When fear arises, most of us will do anything to not feel it. We use all kinds of mechanisms to resist fear; overeating, drinking, watching TV, playing computer games, listening to music, over-socialising, over-working and generally keeping busy. Yet the underlying fear still remains. It's like trying to hold a balloon under water. All these attempts to diffuse the feelings simply do not work.
I was like this for most of my life. I thought if I just pretended it wasn't there it wouldn't be, but I was wrong and the more I tried to get rid of it, the larger it became. Most people try to block these core fears and instead of initially facing them, doctors prescribe fear-numbing drugs. I'm not against medical support for more severe mental health issues, but for generalised anxiety and depression I feel there are other ways. Doctors could prescribe counselling and ongoing relaxation classes as a medicine. This way people have life-time management skills they can use without the need for drugs.
This week was my 3rd mindfulness meditation class. I am slowly beginning to realise each week that feeling the fear (not resisting) is becoming easier. When we meditate, by simply following the breath and feeling our bodily sensations, listening to the sounds around us, it's not always as we imagine it to be. It doesn't always relax. It can bring those fears to the surface - but this is a very good thing. Over time we begin to witness the fear instead of feeling we are the fear. We realise that the fear is simply an aspect of the story we have been re-playing for many years, but it's not actually who we really are.
If you are reading this and suffer from anxiety or depression, instead of running from the feelings, begin to sit with it, not for the purpose of it going away, but simply to bear witness with a compassionate heart as a part of you that has been wanting your attention for a very long time. If this seems scary for you, go to your local college or ask your doctor if there are any relaxation classes or even better, mindfulness-based meditation groups. I promise you that if you do this, and stick with it, you will begin to view these feelings you may despise in a whole new way.
This week at my class for example we started the meditation and I remember I had not switched my mobile phone off. This brought up not just intense anxiety but absolute terror. All these feelings of not being able to relax, fear of distractions to my peace, and the terror thought of embarrassment, of bringing anyone out of their peace by my phone going off. This brought up childhood fears around embarrassment and I was screaming inside. Again, noise from outside came in; people talking, phones ringing, bells from the cathedral chiming, hair-dryer roaring from a nearby hair salon, and my inner noise of stress and fear. This may sound a good reason to avoid mindfulness meditations but this is what I call food for mindfulness, a space to hold the fear with a compassionate heart.
So I sat and let the fear be. At one point I even allowed it to grow, challenging myself to be and I was able to be. I did not run or flee, and I came out of the meditation as if I had just gone through a trial by fire, but better off from this in a deeply purifying way.
With every mindfulness experience like this, being present, moment by-moment, anxiety is beginning to be simply a process that takes place, a recording that I have had playing but now I am finally listening to it with a loving heart.
To me this is the first step in self-acceptance and eventually self-love. To embrace the inner madness with compassion and tenderness. I invite you on this journey also.
If you would like more information of mindfulness in relation to fear I recommend a book by Thich Nhat Han called 'FEAR' and I invite you to take your own journey by listening to Jon Kabbat Zinn and looking into mindfulness teachings in your area. If you type in mindfulness into Google you may find you have one local to you.
This is part 1 in a series of Mindfulness Meditations with Jon Kabat Zinn