When you notice yourself starting to feel overwhelmed, remember one thing. It’s okay to feel that way. There seems to be a constant pressure to make every moment of your existence pleasant or pleasurable or exciting. It is easy to forget that there is still value in the more difficult moments. There is nothing wrong with having an off day, month, or even an entire year. We don’t need to hurry ourselves to get out of these low periods in our lives. Often it is that very desperation to avoid our feelings that causes them to be such a burden on us. I would definitely say that my panicked reaction to noticing that I’m anxious or worrying that something will make me anxious is far worse and occupies more of my time than the anxiety itself.
It’s easy to skip a day of meditation or shorten my practice when I am feeling particularly jittery or restless. Even if I do make it into my seat, it can be an irresistible temptation to fidget, twist, stretch my neck, etc. Sometimes it’s impossible not to give in and allow some gentle movements as I’m first settling in. One of the things I’ve learned, however, is that resisting those urges can lead to a very meaningful, reassuring, and nourishing practice. Letting our minds trail off in thought or moving our bodies around are excellent ways to distract us from what we are feeling. Sometimes it feels like I am afraid of having any free time, because I won’t be able to avoid myself. But the beauty of these moments is what happens when you force yourself to face them.
I’ve learned that when you run from things, they keep chasing you. It becomes an endless race that leaves you exhausted. There is no true escape. On the other hand, when you ground yourself in the moment and allow your fears to catch up to you, they often dissolve in your gaze. It is so strange to be human, to be this unnatural animal living in an artificial reality. The mechanisms of evolution that have led us to this place, given us these bodies we now have, no longer seems to serve us. We are fish out of water. Yet we are the ones that have removed ourselves. We have created technology that allows us to breath on dry land, yet our physical forms continue to send signals of danger and death with every breeze.
While these signals are meant to protect us from real danger, sometimes the signals themselves become the thing we fear most. When we simply allow those feelings to wash over us, something amazing happens. We realize that these feelings cannot harm us. Subconsciously it seems like stress alone will suffocate us, so we continue to run from it every day. Once we finally decide to stop running and sit down to face these feelings of disease, we see that we have nothing to fear. We will survive the stressful moments. We will survive heartbreak and embarrassment. These emotions may never be easy, but we don’t have to let them control us either.
Meditation can be similar to exposure therapy. When a person is put into contact with an irrational phobia, this shows their body and mind that their phobia won’t really harm them. Then the fear can finally begin to dissipate. Meditation can be scary for this very reason. This is what makes it so hard for so many people. The fear of the unknown or even the fear of ourselves keeps a lot of people from every venturing to begin a meditation practice. Even after years of practicing every day, I still get nervous at the thought of sitting in that stillness. But it is always worth it. It is difficult to face your fears, but we must challenge ourselves to do so. We’ve got to have faith in ourselves in order to carry on. We must trust that we will make it through and that we are capable of handling whatever this life brings to us. Even when it seems impossible, take a deep breath, and try to sit with it.