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What do we do when anxiety arises during meditation?

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Whatever you choose to call it whether it's worry or anxiety, whether you characterize it as a tightness in the chest, butterflies in the stomach, perhaps a headache, whether the mind is very restless or stuck on one particular thought or feeling, worry can change our lives to such an extent that for some people it's as though there is nothing else in life. I know people who won't even leave their homes because they're so caught up in worry. So when you experience worry within your Headspace session, please know, please be reassured that it is very, very normal. Again, worry is just one of many human emotions we wouldn't want to be without it. It's important. At times it's necessary. It's just when it develops to such an extent when we become sort of fixated on it in some way that it begins to, you know, overwhelm us or kind of occupy too much of our life, too much of our time and our attention. I think knowing when you, when you first sit down for your session, knowing that anxiety is present will at least help you prepare. It's not that you kind of looking for it in the mind, trying to encourage it to appear. Some days, it may just not be there, but just just acknowledging. You know, always being clear. What's present in the mind when you first sit down? If anxiety is there, okay. You know, it's there. You know, it's likely to arise throughout the session and you know that that's quite okay. It's not that you're doing anything wrong. That is simply the, the movie if you like, that's playing today. That is what's appearing in the mind. And our job is not there to change the film, to change the thoughts, the feelings, instead it's to learn how to sit and watch. How to be at ease with what's ever happening in the mind. Even if we might not like the feeling of anxiety, even if we feel kind of overwhelmed by it, it is only by understanding it and having a different relationship with it that we're able to kinda live a happy and healthy life, if you like. 'Cause the temptation is to set out and kind of think, "Okay, right, I need to get rid of this worry." And immediately we set up an idea. We're not watching the mind anymore. Instead, we're trying to direct the mind in a particular direction. We've doing that all of our life. And it probably hasn't always worked out that well. So we were doing things a little bit differently here. We're not trying to direct the mind in a particular direction. We're just simply watching the mind. And when we do, not only do we understand worry and anxiety a little bit better, but also we start to understand how others might feel when they're experiencing this. We start to understand the behaviors, the things people say and do...


Duration8 min

About your teachers

  • A former Buddhist monk, Andy has guided people in meditation and mindfulness for 20 years. In his mission to make these practices accessible to all, he co-created the Headspace app in 2010.

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  • Eve is a mindfulness teacher, overseeing Headspace’s meditation curriculum. She is passionate about sharing meditation to help others feel less stressed and experience more compassion in their lives.

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  • As a meditation teacher, Dora encourages others to live, breathe, and be with the fullness of their experiences. She loves meditation’s power to create community and bring clarity to people’s minds.

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  • Kessonga has been an acupuncturists, therapist, and meditation teacher, working to bring mindfulness to the diverse populations of the world.

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  • Rosie Acosta has studied yoga and mindfulness for more than 20 years and taught for over a decade. Rosie’s mission is to help others overcome adversity and experience radical love.

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