DON’T STOP READING!!
No matter how much the word “meditation” makes you want to tune out, I encourage you to hang in there. Hang in there, even though meditation is seen by many as some esoteric practice, meant only for a) monks, nuns, and the hard-core religious; b) kooky, or touchy-feely people, both of which probably watch way too much Oprah.
Meditation, in fact, can be a critical practice in helping us to relieve much of our anxiety. Although it should not be viewed only as an anti-anxiety tool, it certainly can play a signfiicant role there. In this post I am going to attempt to explain the reason why meditation is needed, and I will do this primarily from the perspective of alleviating anxiety.
I have established in previous posts that the root of anxiety is our thinking. Anxiety is what results when the basic fear response, common to all sentient beings, joins up with imagination (as far as we know, found only in humans). In other words, without imagination, there can be no anxiety. Anxiety is always fear of this or that possibility, and a possibility, by definition, is something that 1) has not yet happened, and therefore; 2) is imagined. Since anxiety is the result of the fear response combining with imagination, then learning to focus on the present moment will alleviate anxiety. Meditation (called by Christians “pure prayer,” or “silent prayer”) teaches this in a way so profoundly simple that it seems almost too good to be true — or too easy to be effective. But it is both true and effective.
Have you ever been completely lost in the present moment? I mean so absorbed in a moment that you completely forgot about yourself and your own existence? Perhaps you were watching your children play, or maybe you were having sex that took you to a place beyond all thought, or completely immersed in something funny, or just having so much fun you were simply enjoying it. There is never anxiety in those moments, because we are simply in the moment. No conscious “thinking” is going on, we’re just riding that wave — whatever it may be — and loving it. Though we will often think about these moments afterwards, the thinking was not necessary for enjoyment of these amazing moments.
Normally we think in order to solve problems. We think in order to make plans. We think in order to do our jobs. We think in order to do well in school, and have good conversations, and raise our children prudently and skillfully. We think in order to analyze our situations and make good decisions. These are all healthy ways of thinking. But when thinking runs amuck, you have anxiety.
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