Author Topic: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana  (Read 5391 times)

tehrijack

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Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« on: May 31, 2016, 05:53:23 PM »
Hi,

This is my first post here.

I am suffering from anxiety disorder from past 15 years and I am living well with it i.e. I am now habitual of being anxious and I always try to maintain myself cool in front of others but anxiety keeps knocking from inside.

I feel my anxiety sensations in my stomach, I believe you have heard of "butterflies in the stomach", that's what I feel every single moment, sometimes it increases and sometimes it is quite normal but it is there 24x7x365.

My anxiety mainly triggers because of my overthinking mind, when something bad goes in my relation, when I am not able to handle something and list is endless. I am also very emotional and take things very seriously and that's also triggers my anxiety.

I have taken consultation from many physiatrists in these years but all in vain. From past 5 years I am on cipralex 10mg daily but I don't know why I am taking this as there is no relief in anxiety, I am taking it just for the sake of it.


Now coming on to the point. I tried practicing vipassana 2 months back by my own. I learn it from some youtube video. Actually it was very basic technique i.e. only to focus on your breath. I did that for 20 days and I really feel calm i.e. a feeling of calmness was there.

Inbetween I had some arguments with my wife on some household chores and again my anxiety triggers and I was feeling like before i.e. the same anxious feelings. I completely ignored the vipassana practice as my mind was keep dwelling on that particular argument like why she behaved in this fashion blah blah.


Now after three months I am again trying to practice vipassana but this time that feeling of anxiety is so high that I am not able to practice it. Now I am waiting for the moment when this anxiety become less prevalent but all in vain.

So I want to ask that can I make myself calm so that I can again practice vipassana. I believe that only meditation can eradicate my anxiety disorder or else I have to live with it my whole life.   

Sorry for the long question and also as English is not my native language I would like to apologize for any grammatical mistakes.


« Last Edit: May 31, 2016, 05:55:16 PM by tehrijack »

rogp99

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2016, 07:41:35 PM »
I think you should start with Samatha (the calm meditation) as a base. Vipassana should only be started when the base of calming is established by practice.

The secret sauce is about one's guts, or the vagus nerve.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2016, 08:02:51 PM by rogp99 »

Matthew

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2016, 10:51:06 PM »
Hi tehrijack,

I'd agree with rogp99 about starting with calming and concentration developing meditation such as Shamatha - there is an instruction linked on the forum homepage: "Shamatha/Calm-Abiding".

In the practice it is important to calm/relax oneself - this works best on the outbreath and by making it last a little longer than the inbreath .. some people find up to 50% longer works well.

You want to achieve a balance between relaxation and mindful concentration (on the physical sensations throughout the body, as created by the process of breathing).

I think you will find this is a good place to start. There is a PDF of the instructions you can print out from here http://www.vipassanaforum.net/meditation/Shamatha.pdf - it sometimes helps not to read everything on a screen, and this way you have it to hand to refresh your mind about the practice as you build some experience.

Kind regards,

Matthew
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Dharmic Tui

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2016, 01:55:27 AM »
There isnt a lot to add to what the others have said, you want to calm yourself which is a gradual process. Anxiety is something which is normal, Vipassana practice can be beneficial as a tool to help you find some peace with it all.

tehrijack

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2016, 08:07:35 AM »
Thanks all,

I have read the document.

Breathe in and out naturally: paying attention to your bodily sensations and calming bodily tensions.

The most prevalent and intense bodily sensation that I feel is between my stomach which sometimes called butterflies in the stomach.

So, I have to pay attention to it but I don't understand how will I make it calm, will it get calm on its own or I have to utter some words in mind to make it calm. ?

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2016, 09:34:21 AM »
I believe a starting point would be not trying to address the feeling in any way. Often such feelings of discomfort are accompanied by thoughts or a desire to escape the feeling. Try instead to just identify the feeling rather than trying to get rid of it. Over time you should find the feeling arising less, or when it does it is less of a source of distress for you.

tehrijack

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2016, 11:45:30 AM »
Thanks for the reply.

Can you suggest how can I identify that feeling because this is the only strong sensation I feel all the time.

Matthew

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2016, 11:29:48 PM »
It will reveal itself to you in time as you find calm. You will need to be aware of the feelings in your body and you will need to be calming yourself with each in and outbreath. It's like riding a bike: you have to find balance, and the only way you can do it is through personal experience.
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tehrijack

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2016, 08:44:26 AM »
Thanks Matthew!

stillpointdancer

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2016, 04:35:59 PM »
Some good replies here. I think that Vipassana meditation is for when things are going well and settled. It's not a good thing to do when anxious or distracted by things. That's the time for some of the other meditations mentioned here. Wait for a calm period in your life and then go for it (although there are lots of examples in ancient Zen practices aimed at insight during times of turmoil).
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

tehrijack

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2016, 05:07:46 PM »
Hi All,

I am practicing Shamatha/Calm-Abiding.

I have one confusion now, After focusing on body sensations and in my case the only sensation that I feel is butterflies in stomach or you can say anxiety feelings near stomach.

While practicing shamatha, I let it calm and I felt that now there is no butterflies in stomach.

Now My question is after making this particular sensation calm, where should I focus my attention because I don't have any other sensations in my body.

rogp99

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2016, 06:18:07 PM »
Hi All,

I am practicing Shamatha/Calm-Abiding.

I have one confusion now, After focusing on body sensations and in my case the only sensation that I feel is butterflies in stomach or you can say anxiety feelings near stomach.

While practicing shamatha, I let it calm and I felt that now there is no butterflies in stomach.

Now My question is after making this particular sensation calm, where should I focus my attention because I don't have any other sensations in my body.
Your breath will always be there (until you reach a very high stage, like "superhuman" stage). There's a principle like "make sure that you can repeat it (and "on command", or by determination) a step before you go to the next step".

Matthew

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2016, 11:27:06 AM »
...
Now My question is after making this particular sensation calm, where should I focus my attention because I don't have any other sensations in my body.


It's good to know that the butterflies have stopped: this indicates you are finding some calm in the body.

You say you have no other sensations in the body. Do you not feel your abdomen rising and falling? Your chest expanding when you take a long (deep) breath? The muscles of your body, arms, legs, etc moving as you breath?

If you truly have no sensations it may be that you have chased the goal of not feeling the butterflies and are suppressing sensation instead of developing equanimity towards it: the difference is that with equanimity you are building a base of practice experience that will allow greater and greater sensitivity, whilst with suppression you may have driven down a dead-end street of semi self-hypnosis.

I'm sure if you continue to investigate sensation in the body you will find it.

What is your mind doing during practice? At the beginning it is normal to find many thoughts intruding and that you get caught in their stories. When this happens one returns without judgement the sensations in the body. At this stage of practice you are developing calm, natural unforced concentration, equanimity and compassion - through acceptance of that which arises and returning to the object of meditation (those sensations in the body).

Again if you have no thoughts it is most likely that you are suppressing rather than accepting experience. Only by accepting and developing equanimity towards all that arises will you truly develop calm. The other kind of calm is fake, forced and an obstacle to real progress.

If your only goal is to stop your anxiety and butterflies manifesting it may be OK with you to suppress: it will give some remedy for a while; if you want to dig deeper and undo the internal conditions that give rise to these issues, then the practice is the goal, feeling is the goal, having a busy mind you start to see clearly and then begin to quiet through peaceful continued practice is the goal. There is more to be found beyond this, yet talking such things is merely speculating at this point and likely to lead to further discursive thinking.

Kind regards,

Matthew
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tehrijack

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2016, 05:53:05 PM »
Thanks Mathew,

Yes I do have thoughts revolving around and I don't suppress them, I bring my attention again to that anxiety sensation.

Here you made one point "Do you not feel your abdomen rising and falling?"

Yes, I feel that...that's what I am trying to say i.e. after calming down my anxiety near stomach, should I focus my attention to breath i.e. observing its rising and falling pattern.?

Matthew

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #14 on: June 10, 2016, 07:37:41 AM »
...
Here you made one point "Do you not feel your abdomen rising and falling?"

Yes, I feel that...that's what I am trying to say i.e. after calming down my anxiety near stomach, should I focus my attention to breath i.e. observing its rising and falling pattern.?

I made more than one point:

...
You say you have no other sensations in the body. Do you not feel your abdomen rising and falling? Your chest expanding when you take a long (deep) breath? The muscles of your body, arms, legs, etc moving as you breath?
...

From the PDF you read earlier:

Quote
4. The core of the practice:

i) Breathing and Relaxing.

Breathe in paying attention to bodily sensations as you breathe and calming the body as you breathe. Breathe out paying attention to bodily sensations and calming the body as you breathe.

Notes: Do not intellectualise where you pay attention to or try to "follow the path of the breath in the body" or any other such thing - these are fabrications. Pay attention to the actual sensations in your body, wherever they are. Do not interfere with the natural breathing pattern, just pay attention to the sensations in the body as you breathe.

The point is to pay attention to all sensations in the body, to calm the bodily sensations, and to allow thoughts to arise without following them.

You are progressively learning calm throughout the body this way: eventually it will send a strong message to your brain that you are safe via the vagus nerve. Your mind will start to calm too.

So not just the abdomen; it's not an intellectual exercise; it takes time to discover all the places in your body where you hold tension; and it takes time for the mind to follow the body into calm.

I hope this clarifies things for you.

Kindly,

Matthew
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tehrijack

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #15 on: June 10, 2016, 12:23:39 PM »
Thanks Mathew, Yes, now I understood the things.

sahbumnihm

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #16 on: June 15, 2016, 09:30:11 AM »
In my experience, anxiety is not always entirely psychological. For example cortisol, the so-called stress hormone is a neurochemical source of anxiety. Cortisol also numbs us physically and emotionally. If we are prone to overproduction of cortisol we may need to work a little harder to practice Vipassana in my experience, but the practice really helps.

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #17 on: June 15, 2016, 10:43:55 AM »
The two are inter-related I believe. I think the psychological component is imperative though.

Matthew

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #18 on: June 15, 2016, 01:37:51 PM »
... anxiety is not always entirely psychological. For example cortisol .. is a neurochemical source of anxiety. Cortisol also numbs us physically and emotionally. ....

The two are inter-related I believe. I think the psychological component is imperative though.

Definitely agree with you both. They are inter-related DT - PTSD/anxiety are both psychosomatic conditions: specifically by this I mean conditions which both involve psychological and physical correlates to the originating trauma/factors.

This is a really important distinction as most medical practitioners understand psychosomatic to mean a physical problem with psychological cause, however, that type of condition is properly termed psychogenic or pschogenetic. Medicine fails to educate in this regard, and, if you hear a doctor using the term psychosomatic, you need to establish what they mean by it. Sometimes they will need to be educated/challenged over the issue.

If we are prone to overproduction of cortisol we may need to work a little harder to practice Vipassana in my experience, but the practice really helps.

Here my experience somewhat contradicts your point Mark. As I wrote earlier:

...
The point is to pay attention to all sensations in the body, to calm the bodily sensations, and to allow thoughts to arise without following them.

You are progressively learning calm throughout the body this way: eventually it will send a strong message to your brain that you are safe via the vagus nerve. Your mind will start to calm too.
...

In this respect it is calm-abiding types of meditation that are of more use than vipassana types of meditation. Of course, one can never fully separate the two. However, the full stimulation of the vagus nerve and the normalisation of poly-vagal tone "resets" the chemistry of the brain much more efficiently with meditations based in calm relaxation than those based in concentration aimed at developing insight (the usual methodologies associated with the term "Vipassana").

This is exactly the reason I steered tehrijack away from "Vipassana" toward "calm-abiding" at this stage of his process. It is too easy to fall into the trap of forcing concentration and triggering cortisol and adrenal reactions and over-loads.

Kind regards,

Matthew
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sahbumnihm

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #19 on: June 15, 2016, 05:11:29 PM »
True, DT. True and very informative Matthew, thank you. My experience tells me most PTSD is trauma based, or trauma initiated and well suited to psychology driven treatment. Some PTSD however may be genetic cortisol malfunction, and trauma only identifies but does not create the condition. Then reliving the trauma through talk therapy just keeps reinforcing the trigger. Meditation is my treatment of choice then, detaching from the trauma, learning to identify and experience cortisol with equanimity.

Matthew

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #20 on: June 16, 2016, 02:43:02 PM »
Mark,

It may be that genetics can play a part, however, dissociated early life trauma is under-estimated and very difficult to separate from genetics in any kind of study. Both areas need much more research before conclusions can be drawn.

Talking therapy does not, in my experience, heal the roots of trauma. Mindful living is much more effective for this, including - and informed by - meditation.
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Frightful

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #21 on: June 16, 2016, 05:00:46 PM »
@Matthew: " ....dissociated early life trauma is under-estimated and very difficult to separate from genetics in any kind of study. Both areas need much more research before conclusions can be drawn......Talking therapy does not, in my experience, heal the roots of trauma. Mindful living is much more effective for this, including - and informed by - meditation."

I will just heartily second this.  In fact, it is our inability to hold in conscious memory the mis/mal-treatment of our earliest days (even as those memories are still there in dissociated subconscious and somatic form) that IMHO is the root of a great deal of our collective blindness regarding sources of anxiety, fear, and anger.  Meditation appears to directly address the somatic, through experiencing of breathing/body sensations, and through this quite possibly the subconscious, even if the latter is addressed indirectly.  Additionally, although still to be validated, are somatic (versus talk) therapies which may complement these other forms of calming/enlivening.

seekr

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #22 on: November 22, 2019, 06:16:55 PM »
Hi everyone,
I have been dealing with generalized anxiety for many years and having the same kind of symptoms as tehrijack: stomach butterflies aka stomack "knots" aka inner pressure aka bloated abdomen that are present 24/7. I have been practicing mindfulness meditation - usually focusing on the sensations of the breath for a while now, and have a daily practice but I still don't feel safe to be able to calm down my body: the stomach knots are always there with varying intensity depending on how much fear/anxiety I feel in that moment.

I found this thread and decided to start from scratch on the technique I use. I read the Shamata pdf file recommended by @Matthew and had a  question.

It says: "Breathe in and out naturally: paying attention to your bodily sensations and calming bodily tensions."

* How can I calm the bodily tensions through the breath?
I start by paying attention to the places in my body where I feel sensations of breathing in/out in the body (it can be at the nostrils, or abdomen, or chest). I can notice thoughts and return to those sensations. But usually the most prominent sensations I feel in the body are the stomach knots so I direct my attention to them. I then usually notice thoughts (mostly about the knots: "what do I do now?", or "oh no, the intensity of the pain is increasing" or self-doubt whether i am doing it correctly, etc) and when I become aware of those thoughts I note the thoughts and try to gently return to the sensations of the breath or to just observing the knots. But I don't understand how I can calm the tensions/knots? For example, I tried mentally noting "calm" on in-breaths and out-breaths but then I notice that is a thought, and then notice doubts it's the right technique, or doubts because I don't see any effect of calming the knots, on the contrary.

Thanks!

Matthew

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #23 on: November 22, 2019, 09:35:33 PM »
Hi seekr,

It is a case of relaxing/calming bodily tensions with each in breath and each out breath. This is really is more of a physical relaxation/letting go than a mental or thought process - although the intention comes before the practical realisation, of course.

Most of the attention is placed on the breathing as you do this. Focussing attention on the physical knots may make things worse. Thinking these repetitive thoughts clearly isn't working for you either.

When you get caught in thought, just calmly notice it has happened, and return to the in breath and out breath, calming and relaxing with each in breath and with each out breath. Thoughts of "am I doing it wrong" are coming from fear generated by over-thinking.

When I first started I guess about 75% attention was on breathing & body, 25% on mental processes.

Like any skill it takes time, and repeatedly getting it wrong, before you learn how to do it right. Hopefully with each session you can make small improvements. One per cent improvement every day gives approximately a 35% improvement in one month. After two months this rises to an 87% improvement.

You did not mention how long ago you switched the practice to this method - but the above gives you some indication of timescales that you might start to feel your way into the practice.

Doubts come from fear, so let go of them and relax.
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dharma bum

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Re: Anxiety Disorder and trying to practice Vipassana
« Reply #24 on: November 23, 2019, 02:33:11 PM »
I am not an expert, but I can say what works for me a little bit.
1. For me, I don't get stomach knots. My hands tighten instead. So I am aware of that.
2. If I try to meditate thinking I am meditating to reduce my anxiety, then it never works for me. Then I start getting anxious about my anxiety. "Oh no, it's not working". So I get more anxious instead of less.
3. Instead, I say there is no purpose to my meditation other than sitting for 30 minutes or whatever.
4. Sometimes I m just too anxious to sit for 30 minutes. It's okay. Some days, meditation is okay. Then I don't say to myself that I am reducing anxiety. I try to not get trapped in expectatios.
5. I say I'm not trying to reduce/fight anxiety. Anxiety will always be there. Let me try to get used to anxiety, even welcome it, so more the time I spend being aware of anxiety, the better it is for me. This thought takes some time to set root in the mind. But the basic idea is to not try to reduce anxiety even regard it as an old friend.
5. I try to pracise everyday. For instance, at the grocers'. "Should I be in the other line because my cashier is a bit slow?" So this is a minor anxiety and to be aware of it is practice for bigger anxieties.
6. Metta meditation. "Oh you poor guy suffering so much." Be kind to yourself for your suffering.

I don't want to convey the impression that I have a handle on stuff. For me, it's a constant struggle as well. But I convince myself that the struggle is good for me.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2019, 02:37:43 PM by dharma bum »
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