The ancient art and science of meditation, as it has made its way from the East to the West, has been transformed from its Buddhist roots. In the modern world of the West, meditation is used to help eliminate medical problems, bring people greater prosperity, and reduce anxiety.
Anxiety is a state of uneasiness, of apprehension—often about future events that one is anticipating with negative or positive associations. Meditation relieves uneasiness and apprehensiveness in a number of ways. First of all, anxiety is generally brought on by the incessant stream of thoughts running through one's mind whether it's the to-do list or what to cook for dinner. Meditation's #1 purpose is to turn off that never-ending voice in the head, in order to experience calmness and stillness—even for just a few precious minutes. For example, many people can understand how taking an afternoon power nap can be rejuvenating to the mind and body. Meditation takes that same state of mental relaxation to another level. While, of course, you'll know that your “problems” are waiting for you when you come out of the meditation, you'll have a renewed sense of being, peace, and tranquility in approaching them.
Blogger Shivani Wells analyzed data from four empirical studies done on the effectiveness of meditation at reducing anxiety. She looked at studies of different kinds of meditation and found that, despite some conflicting evidence:
“It is clear that a number of different approaches to meditation are affective, and it also seems that many approaches share overlapping methods outside of simple seated meditation, which strengthen the evidence of the effectiveness of those elements, such as breath work and mantra repetition. I believe that the studies here clearly defend my hypothesis that meditation is an effective treatment in significantly reducing anxiety and perceived stress.”
On the other hand, studies also show that people with anxiety disorders have a hard time sticking with meditation regimens. Because of this, if you suffer from anxiety, it may be easier for you to do regular meditations in a meditation group, to learn from an expert offering meditation lessons, or at the minimum to rely on guided mediation CDs for assistance.
As you meditate, you may try any of these specific techniques to lower anxiety:
- Do a mental scan of each part of your body from head to toe at the beginning of the meditation to see if you are holding on to stress or anxiety in that part of your body. If so, lovingly release that tension.
- If your thoughts drift, pull your awareness back to “here” and “now.”
- During the meditation, feel the serenity and peace that is you at the moment. Visualize carrying that tranquility with you as you sit in rush-hour traffic, referee the screaming kids, and face your demanding boss. Wherever you go or whatever you do that causes you anxiety, see yourself in that situation with the awesome power of the meditation in your being.
- At the end of your meditation, say a prayer or affirmation to the universe for everything you are grateful for (Family? Sunshine? A compliment? Good night of sleep? Being alive?)
~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com