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Meditation and Worry: The mindfulness solution

May 21, 2017

How can I meditate when I am extremely worried about something and can’t take my mind off that?

Sit down, settle your body, notice your breath, catch yourself when your mind wanders and invite it back, and repeat as needed, for 30-45 minutes per day. Pretty creative huh? That’s because I meditate.

On the one hand, that might seem like an overly simplistic response to an important question. And I have to admit that it is, but I am trying to make a point. The practice is the practice is the practice. At its core, mindfulness practice is simple, but the challenge is that it isn’t always easy.

In situations where we are particularly captivated by worrisome topics or situations, our mind’s tendency is to go to the content of our worries, to try and solve the problem, or simply become immersed in anxiety and fear. Our minds like to serve up a big heaping bowl of delicious, enticing, anxiety-provoking fruit, and we can’t resist snatching an apple of anxiety or pear of panic, when our real task is to simply be the bowl. See if the next time worry arises, you can instead notice worry. Perhaps tuning in to sensations in the body that accompany worry, notice how worry actually feels, and let the thoughts that come with worry rush past you as if you are sitting beneath a waterfall that is pelting you with thoughts and you’ve just chosen to take one step back and watch the thoughts fall. You might even practice a bit of self-compassion and soothe yourself with a gentle touch of the hand to your heart, not to get rid of the worry but just to acknowledge that worry is present and you are suffering in that moment.

This piece originally appeared in Mindful magazine in the recurring feature “Am I Doing This Right?”)

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