Do you fixate on negative thoughts or do you let them come and go?
More and more people are waking up to the power of Eastern healing modalities and the impact these spiritual practices have on our health and wellbeing.
Today, I have a special guest writing for the blog. Claire is the founder of Sprout Newsletter. She writes:
Sprout evolved through my own practice of teaching, writing, and curating. I wanted to create a brand that empowers lives on and offline. Sprout is a life and culture brand dedicated to inspiring thoughtful engagement with culture. Sprout distributes a regular newsletter filled with artist interviews, essays, and features. Sprout online courses on mindful living and establishing an art collection are soon due to launch.
In this post, Claire shares her experience with social anxiety and the power that meditation has had on her healing journey. In addition to this article, she is offering a free meditation workshop over at this link:
Healing Anxiety Through Meditation
Imagine this: you are in a room of people. They are all looking at you to answer a question that was just asked. You feel your face growing warm, and your palms becoming damp. It’s happening, you think. A panic attack is brewing. There is no button to press in case of emergency. No parachute to tug on. Realising this makes you feel even more stressed, and the warmth creeps down from your face to your neck. Now, imagine someone touching you on the forearm and with every good intention, uttering words that never seem to work: Calm down.
Anyone with social anxiety knows that panic can strike at any moment. Anxiety doesn’t have prejudice against time of day, your emotional state, or if you are at home or work. Although some situations are more triggering than others, the truth is that no moment is immune.
At the peak of my social anxiety I had two main triggers: speaking in class and eating in front of people I didn’t know. Sounds ridiculous, right? But truly, they were stressful scenarios for me at the time. Although lots of things could send me into a panic attack, nothing made me as terrified as the scene I described earlier. If a teacher or college tutor called on me and I got the answer right, it made my panic even worse. Which meant I got used to saying I don’t know or worse — giving the wrong answer altogether. It made me feel frustrated, embarrassed, and silly. When a peer piped up with the correct answer I berated myself. Disappointment and frustration compounded itself onto my already anxious state.
At the peak of my anxiety, my body and mind was stressed and exhausted by it all. Our bodies and minds run in sync with each other. Which means you cannot have a calm body and a stressed mind, or vice versa. Ever notice how your shoulders creep up to your neck when you fire out emails on a Friday afternoon? Or how you breathe a sigh of relief when your emails are done? That’s your mind and body relationship at work.
I ‘fixed’ my anxiety with drugs and therapy. But, 15 years later, I still occasionally struggle with performance and social anxiety. What’s changed is that I have a new coping mechanism that doesn’t involve drugs or therapy: meditation.
What meditation does for us, and what it definitely did for me, is to teach us that we do not have to identify with our thoughts. We don’t have to defined by our fears. Meditation teaches us to be a gentle anchor in a sea of thoughts, feelings, and judgements. While everything else moves around us, we can remain still and grounded: a neutral observer. Meditation, it turns out, is the kind, well-meaning person telling you to Calm down.
For myself, this meant learning to notice my thoughts objectively. Doing so made me realise what thought-patterns had grown to be habitual. Being asked a question in a meeting hadn’t triggered my social anxiety for some time, but other fears had crept in its place. I hadn’t noticed them setting up shop in my mind or they way that the minutiae of my own thinking had, at times, stopped me from living my life. In short, fear based thoughts had become a habit.
I start each of my meditations the same way. By breathing deeply into my belly, which is where the HQ of the nervous system resides. Sending oxygen to your belly sends the message to your body to
relax, and in turn, your mind follows suit. In this state, thoughts continue to come and go. The act of meditation is to objectively notice everything; fleeting thoughts, rising emotions, physical spaces, feelings, sounds — the whole world, really. Meditation teaches us to sit and objectively watch the world pass by.
Through meditation I have learnt that some of my thoughts are funny in their absurdity. Others are dramatic to the point of being ridiculous. Each of them have something to teach me about myself, who I am, and how I move through the world.
To release yourself from the hold of your own thoughts is an incredibly powerful act. No-one fact checks our thinking habits. A lot of us unconsciously believe false-thoughts that negatively impact our lives and how we choose to live.
A sure fire way to change your patterns is to give meditation a try and sit in stillness. Thoughts will naturally arise. Resist being swept away by their narrative and instead come back to your breath, or a focus point in the room. Take a step back from your thinking and ask yourself: where are you holding back?
Claire is offering a free meditation workshop which can be found at:
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Thank you for reading and I hope this post supports you on your journey to unconditional self love.
Be wild. Be free. Be you.