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How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain?

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How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain? Rachel 10/23/19 1:45 PM
RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain? JP 10/23/19 2:02 PM
RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain? Chris Marti 10/23/19 2:11 PM
RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain? Rachel 10/23/19 4:01 PM
RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain? Ben V. 10/23/19 3:04 PM
RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain? agnostic 10/24/19 9:50 AM
RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain? Rachel 10/24/19 12:17 AM
RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain? agnostic 10/24/19 10:25 AM
RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain? Rachel 10/24/19 12:27 PM
RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain? Brandon Dayton 10/24/19 1:07 PM
RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain? Brandon Dayton 10/24/19 1:12 PM
RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain? Rachel 10/24/19 1:47 PM
RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain? Brandon Dayton 10/24/19 2:51 PM
RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain? Jim Smith 10/23/19 10:46 PM
RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain? Rachel 10/23/19 11:52 PM
RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain? Derek2 10/24/19 9:34 PM
RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain? Dream Walker 10/25/19 1:57 AM
I have recently developed a strong interest in meditation and spirituality, and have a strong desire to practice meditation and mindfullness, but have difficulty sitting with ongoing anxiety, depression, and dificult physical pain (which I attribute to the depression and anxiety). Does anyone have any reccommendations for how I can learn to sit with and meditate with this pain? I find myself with the desire to constantly turn away from it and the present moment. Also, does anyone have any additional suggestions for I can resolve depression and anxiety? Thanks so much!

RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain?
Answer
10/23/19 2:02 PM as a reply to Rachel.
I think that the r/streamentry Guide to Health, Balance, and Difficult Territory has some good starting points for approaching practice when mental health issues are in the mix.  I also like shargrol's Therapeutic Models for Meditators.

RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain?
Answer
10/23/19 2:11 PM as a reply to Rachel.
Also, does anyone have any additional suggestions for I can resolve depression and anxiety?

I have to ask - have you pursued medical advice and assistance?

RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain?
Answer
10/23/19 3:04 PM as a reply to Rachel.
I second the responses above. 

Also want to add that there is no one-size fits-all model to deal with depression and anxiety. Both can have different underlying issues. Good therapy will enable you to identify those underlying issues and work on them.

As for meditation, if the depression is in the severe range, usually intensive meditation is not recommended (especially if you are a beginner). Small doses will be better. 

There are a few individuals I know (one of my current teachers and a previous teacher I had) who suffered intense depressive states and  exclusively used meditation until they gained an awakening that permanently ended their depressive suffering. Still, the current teacher I work with does not recommend doing what he did, and instead recommends also getting other sources of help like therapy along the way. 

Best wishes with your practice.

RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain?
Answer
10/23/19 4:01 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
I have pursued medical advice and assistance. I have tried therapy in the past, and am currently working with a psychiatrist to manage my depression/anxiety. I haven't found these things to be as successful as I would have hoped, and am interested in exploring how practices like mindfulness and meditation may help.

RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain?
Answer
10/24/19 9:50 AM as a reply to Rachel.
Hi Rachel, I suffered depression for 10 years before ending it a year ago with intensive meditation. Interestingly my depression only really started a few years after first going into therapy. Thereapy was wonderful at first in terms of understanding my issues, but then it opens up a void - if my personality is just a contingent product of genetics, upbringing, society etc. then what is the real me? I suffered 3 serious depressions and kept trying different therapists and antidepressants but none of it effected lasting change. I got quite suicidal during my last depression, I remember one day where I was suddenly gripped by the idea I was going to kill myself and I started practicing with a noose. I didn't really think I was going to do it at that point, but I felt like 50:50 live or die. It was enough to shock me into looking for a different approach.

I used to fantasize about finding the perfect therapist, then I realized that I could be that therapist if I just listened to myself. I think therapy definitely has a time and place and my first encounter with therapy was life changing at the time, but eventually I got cyncial (I'm just a pampered middle class person paying a stranger to listen to me complain, rather than investing in friends or family or church). So I went cold turkey on therapists and antidepressants and started meditating just to listen to myself, like really listen. So I sat down and said let's really feel what it's like to be depressed, I'm going to sit here all day if I need to and follow the depression wherever it really leads. What I realized very quickly in my case was that depression was a choice. On the days I would wake up depressed there was always a brief window where I wasn't depressed yet and I would wonder 'am I depressed today?', then I would "remember" to put on the heavy jacket of depression. It didn't feel like a choice at the time, but now I can see it was a learned behavior and a response to something else. What was that something else? ANGER. I discovered that I harbored colossal anger. I mean I knew from therapy on an intellectual level that I was angry. But this was really feeling that anger in the belly like a hard ball of physical stress. I had an angry Dad and my Mum  wouldn't stand up to him, so I was uncomfortable with my own anger and depression was my way of ignoring that anger. So yeah there was 40 years of trapped unfelt anger inside me.

Since then, I've hardly felt depressed at all and most of my issues work has revolved around anger - how to feel an appropriate amount at the right time rather than save it all up. I also suffered from anxiety and panic attacks and meditation has helped with that but not in the same way. Actually I've had some very strong anxiety and depersonalization attacks in meditation, worse than before, but incorporating anatta (no-self) helped me to see it for what it was and not get derailed. I'm not giving any recommendations here because everyone is different and it's only been a year, so may return, but that was my experience. The main takeaway I learned was that depression and anxiety are perfectly normal responses to perfectly normal life situations. As I aged and life failed to meet my lofty expectations, the realization that it was all meaningless was bound to make me depressed. But once I let go of my personal self and who I thought I was supposed to be then the depression fell away and I could start tapping into the infinite bliss of being part of the universal consciousness field. By the way I still talk with a therapist occasionally, but he is very spiritually oriented and it's all about how to integrate spiritual developments into daily life. Best of luck and I hope you can find some peace from your depression, anxiety and pain.

Oh yeah, another cool thing I forgot to mention. Reading Daniel's book helped me see that I had been stuck in the Dark Night one way or another for about 40 years (after age 5 spiritual experience). Before meditating, I would get depressed for 2-3 years. After folowing MCTB and heavy meditation for a couple of months I would get depressed for 2-3 weeks. Now I might wake up blue and meditate and the depression will be out of the system within an hour or two. It's the same emotions, I just accept them now and see them for what they are and they pass through naturally like water. 

RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain?
Answer
10/23/19 10:46 PM as a reply to Rachel.
Rachel:
I have recently developed a strong interest in meditation and spirituality, and have a strong desire to practice meditation and mindfullness, but have difficulty sitting with ongoing anxiety, depression, and dificult physical pain (which I attribute to the depression and anxiety).
Why do you think the physical pain is due to your emotions? Did the doctor tell you that? Unless it is something like stress is causing muscle spasms in your back I am very skeptical of doctors saying "it's all in your head". 


Does anyone have any reccommendations for how I can learn to sit with and meditate with this pain?
When you meditate, watch for the impulse to stop meditating with the intention that you will ignore it when it arises. When you notice it, recognize it as something you are looking out for and ignore it. This can help with anything that makes it hard to meditate (for example cell phone addiction).

Some styles of meditation tell you to focus your attention on the pain. If that doesn't work, try taking your attention off the pain.


When I had a painful shoulder injury, I found that the pain was much easier to bear when I was in a good mood. The mental anguish was a big part of the problem, the physical sensation was less trouble when the mental anguish it caused was releived. I recommend a relaxing type of meditation that I find elevates my mood.

https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/meditation-1#meditation_serenity

You don't have to reach intense states of bliss from the meditation, just relaxing can make a big difference.

I also suggest doing relaxation exercises before meditation because that also helps to elevate my mood.

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-parasympathetic-nervous-system-and.html



I find myself with the desire to constantly turn away from it and the present moment. Also, does anyone have any additional suggestions for I can resolve depression and anxiety? Thanks so much!

Have you looked into the possibility that your diet is part of the problem? If you are not familiar with how diet can affect serotonin levels, you might try looking into that. In practice it is complicated and different people react differently to the same foods so you may have to experiment. Cutting back on refined sugars might be helpful.

I also think it is best to avoid anything that affects the brain: alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and any recreational drugs.

RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain?
Answer
10/23/19 11:52 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Thanks for the thoughtful response. I am assuming the physical pain is due to my emotions, not necessarily because a doctor told me that is the case, but because I don't know what else it could be. The physical pain began as a terrible migraine, which I have tried to treat with a  neurologist, but there wasn't any success in treatment. I am also assuming that the pain is due to emotions because pain is a common symptom of depression, and my pain seems to worsen the worse my depression and anxiety is. If I were to describe what it feels like, I would say it feels like a severe migraine, nerve pain, and pressure that is throughout my whole body. It's so bizzarre, that I can only assuming it's psychosomatic. 

I will definitely give those meditation practices a try, thank you! I think one of the positive outcomes of this experience is that I have become open to meditation and spirituality.

I have recently begun to look into my diet. I am a month into an elimination diet, and have cut out all processed foods, sugar, dairy, and grains. I'm essentially only eating meat, fruits/vegs, nuts, and healthy fats. I'm not sure if I've experienced any improvement yet, but I going to continue to progress with the diet in the hopes that I will. I know some people experience a lot of improvement in clean eating, and I am hoping I will be the same.

RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain?
Answer
10/24/19 12:17 AM as a reply to agnostic.
agnostic:
Oh yeah, another cool thing I forgot to mention. Reading Daniel's book helped me see that I had been stuck in the Dark Night one way or another for about 40 years (after age 5 spiritual experience). Before meditating, I would get depressed for 2-3 years. After folowing MCTB and heavy meditation for a couple of months I would get depressed for 2-3 weeks. Now I might wake up blue and meditate and the depression will be out of the system within an hour or two. It's the same emotions, I just accept them now and see them for what they are and they pass through naturally like water. 
Thanks for sharing your experience with me! It reminded me that I should ask myself how I am contributing to my depression, with false narratives, negative outlook, etc. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words.

I have tried therapy before, and I honestly find spirituality to be a lot more helpful and theraputic. It has helped me to identify "the voice in my head" and how it can cause suffering. It has also helped me to understand myself and my experiences. It sounds like you have a great therapist. I would really enjoy a therapist who is spiritually orientated and can help me to further identify "the voice in my head."

I am very interested in the "Dark Night," and know very little about it. I heard Daniel discuss it in a podcast, and am going to read his book. How did you identify that what you were experiencing was actually the "Dark Night?" I am very curious because I began to have seemly big "spiritual experiences" and insight (for lack of a better word) a few years ago before I even knew such a thing existed and didn't have the words for. The following years after have been the hardest of my life. I think it would be comforting to know I am experiencing this stage, because it would help me to know that what I am experiencing is apart of the process, but I don't want to incorrectly apply causation. How did you get past this "Dark Night" stage?

RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain?
Answer
10/24/19 10:25 AM as a reply to Rachel.
Rachel:

I am very interested in the "Dark Night," and know very little about it. I heard Daniel discuss it in a podcast, and am going to read his book. How did you identify that what you were experiencing was actually the "Dark Night?" I am very curious because I began to have seemly big "spiritual experiences" and insight (for lack of a better word) a few years ago before I even knew such a thing existed and didn't have the words for. The following years after have been the hardest of my life. I think it would be comforting to know I am experiencing this stage, because it would help me to know that what I am experiencing is apart of the process, but I don't want to incorrectly apply causation. How did you get past this "Dark Night" stage?

Well I started meditating just like Daniel's book suggested, trying to focus on sensations as precisely as possible. Pretty soon I was having some intense and trippy experiences which sounded like A&P. I was kind of skeptical that A&P could happen so quickly, but I continued anyway. Then I got afraid and felt sad and angry. Off the cushion I noticed depression again. So this sounded like his description of dark night. I was still skeptical but just continued anyway. A few days later there was equanimity and possibly a fruition. I was still skeptical but I continued meditating anyway. Over the next weeks and months this pattern repeated enough and I saw enough similar experiences in people on here and other spiritual literature that it became unavoidable to accept that this pattern really does exist and is a widespread part of spiritual development and is what I was experiencing.

At the same time I was reflecting back on my life and connecting the dots. The anxiety in meditation dark night was similar to anxiety in pre-meditation life, likewise depression and anger. I just couldn't help concluding that my age 5 spiritual experience was valid (I now understand that to have been soft 5th-6th jhana) but I had no family/spiritual context at the time so the dark night stuff which seems to inevitably follow got stuck in my case. Spiritual life went on the backburner and I tried to function in the world but basically my inner life was dark night hell mostly for 40 years. I did worry like you about incorrectly applying causation or getting scripted, but once I'd seen it enough times from enough different angles it became obvious. It's not like I got past dark night in the sense that it doesn't happen any more. The cycles still continue but they are so compressed and obvious that they hardly affect me in the same way at all. I might have a big awakening like depersonalization which could theoretically drive you crazy, but I'll be able to see it for what it is and function normally. My wife might just about notice that I'm slightly off for a couple of days but that's it. No acting out. No self recriminations. No guilt. Freedom - at least relative to what my life was like before.

Once you sart to see your own karma (genetics, family, society, past actions etc.) and also realize that you don't really exist as an individual, then you realize that depression was just part of your karma and had to happen, just like the fact that you are here now means that recovery can and will happen. Maybe one day it will even prove a net positive if it gives you more compassion and the ability to help other people with their suffering. I am sorry that you experienced years of suffering, but if it's any consolation - the more suffering you have experienced, the more impact it will have on yourself and others once that suffering ceases.

RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain?
Answer
10/24/19 12:27 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Thanks for sharing! You've given me a lot to think about.

RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain?
Answer
10/24/19 1:07 PM as a reply to Rachel.
I'm interested to see how the process develops for you. I don't have as much experience as others, but I did experience an end to most of my depressive symptoms through meditation. I need some time to really test the end result, but so far it seems to be enduring.

The whole purpose of practice is to end of suffering. Keep that as a motivator. If I had known the degree to which that was possible, I would have been far more consistent and dedicated in the past. You can experience remarkable relief in small pieces all along the way too.

I am now trying to remember to integrate my practice as one part of a healthy life. Exercise, diet, therapy, nurturing good friendships and living a moral life are all part of the equation. Meditation can be taken to an extreme too, and it's important to balance it out with the other good in life.

RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain?
Answer
10/24/19 1:12 PM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
I would also say that I'm coming to believe that in some cases depression and anxiety are a sign of spiritual sensitivity. I see that in my own experience with depression, that part of it was a sensitivity and awareness of dukkha. My depression, in many ways, was an attempt to try to escape or ignore that.

Being able to see that dukkha your moment to moment experience can be greatly helped by experience with depression. I'm still trying to understand how it is tied to self and impermanence, but I guess that is the whole point of this practice.

RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain?
Answer
10/24/19 1:47 PM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
Thanks for responding. I am glad to hear that you were able to experience relief in depression through meditation, and that meditation can really improve suffering. I will stay committed to it.

What is "spiritual sensitivity" and "dukkha?" I am curious as to how they relate to depression/anxiety and if my experience could be related in anyway, although I'm careful to draw conclusions. I've seemed to develop a strong interest in spirituality, which I find to be very amusing because it is very different from many around me, and half the time I wonder if I am crazy or just spiritual. It is probably a bit of both, haha!

RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain?
Answer
10/24/19 2:51 PM as a reply to Rachel.
"Dukkha" is the Pali word that is traditionally translated as "suffering" (i.e. life is suffering), although any good commentary on dukkha will point out that "suffering" is not a perfect translation, which is why the root word is often used by practicioners. The other common translation is unsatisfactoryness or unsatisfying, but dukkha seems to be the most useful once you start to get a sense of it.

One principle that you'll be introduced to if you read MCTB is that dukkha is a pervasive quality of all experience. Part of insight practice is coming to know this through direct investigation, which can be tough, but I feel like my experience with depression has made this much more clear to me. When I was depressed, there was a constant cloying, icky or nauseating feeling about all my experience, even when doing enjoyable things. I don't feel it to that degree anymore, but I can still remember what it was like with the volume turned up so high and that memory helps me find it in its more subtle manifestations now.

But that's why I think of it as a spiritual sensitivity. You just have a sense of one of the basic truths of existence, and no matter how hard you try to escape it or cover it up, it's there. You keep trying everything you can to escape it or overpower it or undo it. Eventually, you turn and face it, and accept it and begin the path towards freedom. 

I really like Joseph Goldstein's commentaries on the subject too:

https://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/96/talk/3587/
https://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/96/talk/3617/
https://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/96/talk/3634/



RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain?
Answer
10/24/19 9:34 PM as a reply to Rachel.
About five years ago, someone had great success with a method they wrote about in the thread “Depression disappeared forever.” It might be worth trying. https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5566891

RE: How to meditate with anxiety, depression, and physical pain?
Answer
10/25/19 1:57 AM as a reply to Rachel.
https://alohadharma.com/the-map/

C
liff notes of the progress of insight. Read that then head to mctb.org and look up what your interested in.
Good luck,
~D