If meditation is so great, why aren’t I doing it? (Opinion) | SierraSun.com

If meditation is so great, why aren’t I doing it? (Opinion)

Danielle Grossman / Columnist
Danielle B. Grossman

Dear Therapist: I want to try meditation to help my anxiety. I downloaded a meditation app that would take only five minutes a day but I still can’t get myself to do it.

Dear Meditation Hopeful: You are not alone. Meditation is continually recommended for anyone trying to calm their mind or improve their mental health. Rarely, however, is there acknowledgement that sitting still with our thoughts or even listening to a guided meditation is not yet possible for many people.

There are reasons we avoid meditation. The pressures and demands of our daily lives can make it feel impossible to slow down or stop for even five minutes. Our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, memories and anything else that emerges when we sit still with ourselves can be overwhelming. Sometimes these internal experiences are uncomfortable, irritating or annoying. Sometimes it’s so boring to sit with ourselves that it feels unbearable. Sometimes it’s dangerous inside of ourselves, and it isn’t safe for us to go there.

Meditative traditions in the past were generally grounded within supportive communities and group practices as well as lifelong individual instruction and skill building. The idea that we should be able to spontaneously sit alone with ourselves when we have had no training or practice in how to safely go inward is unrealistic and potentially harmful. Even if we are told to use compassion and non-judgment as we observe our inner world, what we probably don’t hear is that self compassion and non-judgment are not yet accessible for many of us. We also don’t hear that sitting with ourselves when we have not processed our life traumas can be like going into a horror movie and having no way out.

Sitting with ourselves without distraction can be especially difficult for those of us who were not (or still are not) treated with compassion. It’s especially difficult for those of us who have been (or still are) treated with harsh judgments. It’s especially true for anyone who has been (or continues to be) unsafe in the world. It’s especially true for anyone with a tendency toward panic, fear, rumination, self-loathing, hopelessness or shame. It’s especially true for those of us with physical illness, physical pain, unprocessed losses or grief, disorganized thoughts or roller coaster type emotions.

For you, Meditation Hopeful, because you suffer with anxiety, I am guessing that your brain and body are saying ‘no’ to the idea of sitting alone with yourself. It’s okay to honor this ‘no’. It may be protective of you, making sure you aren’t faced with a situation where you are going to feel more unstable or more spun out in fear or panic.

Since you are interested in meditation, I would offer the possibility of shifting the ‘no’ into a ‘not yet.’ If you are having trouble finding the time, the first step might be learning to set boundaries with others or seeking more help with your daily tasks. From there, you can learn ways to feel safer, more competent, more grounded and more prepared when dealing with what’s inside of you. This can happen in therapy, in meditation courses that are based in an understanding of trauma or in community with others where you feel seen, safe and accepted for who you are. Meditation can be a wonderful path toward improving your mental health and experiencing less anxiety. The actual practice of sitting alone with yourself, however, might not be the first stop on that path.

Danielle B. Grossman, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, has worked with clients in the Truckee/Tahoe community for 20 years. She helps couples and individuals with their relationships, anxiety, grief, struggles with food and addiction. Reach out at truckeecounseling@gmail.com or learn more at truckeecounseling.com

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