“An unexamined life is not worth living.” ~ Socrates
Whenever I hear clients say, “I tried meditation – it’s not for me” it’s almost always because of misinformation, poor guidance, or lack of understanding.
If you think meditation is something that you can’t do – shouldn’t do – or is against your religion – you’re wrong.
Meditation For Anxiety is simply about self-examination
When it comes to meditation for anxiety, I’m not talking about clearing your mind of thoughts (good luck with that), chanting some phrase repeatedly, or reaching some heightened state of enlightenment.
There is nothing wrong with any of these approaches. However, if you struggle with anxious, nervous, or racing thoughts, you’re going to have a very difficult time doing any of these.
The kind of meditation I’m referring to is simply about sitting with your thoughts and observing them. This allows you to examine and reflect on your life on every level. What you eat. Where you live. Your relationships. Your work. Your values. What you do with your spare time. What gets you fired up. What keeps you awake at night.
This is what proper meditation for anxiety is about.
If you really want to know what the quality of your life is, sit alone with your thoughts for 15-30 minutes every day. Listen to your mind. Listen to the kinds of things that float around in there.
Most of us spend so much time at work, with family and friends, doom scrolling on social media or zoning out on Netflix. But when was the last time you spent time with you?
Most of us do everything we can to avoid this at all costs because we’re terrified of what might come up. And smart phones have made it so easy to never, and I mean NEVER, have to sit with your thoughts – even for a minute!
When was the last time you sat and did nothing?
Every second of every day of your life, you spend inside your head. If you’re like me, most of the nonsense that runs through your mind his useless and unhelpful.
You can’t control the thoughts come into your head. (But you can influence them). You can only control how you react to them and your relationship to them.
Look at it this way; think of your mind like a roommate. If you had a roommate who talked to you the way your mind talks to you, then you would eventually tell them to shut the fuck up, right? You’d stop listening to them.
But instead, most of us take everything our minds give us as gospel.
Chances are your relationship with your thoughts is about as good as that relationship with that roommate would be. If you’re like most people who struggle with some form of anxiety, you’re so fused to the narratives in your mind like, “I’m not good enough” or “I’m a fraud” or “Nobody really likes me.”
But when was the last time you had a thought that was really helpful? The reality is you probably have but you’ve been paying too much attention to the thoughts like, “You suck” or “It’s never going to work” or “Everyone is an asshole.”
So, you first have to begin the practice of listening to your mind and really exploring and identifying some of the narratives. There are lots of ways to do this such as therapy, writing, artistic expression. However, one of the most effective (and easiest as far as I’m concerned) ways is by simply by sitting with your thoughts.
But this requires practice, self-discipline and a willingness to be uncomfortable.
Here’s a simple exercise to help make it easier to get started:
Imagine you’re sitting alone in the middle of a big empty movie theater. The screen is your thoughts. Just sit back and watch your thoughts on the screen. Notice what happens as you let your mind play your thoughts like a movie. Avoid judgment and stick to a mindset of openness and curiosity.
If done correctly, there’s a very good chance you will begin to question every aspect of your life from your career, to your marriage, to your friendships, to how you spend your free time on Sunday mornings. And if you’re courageous enough, you might just begin to take action and make some big changes and shake things up.
Life is short. Struggling with anxiety can feel like an eternity. If you need help managing your stress and anxiety, find an awesome therapist or coach near you to help you learn how to increase your awareness, improve the way you manage your emotions, and increase your fulfillment and satisfaction.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.