness worsen …
Q. I’ve been getting back into mindfulness of breath meditation after a few years of not doing it for some reason. My anxiety has been unbearable lately, so I’ve been trying to practice mindfulness daily to calm myself down and be present; however, I’ve noticed that I only feel more anxious during and afterwards. Sitting there alone with just my thoughts causes me to only find new and more ways to get anxious…..
This experience is not uncommon if surfaces in varying degrees. Anxiety is usually connected to a future event that you are worried about, conversely stress is usually associated with a past event. I suggest you may be anxious about failing to re-establish your meditation practice and perhaps other things you have not mentioned here. There may be things in your subconscious that you may be unaware of that will work themselves out as you regain your ability to meditate.
The survival mind or ego is in the subconscious, and it is taking charge of your thoughts. It wants to be in charge, and you are resisting thus it is flooding your mind with endless thoughts to get you stop and it is leveraging this by creating a fear in you expressing itself as doubt.
Recognize the ego has a job to do, primarily to keep us alive, by pushing us to have shelter, food and stay out of the way of things that will kill us, and more complex things like getting a job and participating in the social order. Embrace the ego and make friends with it. Just smile when the thoughts start and let the ego know, you know it has its job to do. I really do mean smile, curl your lips up at the corners. If you can’t find the humor in it force yourself to smile. It will come naturally to you late.
Form an intention that you are not going to let it be in charge during meditation. Thank it for coming and tell it to stop the thoughts now and be quiet, then just let go. If the thoughts come back do not play its game, do not try to analyze them just affirm that you appreciate it, but please stop now.
Keep your attention on gratitude for the ego and being steadfast on it stopping. This may go on for a while or the entire meditation, but this is a big step, give yourself credit even if you don’t get capitulation from the ego. The more gratitude you can muster for the ego, knowing it is only trying to be helpful, the sooner you will prevail. If you only get a few moments of quiet time over the next few meditations take that as a win. It will stop.
To review 1.the keys are genuinely feeling gratitude for the job it does to protect you 2. being firm in your resolve that it cannot be in charge, 3 repeat to yourself as many times as you need to that you are in charge 4. just ask it to kindly to be quiet and leave NOW.
You are reprogramming your subconsciousness with this effort, and this again is the home of the ego. The subconscious is particularly good at taking instruction, which is why hypnosis works so well. Between meditations take just a moment to send a short blessing of love and gratitude to ego for all it does for you. You can do this 2-3 times a day, the ego will know it cannot win with this kind of effort.
For more information read my blog for beginning and early-stage meditators. What you are going through is not uncommon and many people have overcome it. You might try some guided meditations to see if another voice will help your focus. Good luck, coming back to meditation was a good choice, you can prevail.
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