“Breathe. You’re going to be okay. Breathe and remember that you’ve been in this place before. You’ve been this uncomfortable and anxious and scared, and you’ve survived. Breathe and know that you can survive this too. These feelings can’t break you. They’re painful and debilitating, but you can sit with them and eventually, they will pass. Maybe not immediately, but sometime soon, they are going to fade and when they do, you’ll look back at this moment and laugh for having doubted your resilience. I know it feels unbearable right now, but keep breathing, again and again. This will pass. I promise it will pass.” – Daniell Koepke
Into the Heart of Mindfulness by Ed Halliwell is one of the best books I’ve read on meditation and mindfulness. Why?
Firstly because the author’s excellent writing skills come into play, the book is so beautifully written. Secondly, the author’s personal story of depression and anxiety and subsequent journey into mindfulness is presented with raw honesty and wisdom, and will resonate with many experiencing the same challenges. There’s also clear instructions for a range of meditation practices.
In a world where meditation and mindfulness have become rather commercialised and surrounded by hype, Ed Halliwell’s book is a breath of fresh air. He talks about the hard yards of meditation and the fact that even after fifteen years of practice he still has occasional relapses. These relapses are met with mindfulness and as time goes by are decreasing in length and power.
A couple of the take home messages for me are his observations “… that I was a normal human being experiencing normal human suffering (and reacting to it unskilfully) … ” and also to “… be with whatever is happening …
For me as a meditator who has read many books on the subject, there were no negatives to this book. It’s one that will remain at the top of my reading pile to be read again and again.
Body Scan Meditation is one of my favourite meditations and I think it’s a good one for people with anxiety. Why? Much of our anxiety shows up as muscle tension, although often we don’t realise just how tense we are.With this meditation, scan each part of the body starting at the feet and working your way up, but you can go the other way, head to toes.When I started using this practice I took it slowly and did short sessions. In doing so, over time something opened up. Now when I do it, I give myself plenty of time and regularly achieve deep relaxation, but it took a while to get to this stage.
Whatever practice you choose, you don’t have to rush it. (Note: if you have severe anxiety you may want to consult with a professional before embarking on this practice).
“Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it — just as we have learned to live with storms.” ― Paulo CoelhoA perfect storm of circumstance combined with trauma and other stressors entered my life thirty odd years ago. With the trauma and stressors unaddressed for a number of reasons for quite some time, my body did the only thing it knew how to do. I became quite ill and anxiety was just one of many symptoms associated with that illness.
A little book picked up in a bookstore on a weekend away just prior to becoming unwell prompted my exploration into meditation. Now living with a chronic condition which had anxiety as part of the experience, over the course of thirty years I meditated off and on as time allowed with the hope all my stress and worries would disappear, simply go away … how naive was I.
It will be three years this Easter since I committed to daily practice but with a different approach this time. Rather than fighting and resisting uncomfortable feelings and sensations (which I’m stuck with), I aim to manage them skilfully. In three years of practice, I’ve reaped benefits in ways I hadn’t imagined, and not in other ways I’d hoped for, but in my experience the benefits show up gradually and quietly. For me, meditation is an essential part of my life. Apart from any benefits, I just like the experience.