Author Topic: Getting anxious, tense during meditation  (Read 5427 times)

xdsa

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Getting anxious, tense during meditation
« on: March 04, 2015, 03:11:48 PM »
Hi all. I started meditating trying to relieve my anxiety (constant running thoughts and tension). Often, especially when I feel worse, when I start meditation, I feel my anxiety intensifying, tension and numbness in my head (and blood pressure I guess) rising, and then it becomes a self reinforcing loop, making the experience frustrating, and often having feeling worse after 15 minutes of meditation than in the beginning.

Any advice how should I handle it? I am trying to follow advice from Pema Chondron books (if I interpret it correctly), i.e. watch your breath, but then if emotion arises, focus on "felt" experience. So far focusing on felt experience, i.e. my tension is rising, omg blood pressure is rising only making it more intense.

I've been meditating for the past few years on an off, but late last year joined local Shambhala meditation group with the intention to learn it properly and see if it can help. I am committed to continue the practice, but can certainly use some advice.

Thanks!

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Getting anxious, tense during meditation
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2015, 05:43:41 PM »
Hi xdsa. First off, it should be of comfort to know what you're feeling and going through is very common. The constant thoughts will never cease, however what should unfold over time is a distance between the thoughts, and your emotional reaction and clinging to them. You are not your thoughts.

Don't get concerned about the tension either, through my earlier days of practice I spent extended periods (I'm talking months) with intense pressure in my forehead, and sometimes in my temples. I also developed an ability to move my ears on queue or in reaction to sensations. And rather than get tense with the emotions, just acknowledge they are there, don't try to think your way out of them (doing so often digs a bigger hole) and don't worry about them, over time you will see they arise and pass away on their own volition.

Take your time and relax. PM me if you would like some links to audio references which might help you.

Goofaholix

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Re: Getting anxious, tense during meditation
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2015, 11:57:20 PM »
Are you focussing on felt experience as you say, or just noticing and observing it?  You shouldn't try to focus and what you've described might be consistent to with willful focussing, rather you should notice and observe and in particular notice how these things arise and pass away, how they are constantly changing and not controlled by you.

Also what do you understand by felt experience?  This doesn't mean emotion, it means physical bodily experience, not emotions tied up with the experience, not thoughts about the experience.  It's good to be aware of those things but don't give importance to them at this stage.

Max

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Re: Getting anxious, tense during meditation
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2015, 07:38:54 AM »
Hi xdsa

From what you are writing I could imagine that there are several layers of potential problems:

Aversion
You wrote that you started meditating to relieve your anxiety. This sounds to me that there might be unnoticed aversion in your mind. Your attitude towards the situation should be to learn how to live with the level of fear you got, to change your attitude towards it. You are not meditating in order to make it disappear.

Fear of fear
Your "omg blood pressure rising" might point to another unnoticed thing going on: that you are scared of anxiety arising. This of course is not a remedy but even intensifies your fear. The more you push it away, the bigger the problem gets.

As for your practice, I'd recommend that you

A) check the attitude you are meditating with (look out for above points)
B) have a balanced, soft approach. Tap into fear only as much as you can handle. Move away if it is overwhelming. You might need intense metta/compassion practice for yourself.

All the best

xdsa

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Re: Getting anxious, tense during meditation
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2015, 08:07:17 PM »
Thank you for your response.

Are you focussing on felt experience as you say, or just noticing and observing it?  You shouldn't try to focus and what you've described might be consistent to with willful focussing, rather you should notice and observe and in particular notice how these things arise and pass away, how they are constantly changing and not controlled by you.

Also what do you understand by felt experience?  This doesn't mean emotion, it means physical bodily experience, not emotions tied up with the experience, not thoughts about the experience.  It's good to be aware of those things but don't give importance to them at this stage.

So when I start feeling increasing tension, etc, do I just notice it and go back to breath or do I change the object of my meditation to this tension (which is pretty "loud") instead of breath?

xdsa

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Re: Getting anxious, tense during meditation
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2015, 08:15:11 PM »
Thanks so much for your response. You are right on. It's the issue of fear of fear for me at this point, along with wanting to get rid of anxiety instead of acceptance. Basically when I feel bad and begin to accept... I start getting better after a while. Then when I am getting better, which tastes sweet, makes me want to recover completely and I am beginning fearing of falling back.

Lastly, balanced soft approach to fear didn't work for me. If I give in a little bit, I begin to feel fear is "winning", so for now I do not give in to fear and "push it through". It causes quite a bit a stress, but feels like the right thing to do...

Hi xdsa

From what you are writing I could imagine that there are several layers of potential problems:

Aversion
You wrote that you started meditating to relieve your anxiety. This sounds to me that there might be unnoticed aversion in your mind. Your attitude towards the situation should be to learn how to live with the level of fear you got, to change your attitude towards it. You are not meditating in order to make it disappear.

Fear of fear
Your "omg blood pressure rising" might point to another unnoticed thing going on: that you are scared of anxiety arising. This of course is not a remedy but even intensifies your fear. The more you push it away, the bigger the problem gets.

As for your practice, I'd recommend that you

A) check the attitude you are meditating with (look out for above points)
B) have a balanced, soft approach. Tap into fear only as much as you can handle. Move away if it is overwhelming. You might need intense metta/compassion practice for yourself.

All the best
« Last Edit: March 05, 2015, 08:38:39 PM by xdsa »

Goofaholix

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Re: Getting anxious, tense during meditation
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2015, 11:25:41 PM »
So when I start feeling increasing tension, etc, do I just notice it and go back to breath or do I change the object of my meditation to this tension (which is pretty "loud") instead of breath?

You can do either or both, experiment and see what that yields.  What you shouldn't do is fixate on the tension, try to analyse or fix the tension, or get lost in thoughts or emotions in relation to the tension.

Don't see the tension as one solid thing, if you look closely you will see constantly changing bodily sensations, physical reactions to that, mental and emotional reactions to that.  So look at the interplay of those various components rather than thinking in terms of it being a problem.  When you get tired of that or get lost the breath is your friend, establish yourself in the breath, repeat and continue.

 

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