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Intense Anxiety
Answer
4/30/15 2:02 PM
I have been doing samatha since last August and I started vipassana in Febuary. Since I have started meditation my anxiety has been at record lows up until now. For about two or more weeks, I have been getting a very strange anxiety and contraction in the places around my diaphram and my heart during vipassana sittings.
Yesterday at around 630pm I was able to go up to 4th jhana. I was very equanimous and stable for a few hours but I guess once this energy faded I was hit by anxiety like a storm. When I woke up in the morning, I was absolutely miserable. There was so much anxiety and restlessness that literally within 15 minutes of waking up, I was absolutely exhausted. I still haven't been able to eat today and I can tell that a lot of it is mental construction because the contractions build up when my thoughts go in the direction of personalizing the anxiety as I.
Can anyone please give me some advice with this? Some techniques to incorporate with regards to mindfulness of this and thought?

I am going on a 7 day silent retreat  on the 3rd and I am starting to absolute dread it.

I greatly appreciate any help.
Thank you!

RE: Intense Anxiety
Answer
4/30/15 2:34 PM as a reply to Arkadiy.
Hello Arkadiy,

Some things that might be helpful: Maybe try a noting practice when fear arises. When you notice fear, bring attention to these sensations and do a verbal discursive note "fear", look for boundaries to the sensations, where are they located in space, where do they end, notice when the fear is not there and note when it is absent or ceases.  Also, a loving kindness practice may help, cultivating loving kindness towards yourself, and even towards the fearful sensations may help transform the relationship with them. These are just sensations, they are not you and they won't last.  Also, I've found that exercise of some sort can help with fear when it  gets intense (e.g. walking, running, yoga, tai chi, qi gong).  Continuing your mindfulness of breathing/concentration practice may also be helpful if it gets intense to cultivate increased tranquility, calm/concentration although it will likely be important, eventually, to bare your attention on the fear to transform the relationship with it and penetrate the three characteristics of the sensations (e.g. impermanence, unsatifactoriness, and egolessness/no separate selfness), depending on the goal of your practice.

Metta,

Drew

RE: Intense Anxiety
Answer
4/30/15 3:12 PM as a reply to Arkadiy.
You could try contemplation and meditation on death and impermanence.

RE: Intense Anxiety
Answer
4/30/15 4:12 PM as a reply to Arkadiy.
Arkadiy:
I have been getting a very strange anxiety and contraction in the places around my diaphram and my heart during vipassana sittings.
Can anyone please give me some advice with this?
Have you read the chapters in the book MCTB? Lots of good information there.
When things are super anxiety ridden I take some magnesium and L-Theanine....it gives me a break from the worst of it.
If you are in the dark night then the best thing to do is move past it with diligent practice and get to EQ. This is what I have done and still do.
Talking this out with people who have been thru it also helps the first time. Knowing that it is a natural part of meditation and many people have experienced it and moved past it over and over can lessen the fear some.
Good luck,
~D

RE: Intense Anxiety
Answer
5/1/15 8:50 AM as a reply to Arkadiy.
Try not to script yourself into the Dark Night. One of the things about withdrawal symptoms is that we can dislike them. Disliking sensations will make them worse. Personally I would continue with a Metta practice and a concentration practice especially when things are really rough and taking you out of your insight practice. Both practices help to stabalize the insight practice.

Further you can develop a welcoming attitude (which is the oppostie of aversion).


http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/210/talk/9813/

This really smoothed out my vipassana a lot and I highly recommend it for daily life use. Preferences cause stress when they are not met, and preferences with meditation will do the same. Any measurements (meditation vs. non-meditation) might show a clinging for stillness. Any dualities of preference can cause stress and being aware of that and starting to welcome more unpleasant things will get you out of that trap.

Develop equanimity/welcoming/allowing towards as many experiences as possible. Of course this means you wouldn't welcome a knife into your stomach but it's good to include as much as you realistically can (4 foundations of mindfulness).

Keep practicing.

RE: Intense Anxiety
Answer
5/1/15 10:16 AM as a reply to Drew Miller.
Thank you everyone for your help. I will try your advice.
Do any of you have reading recommendations for metta practice?

RE: Intense Anxiety
Answer
5/1/15 1:24 PM as a reply to Arkadiy.
I like this method:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5556399

But I would also throughout the day give metta in your mind towards other people (including people you don't like) right when they are doing something you don't like. It reduces your expectation that they should be good and you look at them more as cause and effect instead of someone to have live in your mind rent free with agitation.

RE: Intense Anxiety
Answer
5/15/15 10:24 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard Zen:
I like this method:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5556399

But I would also throughout the day give metta in your mind towards other people (including people you don't like) right when they are doing something you don't like. It reduces your expectation that they should be good and you look at them more as cause and effect instead of someone to have live in your mind rent free with agitation.


Thank you everyone for your help!
The retreat really helped. It was really hard because I had a lot of restlessness there but I really worked with a lot of forms of mindfulness.

RE: Intense Anxiety
Answer
5/21/15 12:18 PM as a reply to Arkadiy.
Arkadiy:
For about two or more weeks, I have been getting a very strange anxiety and contraction in the places around my diaphram and my heart during vipassana sittings.

Hello Arkadiy - I wanted to highlight your description of restriction and anxiety centered around the chest.  I had somewhat similar symptoms for a while, which were centered around breathing generally. 

I think that some of the suggestions people have given here are good ones, and you have to experiment and see what works.  I would be hesitant to label your anxiety as the result of a particular stage of insight, etc., because it is so hard to tell.  I really think this is a complicated question and there could be many things going on.  For me, a lot of the anxiety came from the feeling of disorientation and de-centeredness that started coming up.  However, it is hard for me to attribute all of the anxiety symptoms to disorientation and de-centeredness.  But again, you can't really be sure.

In the end, I can only offer you some more suggestions for ways to address this.  These are all things I tried with some success:

- Yoga.  I liked some of the postures that involved stretching the front of the body, to release some tension.  But I'm no expert on this.

- Cardiovascular exercise. Running on a treadmill, etc., is tiring and gets out a lot of the 'negative energy'.  It is the most evidence based form of exercise for treating anxiety symptoms, as i understand.

- Changing the focus of the meditation.  If you focus on the breath at the nose you can move to the belly.  

- Changing the meditation instructions.  If you do Mahasi style noting practice, you can try moving to a more Thai style of meditation (look up instructions given by Thannisaro Bhikkhu).

- Changing the 'scope' of your focus.  This is similar to my above points.  When you do vipassana, focus on a narrow object like 'just the breath' instead of widening the focus to include anything going on.

- Take it easy trying to do noting during daily activities.  I personally find that Mahasi noting caused  irritability and tiredness when i tried it in daily activities.  I moved to a 'lighter' and more relaxed method of informal practice for daily activities, focused on the breath and with less noting.

- **Cognitive behavioral therapy.  This is possibily my best advice, if your anxiety persists.  Get a book on cognitive behavioral therapy and anxiety, and just treat the anxiety symptoms as what they are, instead of trying to "out meditate" them.  I found just reading a CBT book and implementing it was the best thing, I didn't need counseling.  This was the most effective approach for me.  It doesn't really matter where the symptoms came from.  If they don't go away after a while, then don't feel like you are constrained solely to the tools in this tradition to deal with them.  In my humble opinion, you can take your anxiety symptoms as an object of meditation and that will make you a better meditator, but it won't necessarily make them go away.

Overall, I wish you the best of luck.  It sounds like you have a pretty advanced practice for someone who is relatively new to meditation, and that is awesome.  It is perhaps understandable that you get a bit of 'rockiness' on your path when you are moving so quickly.  So again, allow yourself to feel some metta and compasion for yourself.