Author Topic: Applying meditation to stressful situations  (Read 2197 times)

4boyz

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Applying meditation to stressful situations
« on: January 26, 2018, 05:14:43 PM »
Hello Everyone - I have practiced mediation for about 3 years and more seriously for about 6 months.  I'm not sure what kind of meditation I practice,  but I sit upright on a cushion, focus on my breath, notice my thoughts, label them and then return to my breath.  Other times I will have a mantra I will repeat in my mind, or I will do body scans, each time acknowledging thoughts and returning to the present.  I'm very consistent in my practice doing it 5-6 days a week for 30 minutes at a time.

The practice has been helpful in my everyday life as I notice very quickly when my thoughts stray from the present (particularly negative thought patterns) and I can quickly come back to the present.  However, when I am in stressful situations, I now notice the negative thought patterns but I still get stressed and anxious with ruminating thoughts and can't seem to stay in the present much at all.  Im wondering if you could give me some advice on how to change my meditation practice so that it is more helpful to me in times I need it most. 

Thank you!

Marshmallow

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2018, 08:29:41 PM »
I would suggest practicing mindfulness meditation throughout the day, instead of only putting some time aside to practice during the day. By doing this it will become more of a habit. You can practice mindfulness at any time that's convenient for you, which requires less discipline in my opinion.

Nicky

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2018, 11:46:50 PM »
Hi 4boyz

Its difficult to give advice without more specific details of the circumstances but often stress can arise in social & employment situations, where people are aggressive & non-meditative. If this is the case, more reflective wisdom/analytical thinking is required rather than mere breathing meditation.

Regards  :)

Marshmallow

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2018, 03:19:57 AM »
What helped me the most is the ABC method, a cognitive-behavioral technique. It's not meditation but I find that it's similar, since I started practicing as a result of my meditation practice, without knowing it was an actual technique used by therapists.

Meditation will help you become more aware of your thoughts and issues and with the ABC method you can learn to change your beliefs and perceptions that are causing more harm than good, and then replace them with healthier ways of looking at things. This is what made all the difference for me, but I don't know if it would have been nearly as effective without meditation, I seriously doubt it. With my meditation practice all my issues became much clearer and I became much better at finding solutions to my problems.

Marc

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2018, 02:10:48 PM »
Hey Marshmallow,

I looked up the ABC model and it looks interesting. Maybe you could start a new thread explaining your experience and how you applied the model to specific scenarios. If you say that it relates well to meditation, it would be suited for the forum. I would be very interested to hear more about your process!

4boyz

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2018, 03:32:02 PM »
Thank you everyone for the advice and yes, I would love if Marshmallow would elaborate on his experience with the ABC model and meditation.

Marshmallow

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2018, 06:06:14 PM »
I'm more than happy to do that and will let you know once I do.  :)

Marshmallow

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2018, 06:18:05 PM »
But for now I can say that what it comes down to is mostly doing the work and putting in the practice. Nobody wants to hear this but there's only one way to learn something. If you're motivated then you can find it in you to practice often enough (pain can be a good motivator).

But for me it was very fulfilling and life-changing work. The effort you put in is not in vain, it actually works (it did for me). Although at times it was very challenging, especially emotionally. You have to have the courage to face your issues and be honest with yourself - which can seem incredibly harsh and sometimes even shocking. But with what I learned I can explain how I developed a perspective that made my issues appear more normal and not as scary. The way your perceive your problems can make all the difference, this also comes with a meditation practice, learning to be kind to yourself. If there's one thing I learned is that you'll never get unconditional love from someone else but you can learn to give it to yourself.

Anyway, I will work on that post and let you know when it's ready.  :)

Marshmallow

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2018, 06:38:13 PM »
Until my post is written, I had bookmarked this if you would like to take look:

https://www.anxiety.org/abcs-of-anxiety

Although it doesn't clearly explain how to do it... I wasn't able to find a lot of online information unfortunately. But in a nutshell, you become more aware of your beliefs, thoughts and perceptions, try to pay attention when you're anxious, what are you thoughts? What are you afraid of? Are these thoughts real or imagined? It would help to write them down... Then the next part is disproving these thoughts and beliefs - this is the actual work that makes all the difference. It's all about getting in touch with reality and convincing yourself that these are just fears and that they are not helpful or even anchored in reality. Then whenever they come up, you need to remind yourself of what you learned, which is a new, healthier perception that will replace the old, unhelpful one. With practice, you can start to have new automatic thoughts that do not make you anxious.

Anyway, I will start working on that post.  ;)

Marshmallow

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2018, 07:15:47 PM »
I would just like to add that if someone does find good information about it online I would love to know about it.

4boyz

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2018, 07:24:19 PM »
Thank you!  I look forward to your post. I’ve known there’s been a missing link and I’m open to exploring this.

Alex

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2018, 07:44:28 PM »
However, when I am in stressful situations, I now notice the negative thought patterns but I still get stressed and anxious with ruminating thoughts and can't seem to stay in the present much at all.  Im wondering if you could give me some advice on how to change my meditation practice so that it is more helpful to me in times I need it most. 

Thank you!

When you’re in a stressful situation and your conditioned reaction is to be anxious and ruminate, then that simply is your present moment experience.

How are you relating to it?
And what do you expect meditation will do for you?

Alex

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2018, 07:49:01 PM »
Cognitive behavioural techniques, e.g. RET’s ABC-model (there are other models that use the ABC acronym), will help you to clarify, but the work ahead is actually the same: when investigating what happens in stressful situations, you notice that Activiting events (can be internal) trigger automatic thoughts, which if you investigate more closely stem from an underlying Belief about yourself (“I’m a failure”), others (“People can’t be trusted”) or the world (“The world is a dangerous place”). All this mental reactivity is accompanied by emotional or behavioural Consequences (the symptoms).

Activating event => Beliefs (and thoughts stemming from that belief) => Consequences.

If you record the stressful situations carefully, a pattern will emerge and the therapist will help you dig deeper to underlying beliefs. These are rigid core beliefs (learned by oral transmission or own lived experience). Sometimes there may be an emotional experience or memory associated with the belief. Once you have uncovered the beliefs, you can challenge or disprove these automatic thoughts and core beliefs using a variety of strategies. One being the collection of both evidence in favour and against the thought/belief, weighing carefully and then formulating an alternative/more balanced belief.

‘Mind over mood’ (book written by Dennis Greenberger & Christine Padesky) uses something similar to the ABC-model and is an excellent self-help book if you want to do this work on your own. Doing this with another person will help you though.

Marshmallow

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2018, 08:34:02 PM »
The way Alex described it is great actually. :)

It's not rocket science but you have to do the work to get the results you want. It takes time and effort and emotional courage. Definitely having a therapist help you go through this would be best. But with therapy I would say take the time to find a therapist you like, a lot of them are very pretentious in my experience and I couldn't stand to spend much time with any of them. Like with any professional it can be hard to find one that's a good fit and that actually cares.

4boyz

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2018, 02:16:49 AM »
Thank you everyone!  Let me give you a more concrete example.  About 4 months ago I had several difficult conversations with a family member.  We both said things we shouldn't have said.  We somewhat resolved the issues, but I knew that this family member would eventually come at me again with more accusations.  Since those difficult conversations, I have done very well at remaining in the present and not ruminating on the past or projecting what may happen in the future with this family member and I owe it to my meditation practice.  Consequently, no anxiety. 

On Monday I received an inflammatory email from her that I knew I had to respond to. (I knew this was coming)  For the next 3 days, I was highly anxious about this situation and my mind was on it constantly.  I was hoping that my practice with meditation would allow me to recognize the anxiety producing thoughts as what they were (looking with fear into the future), acknowledge them and then return to the present of what I needed to do at the moment.  It didn't work well at all.  It was almost like my mind at that point was uncontrollable.  As much as I acknowledged in my mind as to what was going on, tried to sit with the anxiety and not fight it, remaining in the present was very difficult.   

So in answer to your questions Alex. 
How am I relating to this present moment experience?  I feel like I am telling myself all the right things that I should be doing and trying to do them, (Sit with the anxiety, don't fight it, allow it to be as it is etc.)  but the situation remained unchanged (ruminating, anxiety etc.)

What do you expect meditation to do for you?  Be able to recognize negative thought patters, allow myself to be in my situation as it is without fighting against it and be able to stay in the present and not get caught up in my thought patterns.  And ultimately by doing these things, feel more in control of my mind and my emotions.

 

   

Nicky

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #15 on: January 28, 2018, 02:33:22 AM »
On Monday I received an inflammatory email from her that I knew I had to respond to. (I knew this was coming)  For the next 3 days, I was highly anxious about this situation and my mind was on it constantly.  I was hoping that my practice with meditation would allow me to recognize the anxiety producing thoughts as what they were (looking with fear into the future), acknowledge them and then return to the present of what I needed to do at the moment.  It didn't work well at all.  It was almost like my mind at that point was uncontrollable.  As much as I acknowledged in my mind as to what was going on, tried to sit with the anxiety and not fight it, remaining in the present was very difficult. 

As I suggested to you, meditation cannot help the above situation (unless you are willing to psychologically detach from your family) because family relationships are moral matters rather than meditation matters. Family relationships are ideally conducted in a certain way & you should be able to clearly discern any deviation from proper behavior in family relationships as both wrong & something that must be addressed. Given families are both important & entail responsibilities,  problems in families give rise to anxiety. The Buddhist way is to attempt the fix the family problems rather than simply keep calm in meditation. This is why you need to learn more knowledge & wisdom about how relationships ideally should be conducted.

4boyz

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #16 on: January 28, 2018, 03:51:10 AM »
Thank you for this insight. It looks like I’ve got some work to do.

stillpointdancer

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #17 on: January 28, 2018, 10:53:45 AM »
Thank you for this insight. It looks like I’ve got some work to do.
If things don't get better this way, then it may be useful to find a cognitive behavioral therapist to talk things over with, especially if they are experienced at mindfulness based therapy. It helped me, even after many years of meditation. Sometimes it's good to talk with someone whose trained to listen.
“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

Nicky

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #18 on: January 29, 2018, 05:50:59 AM »
Thank you for this insight. It looks like I’ve got some work to do.

You're welcome. However, I hope what I posted was clear. When a person acts in a wrong way, it can actually be strengthening & liberating for ourself to fully understand what the other person is doing is "wrong". In social relationships, including family relationships, if we do not have a clear sense of "right" & "wrong", the wrong things others do can overpower us because we give those people authority when when do not clearly cognise what they are doing is "wrong". If we know right & wrong, in our mind, we can dis-empower how people affect us merely by understanding their actions are "wrong".

The Buddha taught:
Quote
316. Those who are ashamed of what they should not be ashamed of, and are not ashamed of what they should be ashamed of — upholding false views, they go to states of woe.

317. Those who see something to fear where there is nothing to fear, and see nothing to fear where there is something to fear — upholding false views, they go to states of woe.

318. Those who imagine evil where there is none, and do not see evil where it is — upholding false views, they go to states of woe.

319. Those who discern the wrong as wrong and the right as right — upholding right views, they go to realms of bliss.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/dhp/dhp.22.budd.html

Buddhism teaches us what is wrong, namely, lying, harsh speech, violence, anger, hatred, ungratitude, non-lovingness, etc. Wrong things lead to suffering & conflict. As Buddhists, we can learn to "look down upon" what is wrong, which will lift up our mind.

 :)

Nicky

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #19 on: January 29, 2018, 05:53:10 AM »
If things don't get better this way, then it may be useful to find a cognitive behavioral therapist to talk things over with, especially if they are experienced at mindfulness based therapy. It helped me, even after many years of meditation. Sometimes it's good to talk with someone whose trained to listen.

I recommend to learn the whole of Buddhism, rather than only meditation.  :)

stillpointdancer

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #20 on: January 29, 2018, 10:58:44 AM »
If things don't get better this way, then it may be useful to find a cognitive behavioral therapist to talk things over with, especially if they are experienced at mindfulness based therapy. It helped me, even after many years of meditation. Sometimes it's good to talk with someone whose trained to listen.

I recommend to learn the whole of Buddhism, rather than only meditation.  :)
So do I, which is why I have studied it over many years. The context for what I said is that sometimes it's good to talk to someone trained in this kind of therapy.
“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

4boyz

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #21 on: January 29, 2018, 03:24:36 PM »
Thank you for all of this.  I’m just starting to dip my toes into this philosophy, starting with meditation.  What would be the best way to continue learning about Buddhism?

Marshmallow

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #22 on: January 29, 2018, 06:47:31 PM »
I really enjoyed this class on Buddhism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uoo4XvKaj6Q

Which is more like a scientific evaluation of Buddhism...

Personally, I'm very anti-religion. Although if I had to pick one, I would choose Buddhism. But when I did read about Buddhism, I was very disappointed and stopped. Not that everything about it is bad, I'm sure there's a lot of good messages in any religion. But to me it just started to sound more like just another 'religion' with all its made-up stories. To me meditation is about getting in touch with reality and I don't find that any religion is being completely honest.

My opinion is that you need to practice meditation more than you need to read about Philosophy or Buddhism. It's nice to read about it and it can keep you motivated, but it won't replace the actual work of meditation in terms of what it can do for you. But it can be a nice way of putting things off so you don't have to do the actual work on yourself, which is the only thing that will bring you the results you want.

Nicky

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #23 on: January 29, 2018, 07:11:48 PM »
Thank you for all of this.  I’m just starting to dip my toes into this philosophy, starting with meditation.  What would be the best way to continue learning about Buddhism?

As I was suggesting, the most basic teaching of Buddhism is the Eightfold Path, which is comprised of three-trainings, namely, Morality, Concentration Meditation & Higher Wisdom.  The Morality component is as follows:

Quote
And what is right resolve? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill will, on harmlessness: This is called right resolve.

And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, abstaining from divisive speech, abstaining from abusive speech, abstaining from idle chatter: This, monks, is called right speech.

And what, monks, is right action? Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from sexual misconduct: This, monks, is called right action.

And what, monks, is right livelihood? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, having abandoned dishonest livelihood, keeps his life going with right livelihood: This, monks, is called right livelihood.

Magga-vibhanga Sutta: An Analysis of the Path

The Morality & Concentration component also includes meditation of Loving-Kindness, as follows:

Quote
Develop the meditation of good will. For when you are developing the meditation of good will, ill-will will be abandoned.

Develop the meditation of compassion. For when you are developing the meditation of compassion, cruelty will be abandoned.

Develop the meditation of appreciation. For when you are developing the meditation of appreciation, resentment [envy] will be abandoned.

Develop the meditation of equanimity. For when you are developing the meditation of equanimity, irritation will be abandoned.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.062.than.html

'Equanimity' means understanding when people do good, they will receive good; when people do bad, they will receive bad, as follows:
Quote
When one gives birth to hatred for an individual, one should direct one's thoughts to the fact of his being the product of his actions: 'This venerable one is the doer of his actions, heir to his actions, born of his actions, related by his actions, and has his actions as his arbitrator. Whatever action he does, for good or for evil, to that will he fall heir.' Thus the hatred for that individual should be subdued.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an05/an05.161.than.html
« Last Edit: January 29, 2018, 07:38:03 PM by Nicky »

Nicky

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Re: Applying meditation to stressful situations
« Reply #24 on: January 29, 2018, 07:23:48 PM »
As I was suggesting, the most basic teaching of Buddhism is the Eightfold Path, which is comprised of three-trainings, namely, Morality, Concentration Meditation & Higher Wisdom. 

From these original teachings, the Buddha taught similar teachings to guide family life, such as the Gharavasa-Dhamma, which are the following qualities required for a good family life:
Quote
Sacca: truthfulness; being truthful and faithful to each other in thoughts, speech and deeds.

Dama: training; exercising restraint, training themselves to correct faults, resolve differences, adapt to each other and improve themselves.

Khanti: patience; being firm, stable and patient; not reacting impulsively to each other's affronts; enduring difficulties and hardships and overcoming obstacles together.

Caga: generosity, sacrifice; being thoughtful, able to give up personal comfort for the sake of one's partner by, for example, foregoing sleep in order to nurse him or her in sickness; also being kind and generous, not uncharitable, to the relatives and friends of one's partner.

https://www.mahidol.ac.th/budsir/Part2_3.htm#14

Therefore, once people in families do not have love, gentleness, patience & restraint and act with anger, abusive speech & even violence, the family is straying from what is harmonious, skillful & right and moving towards dysfunction & problems.

In summary, Buddhism teaches any actions rooted in greed, anger or delusion (selfishness, ungratitude) is unwholesome & unskilful.
Quote
Monks, there are these three roots of what is unskillful. Which three? Greed is a root of what is unskillful, aversion is a root of what is unskillful, delusion is a root of what is unskillful.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.069.than.html

For example, when you receive an inflammatory email, which you know is undeserved or unwarranted, which you know is born from the other person's anger, instead of being anxious, you should try to develop sympathy for the other person in the knowledge they are doing the wrong thing which leads to the other person not only hurting others but also hurting them self.

Ultimately, Right Speech is a most important quality & skill in relationships, be it in the family or in the workplace. The following link provides a comprehensive summary of the Buddhist teachings about speech: http://pintojukjun.blogspot.com.au/2011/09/right-speech-from-his-own-lips.html#.Wm93EK6WZnI

 :)



« Last Edit: January 29, 2018, 07:39:35 PM by Nicky »

 

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