Have you recently experienced that feeling of having a mountain range pressing across your shoulders, burdening you with sensations of anxiety and tension? Maybe you’ve been juggling too many obligations and you feel like you’ve spread yourself too thin. Perhaps you also have the feeling that nothing you do is actually working, like you are a hamster trapped endlessly running on one of those wheels (ahem, grad school in a nutshell). I’ve been encumbered by these feelings on-and-off for the last several weeks. Luckily for me, my mindfulness practice has recently progressed to two guided meditations that seem ideal for these situations: 1. exploring difficulty and 2. befriending.
For me, the exploring difficulty meditation has helped me face and accept those challenges that are outside of my control, and better understand how I physically and emotionally react to those challenges subconsciously. For instance, I noticed that my shoulders and neck will be the first thing to tense up when I’m upset or overwhelmed. Since bringing awareness to this bodily response, I incorporate more stretches and motions to reduce that tension in a mindful manner. Now when I find myself in the shadow of the anxiety mountain, I steal myself back to the moment- take a deep breath and gently tilt my head from side-to-side, feeling my neck muscles stretch and ache in response. This helps bring me back from the brink of bad moods and unhappiness when I allow myself to linger in sensations of anxiety.
I’m often guilty of focusing too much energy and effort on things that aren’t working or that I don’t know. As a perfectionist, I even blame myself for something not working or for not knowing something. The befriending meditation has helped me bring kindness to myself, something I’ve always struggled with. This meditation has also helped me to realize that I can allow myself to be happy with who I am. Furthermore, I should congratulate myself for making incremental progress towards those larger goals and taking note of those new things (however small or insignificant they seem) that I learn everyday. It’s important to remember that everything takes time, and time will always progress. You will remember the past, you may look forward to the future, but be sure to live now with loving kindness for yourself.
P.S. If you are interested in the guided meditations I’ve mentioned in this blog post, you can find them freely available here.