Author Topic: vipassana and anxiety - is it safe to learn and what is the best way?  (Read 10649 times)

melinderry

Hi, I am thinking of learning Vipassana , but I have a bit of an anxiety disorder. It isnt really strong right now, but is still present and I also have some physical discomfort. I have scoliosis in my spine and my back gets really sore from sitting really fast (I know because I already practice a little meditation). I also have some arthritis in my knees and I also need a good 8-9 hours sleep to feel ok in the day and cope with my difficulties.
The thought of doing a vipassana retreat is a little scary under these circumstances - meditating 10 hours a day just seems out of my reach, but I have heard such good things about the technique that I'd love to try. Is there another way to learn and start more slowly before doing such an intense thing? I have meditated a little watching my breath, but I would really like to eliminate from my subconcious mind the things that are holding me back and start to grow spiritually, and vipassana seems better for that.
Any suggestions about the best way to learn and if it is safe for someone with an anxiety problem??
Many thanks in advance for any reply!!

Paul

Hi Melinderry,

You could try learning Vipassana at home, starting off with 15 to 30 minutes a day and building up little by little.  There is an online course at www.vipassana.com that teaches Vipassana in this way, at home - this is how I started and I'm very happy with the results.  You can email a meditation teacher if you have questions or problems during and after the course.  I think if I'd gone on a 10-day retreat immediately I would have spent more time suffering from physical discomfort than I would have done meditating!   As for the posture you have a lot of options.  When your back gets tired you can do some walking meditation for a while, then sit again.  You can also meditate lying on your back too if you are feeling alert (not very useful if you're feeling drowsy though because you're likely to fall asleep).  If you meditate lying on your back I recommend lying on a folded blanket (this is comfortable but less likely to make you sleep than a mattress) with a second folded blanket beneath your head to raise it slightly.  For the base of your spine there are several options, you can have your legs bent with your feet apart, your legs crossed as in a standard meditation posture and supported by a pillow so they're raised and supported by a wall, or have them straight with the the blanket stopping about 10 cm above your buttocks to support the natural curve you have in your lower back.  I recommend you experiment and find which suits you best - if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask: I can also send you some scanned images of what I mean if you like.

Wishing you peace!

Paul


Flipasso

Good ideas Paul....
There is aswell standing meditation and sitting on a chair meditation. You can check these out.
Look in your country for other teachers of Vipassana that don't require 10h sittings...
You can start of by reading Mindfulness in Plain English, or The Essentials of Insight Meditation Practice that are available for printage in pdf here on the forum.
Meditation in general is well-known for helping in the treatment of psychiatric disorders such as PTSD, anxiety and even psychosis(more rarely)...
Check out if there's any kind of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy(which is a mindfulness-based stress reduction derivate) available where you live.
http://www.mbsr.be/MBSR_MBCT.html
http://www.bangor.ac.uk/imscar/mindfulness/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness-based_Cognitive_Therapy
I open a thread about vipassana and anxiety here and the main advice I got was... "experiment and see"
Also, if you feel more anxious after a session reduce your time or even stop.
"If samatha can calm the mind, only Vipassana can show you how it got disturbed in the 1st place" - Buddhist Theravada view on meditation.
Maybe at the beggining, if you feel more anxious you should practice only samatha... this will probably slow you down. As you learn how to be calm, you might try to practice Vipassana so you can see what caused the anxiety and then erradicate it.
happiness@all

mark

I have had the privelege of sitting in a number of meditation groups with all sorts of people with conditions from neuroses to war vets with post traumatic stress disorder. In all these cases their conditions improved, in some remarkably so. In the case of a good friend, a viet vet, who suffered incredibly as a result of his ptsd he has made a remarkable recovery and has become a well regarded author. (Barry Heard: Well Done Those Men)
My experience has been that in each case meditation creates balance and doesn't progress faster than the sitter is capable of. Also I try to meditate in as many postures as i can reasonably manage. I can't sit in lotus positions because of scarred and torn back and hip muscles from years of martial arts training. I sit in seiza position with a meditation stool. or just in a chair. By varying the sitting position I have learned to not worry about distractions so much and now I can meditate well on a bus or a train. I find it's better not to worry so much about method and just sit and follow your breath. The aches and pains work themselves out after a while once you've started.

melinderry

{Thank you all so much for those great suggestions!! I think I'll try a little learning from the way the first poster has suggested and then work my way up to a reatreat...
I am south India now so any suggestions for good centres or teachers to contact there would be welcome, or else in sri lanka.
best wishes!!

frepi

Re: vipassana and anxiety - is it safe to learn and what is the best way?
« Reply #5 on: August 28, 2008, 02:12:00 AM »
I did the vipassana 10 day retreat and I have minor back problems. I just want to point out that, at least were I followed the course, the teachers were aware of my problems and installed my cushion close to a wall so I could lean against it when the pain became difficult to bear. After the 10 days, I got used to sit for a long time and didn't the wall anymore. Of course this is my own experience. You condition might not be suitable to remain sit for 1h. But the teachers will try to help as much as they can.

Paul

Re: vipassana and anxiety - is it safe to learn and what is the best way?
« Reply #6 on: August 28, 2008, 03:45:36 PM »
Just out of interest, on the Vipassana courses do you do all 4 meditation postures (sitting, lying, walking, standing?).  I've just come back from a Zen meditation retreat, and to be able to change postures was a life saver.

frepi

Re: vipassana and anxiety - is it safe to learn and what is the best way?
« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2008, 08:52:30 PM »
I suppose Paul 's question is directed to me.
In the 10 day retreat I went to (Goenka Vipassana) , there were no specific position described by the teacher. The only point on which we needed to be carefull was the straightness of our back. This was vital to be able to remain still for an hour. Some people sat on seiza benches, some on zafus or cushions and some on ordinary chairs. Some kneeling, some sitting.
Outside the meditation hall, no specific postures were suggested when walking or lying down. Goenka only invited us to remain as mindfull as possible with every task we did.
Standing still for me was a torture at the beginning. The first day, I spent much more time trying to find a comfortable position than learning anapana. After 4 days, I realised that no matter what position I chose, pain would come. After the 10 days, I had changed my point of view. Pain was almost...welcomed. It was a target upon which I could focus my attention and I even managed, by analysing it methodically, to reduce its intensity. I started to feel the pain as it really was, stripped of the emotional (aversion) cloud that my brain usually covers any stimulus that I don't like and that makes it seem worse than it really is. This is probalby the most important lesson I learned in this retreat. I now try to apply this lesson on emotions, which are for me, the most important reason for my unhappiness. I now try to realise what are the physical sensations that arise when a negative emotion appears. I then try to see this sensation as it is, just a sensation. This helps reduce the negative effect of the emotion and also reduces its duration in time.

Paul

Re: vipassana and anxiety - is it safe to learn and what is the best way?
« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2008, 08:35:38 AM »
Frepi, I gues it was aimed at anyone although particularily at you :)  Thank you for your excellent and clear reply.  It seems that you really learned a lot; before I used to think that doing a 10-day retreat having never meditated before you would miss out on a lot of potential benefits, but this is clearlily not the case, as you and many other people have described. 

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: vipassana and anxiety - is it safe to learn and what is the best way?
« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2008, 07:57:19 AM »
Melinderry

Very late answer but the retreat centre headed by the Venerable Khandro Rinpoche accepts westerners and will teach you shamata/vipassana or calm-abiding/insight meditation www.vkr.org for more information.

Realising you may have left India but thought I would post the suggestion.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: vipassana and anxiety - is it safe to learn and what is the best way?
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2008, 08:01:50 AM »
Paul,

Good to see you back. Frepi welcome. Agnosticism is the single realistic position when it comes to the unknown.

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

 

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