Can I get back into mindfulness meditation?

icons_027-041614-calI confess, this summer I’ve been slipping. I haven’t been following through on my mindfulness meditation practice and it’s starting to show. I find myself edgier, more irritable and anxious. My thoughts fly around my head and I have a hard time focusing and considering them. Once that happens it becomes very easy to fall into a panic attack or a depressed mood (which can last for several days). Mindfulness meditation slows all of that down, helps me to consider the thoughts as they come, and upon consideration, evaluate them.

I think a great deal of my anxiety comes from unexamined thoughts. Mindfulness meditation allows me to be present in the moment as thoughts come. As each though comes I can, in the absence of distraction, take it for what it is in a non-judgmental way, or, rather, that I can recognize the judgments I make around each thought. When I’m not practicing meditation regularly these thoughts come and go and I form judgments around them, often harsh and often directed back in at myself. Something is my fault, I did something poorly, I’m not talented enough to do something, and on and on it goes. When I meditate I find that some of my major concerns pass through my thoughts in such a way that I can look at them from a detached perspective. When I do that I can see that my concerns, more often than not, are either assumptions on my part and not necessarily true or that in my mind I have exaggerated the scope of the concern. And as these thoughts pass through my mind I become reassured.

Regular mindfulness meditation also helps to develop the skills to recognize thoughts on the fly for being exaggerated or not necessarily reflecting the truth. It’s one thing to set aside time to meditate and to slow down the train of thoughts long enough to examine them, but to be able to do so in the moment is perhaps even more valuable. If I’m not putting in the time to regularly meditate, my ability to be mindful in everyday scenarios suffers. If I’m not able to be mindful in the moment, then I get to the point I am now where I’m edgy in the moment, or irritable, because I’m not recognizing the thoughts that are feeding those feelings. If I could recognize that my anxiety or anger is based on concerns that are either not true or exaggerated, it would relieve those feelings.

So I need to get back into a habit of regular meditation. Regular practice establishes healthy reactions in the moment. Positive and healthy reactions help hold my anxiety in check and because my anxiety can feed my depression, it helps hold that off as well. I’m going to make a plan and commit to three sittings before the upcoming weekend where I can find a quiet place, free of distraction, where I can sit and meditate. I went back recently and reread this great article from Mindful.org on why it can be difficult to meditate. It’s a good reminder that getting into or back into meditation is not an insurmountable challenge, and is reassuring.

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Do you practice mindfulness meditation or another discipline that helps you? What tips do you have for getting back into meditation or developing a consistent routine around mindfulness practice?

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Managing my #depression and #anxiety. Sober for one year and counting. #Mentalhealth advocate. Black cat wrangler. Son. Brother. Uncle. Mad man with a blog.

4 thoughts on “Can I get back into mindfulness meditation?

  1. Really insightful connection between formal mindfulness practice and how it positively affects thought processing outside of practice… I have let my meditation practice slip too, even though I know it is good for me. Funny how we can intellectually understand the value of something and stubbornly/lazily refuse to do it. A good reminder for me to sit my butt down and begin again.

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  2. I have a love/hate relationship with meditation. I started doing zen meditation when I was a preteen. I was doing insight meditation (vipassana) pretty intensely for about two weeks last year. I was meditating for 1-2 hours per day, because I take things way too far too quickly. At first the effects were extremely beneficial and I was kind of shocked by how mind-altering it was. I felt full of love and also very focused. But, then I quickly had some really negative experiences that were so intense that I had to stop meditating. My temporal and spatial perception of reality completely shifted. I believe that they were related to borderline personality disorder and also childhood trauma. Meditation kind of exacerbated the effects of those things for me, because I start getting in touch with how unstable my identity is and the chronic feelings of emptiness and I become severely dissociated. I felt like there was a huge hole in my body and then I felt like my face was disintegrating. It was terrifying. I think that meditation can be really beneficial, but that people with mental health issues need to be careful. It may not be a good idea for people who already struggle with their perception of themselves or reality. Or maybe we just need guides to help us get through the challenges. There’s a really interesting dissertation defense by a PhD student on the intersection meditation and trauma, which you might find interesting, if you can sit through it for an hour or so: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mS1xEXLdm3o. He talks about how there isn’t enough mental health support available for people at meditation retreats.

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    1. I’m a big believer in the idea that there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment or treatment combination, and while I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had a negative experience, I’m glad you’ve shared it with us. You’re exactly right- meditation can be beneficial but unless a person understands what their vulnerabilities might be,meditation may not be for them.

      Hopefully I’ll find some time this week to look at the video. I think support and guidance is very helpful, especially as one starts a meditation practice.

      Liked by 1 person

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