Using Meditation to Relieve Stress and Help with Anxiety (Part 2 of 2)

Using Meditation to Relieve Stress and Help with Anxiety (Part 2 of 2)

When we sit in meditation, we begin to observe the patterns of thought and motifs which run in our minds automatically, and which account for much of the way we feel and react. As we breathe in and out during meditation, we attempt to observe thoughts entering our mind, and leaving our mind, letting go of them gently. The purpose of meditation is to stop clinging to the thoughts that appear on auto-pilot and are greatly responsible for our stress and anxiety. When thoughts come up, we refrain from judging them as good or bad, or as something to get rid of or ignore. Instead, we observe them, let them go and return to noticing the breath. Letting go of our thoughts regularly develops awareness and focus: the two states of mind which disappear when stress or anxiety overwhelm us.

The purpose is also to reduce aversion or the rejection we feel towards the “noises” of life, which during our meditation period may appear as the sound of the fan, the dog’s bark outside etc. When we act out of awareness, these experiences put us in a bad mood, and we try to avoid them, escape them, or fight them. However, discomfort is reduced for the regular meditator who practices staying with a tolerable degree of everyday challenges and pain and who learns to be present with the inevitable ups and downs of life. Life is more fulfilling when we embrace our joy and our pain equally.

But what do we do during meditation? Some people count their breath one to ten again and again in order to develop concentration and focus of the mind. It’s a good practice. Counting may be interrupted by distracting thoughts, and when this interruption happens, we strive to let the thought go and start counting all over again. This process continues for the time that the meditation period lasts.

By practicing meditation every day, we learn to open our senses to the immediate experiences surrounding us, and by doing so we let go of the thoughts that make us worried, stressed, anxious. When we are really present we notice our body and our thoughts, but also the trees that surround us, or the sound of the children playing outside, etc.

This practice begins by sitting on a cushion or a chair and breathing quietly. Something so simple can transform our everyday life. When we are at work we focus on the task at hand because nothing else exists at that moment. When playing with children, there is nothing else but enjoying that moment. Even cleaning the dishes and doing the laundry can be rewarding when we choose to immerse ourselves in the experience and let go of thoughts of complaint and dissatisfaction.

Having a meditation practice will help you feel more in control of your mind. You will know yourself better, and begin to change impulsive reactions towards appropriate responses that are more fulfilling. You will understand how and why other people react to you with anger, sadness or joy because you will have experienced intimately and accepted these feelings fully during your practice while letting go of judgment. So if your boss or your partner snaps at you unexpectedly, you may feel anger, sadness, or embarrassment. However your practice of being aware and embracing of your feelings without clinging to them will help you take a pause instead of reacting to your boss, find an adequate response to the situation, and recover faster from the mishappening.

Our repertoire of choices increases when we are aware of and present in the moment. We are able to take more conscious decisions, and we can understand the impact of our actions and decisions on our life. It will be more likely that we will stop blaming others for our problems and begin seeing how we affect our outcomes. We will recognize when we should act to change a situation that troubles us, and when we can let go of trying to control the forces that escape our human power.

Meditation practice is for everyone, even for those who feel very anxious about sitting quietly in silence. A couple of minutes a day of creating a pause and breathing with awareness is better than nothing. Meditation practice paves the way to a higher consciousness of self-love and universal compassion.