How I Got Over My Anxiety, Part 3: Meditation.

Ugh, a whole post on meditation. Might skip this one. Chances are, if you’re anxious, you don’t like the idea of meditation. Being alone with my thoughts? No thank you. I spend all day trying to drown them out. The constant, incessant thoughts are what I hate, and what I’m hoping you’ll eventually (Part 18?) tell me how to stop.

I felt the same way. But I was willing to give it a try. I’d heard good things about this meditation thing. Quiets your mind. Connects you with your body. Gets you in touch with the now. All good stuff. Still, it sounded like doing nothing. Which to me, was the hardest and scariest thing I could do.

The first time I meditated, I hated it. Actually, that’s not true. I liked it, I just didn’t feel like I was doing it right. I didn’t feel good at it. It was a guided meditation (someone walks you through it, versus just ocean sounds) that went through the parts of the body piece by piece. I believe it went a little something like this:

Now focus on your forehead. Feel any tension in your forehead. Okay, I’m thinking about my forehead. I can picture my forehead in my mind. It’s weird that with my eyes closed, everything is still from the perspective of my eyes. You’d think I’d be able to picture my stomach, but from the POV of my intestines. Eyes make sense when they’re open, but why use your eyes as… do people who are born blind picture things from the perspective of their eyes? Maybe they can picture the ground from their feet’s point of view. And now focus on your ankles. Shit. Missed a bit.

And then I would start that meditation over. This time promising to pay more attention to the voice. There were nights where I listened three or four times to the same one. I’d get frustrated, which would make it worse, but then other times just accept that I’m not going to sleep tonight, just lie here and meditate.

It started to work. I realized that the thoughts don’t go away by trying to make them go away, they just fade into the background. Thoughts are always going to be there. But they don’t always have to be the focus.

It’s like in a conversation. You have someone talking to you, which requires you to pay attention. You also have the thoughts in your head telling you to pay attention, which requires your attention. It’s hard to listen to both at the same time, so you choose to focus on one over the other. At first, you barely hear what the other person is saying, but soon you start focusing outside of yourself.

That’s where the breathing comes in. Focus on your breath. Focus on your breath. Pretty much any meditation you find will tell you to focus on your breath. Why? For me it was two reasons. 1) breathing properly and 2) being in the moment. I’ll explain those more.

Turns out I was breathing wrong. That blew my mind (again) because I find it hard to believe that a natural function of the body can be done wrong. If my heart is beating wrong, or my liver isn’t livering right, I can’t do anything about it. Actually, with the mind/body connection, we probably can. But the point is, I thought we all breathed the same as humans. You know, breathing.

Breathe from your belly. Also a thing you’ll hear a lot in meditation. If you do this naturally, congrats, you specimen, you. I guess I naturally breathed from my chest. Quickly. And shallowly. Because that’s what felt natural to me. And when people would tell me to take “deep breaths” when I was having a panic attack, I took it as “change your breathing from how we humans do it normally, and for this special occasion, switch to another style of deeper breaths.”

Turns out you’re supposed to do that shit all the time! I’m still not sure I’m there. I know I don’t breathe as shallowly as I used to, from high in my chest, but unless I consciously take a deep breath, I’m not sure my belly gets too involved. [Taking a break here to feel/watch my breath. Feel free to do the same.]

Okay, my belly does rise. And if I go super deep, I can almost get my groin to rise. Some meditation told me to breathe into my feet; still got a ways to go for that. Can blind people breathe into their feet? Focus. My breathing has changed, and it has helped tremendously. If you ever want to calm down, take deep breaths. If you ever want to calm down all the time, take deep breaths.

And reason two for focusing on the breath: it connects you to the present. Our thoughts are usually focused on regretting the past, or anticipating the future. Neither of which exist, except in thoughtland. Thoughtland, where your dreams can become nightmares. (Guess I still have some baggage about thoughts.) Your breath is always in the moment. Each breath is happening right now. Everyone reading this has that in common. Right now, we’re all breathing.

I have that big presentation tomorrow. But right now I’m just breathing. I shouldn’t have been so mean to the account people. But right now, I’m just breathing. Nothing to worry about, nothing to regret, because nothing else exists. Nothing good, nothing bad, nothing right, nothing wrong. Just this breath.

That seems like a good place to end (or to hold up a peace sign).

Recap of Part 3: I still meditate every night before bed. I notice the difference when I miss a night. I don’t sleep as well. Even drunk Cameron doesn’t sleep as soundly as meditated Cameron. Don’t medicate, meditate. (T-shirts?) I highly recommend guided meditation. The ocean sounds ones just ended up being a soundtrack to my thoughts. It helps me to have someone who reminds me, every few waves, to listen to my breath, or the waves, or something other than my own thoughts for once.

Please try meditation. And by try, I don’t mean like when people say “try to relax!”, I mean don’t try. Just let the thoughts be. Just be.

Till Part 4, thanks for reading. Peace!

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(Couldn't find a Mary Maddux meditation video, so here's this one.)