I 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.
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?