Guided Meditation: Reducing Anxiety
Zindel Segal says bringing awareness to the sensations that accompany difficult experiences offers the possibility of learning to relate differently to such experiences in each moment. Practice this 11-minute meditation to change your relationship with anxiety.
The best method for increasing our mindfulness is meditation, so I invite you now to join me as we learn to bring our attention and focus on this present moment. Sit comfortably straight, not rigid, to allow air to flow freely through your body. If you are sitting in a chair, move forward so that you are not relying on the back of the chair for support. If you sit on the floor, use a cushion or folded blanket so that your knees are slightly lower than your hips.
I suggest you breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, but if you can’t, it’s fine. Just breathe in whatever way is most comfortable for you. As you begin to relax, note that you may experience bodily sensations while meditating. Salivation. Grumbling stomach. Itching. It’s just your prefrontal cortex waking up so it’s not a problem. If during meditation you experience too much discomfort, physically or emotionally, simply stop and take a couple of deep breaths. Perhaps drink a little water. You can return to the meditation if you like or you can simply stop and try again later.
Give yourself permission to take this break away from your tasks and responsibilities. Close your eyes or soften your gaze and look at the floor a few feet in front of you. We’re now ready to meditate together.
Our meditations are best practiced by listening, so here is the audio version:
Take a few slow breaths, in through the nose if you can, slowly exhaling through the mouth.
Gently settle in as you give yourself this respite from the world around you.
Notice your mood and emotions, acknowledging whatever’s there and letting it be as it is.
Gently shift awareness from feelings and bring attention to the breath. Focusing on how the breath feels wherever you notice it most, like the throat, chest or belly. Feeling the expansion on the inbreath and the reverse on the outbreath. Breathing in and breathing out.
Now gently withdrawing awareness from breathing, shift the focus to the body. Feeling into the body, sensations, observing whatever is being experienced. There is no need to change anything. Simply acknowledge whatever is present and let it be.
As you breathe into the whole body, you may notice tensions, contractions, perhaps pain or discomfort. If you can allow any of these areas to soften, then let that happen, but if not, that’s okay. Let whatever sensations flow or move wherever they need to go. Allow any thoughts or emotions to do the same, just letting them be as they are.
As you gently feel into your body and mind, you may experience some worries, fears, or anxious thoughts. Mindfulness is a practice of inquiry and you are compassionately investigating what is occurring. Just as you test the bathwater by dipping in a finger first, gently dip into any feelings of worry or fear. There’s no need to plunge in, to try to fix anything, to figure anything out. Just noticing the experience of anxious or fearful feelings and allowing them to be as they are.
The cause of any fear or worry or anxiety may arise and that’s okay. We can be grateful for any insights, but we’re still just observing, just noticing.
Now gently return the attention to the breath. Breathing in and breathing out, noticing where we feel the breath, in our nose or throat or chest or belly. Staying present to each breath, as it moves in and out.
Just as we’re watching the breath coming and going, we can begin watching the thoughts we think as though we’re watching a train pass by, noticing the color or printing on each car as it rolls by.
Just as with the train cars, thoughts come into view and then pass. Even fearful thoughts are nothing more than passing mental sensations, coming into view and then moving out of view. Try observing any worries or anxious thoughts as mental events that come and go. Notice the continuous and changing nature of thoughts, just coming and going. If we don’t hold on to them, they pass.
Gently return your attention to the breath. Breathing in and breathing out.
If you feel some space now between the real you and the mental events in your mind, turn your attention toward the felt sense of anxiety. While observing this sense of anxiety, if you feel that space tightening or the urge to hold on to any thoughts or feelings of anxiety, simply turn your attention back to the breath or to the body, wherever it feels the most calming.
When you feel ready to explore again, return your attention to the feelings of anxiety. What do you notice?
Where do you feel anxiety in your body? Take a breath and notice where you feel it. Perhaps in the stomach? Tight jaw or clenched teeth? Just notice where you feel it most.
Now, see if you can notice the details in that area of the body. Is it tight, pounding, tingling or stabbing? Does it change in any way as you pay attention to it? Is it just one sensation or multiple sensations? If multiple, are they all the same intensity or are some less uncomfortable or even neutral?
Remember, you can always return to the breath if you need to ground yourself. There’s no need to be carried away by any of the sensations you are experiencing.
Gently scan your body again with curiosity. Are there areas where no anxiety resides right now?
When you’re ready, return to the feeling of anxiety, simply noticing what it feels like.
Ask yourself, what do I need?
Ask yourself, what are these feelings trying to tell me?
Allow whatever answers arise to just be for now.
Return your attention to the breath, slowly breathing in and breathing out.
Feel gratitude for any insights gained and as you remember them, consider what you may decide to do with them, if you choose to take any action. If you didn’t experience any insights, that’s okay. Feel gratitude for the experience of exploring anxiety through this gentle process, knowing that you can return to it whenever you like.
Take in a deep breath through the nose if you can and then exhale with a sigh of relief.
Take a moment to thank yourself for being here and for taking this time to be present.