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Online Mindfulness Meditation Therapy to Overcome Anxiety and Stress

The single main cause of emotional suffering and stress in our lives comes from accumulated habitual emotional reactions to life events that we acquire through unconscious learning. We become victims of recurring negative thoughts and patterns of emotional reactivity that operate automatically in the mind and that operate outside of the realm of conscious choice. We become prisoners of our habitual thinking and suffer accordingly. It therefore stands to reason that if we want to reduce our level of emotional stress and suffering, we must learn new strategies to counteract and neutralize our conditioned habitual reactivity, and regain freedom and choice in how to respond to life’s demands.

Mindfulness Meditation Therapy teaches you how to work with your habitual reactivity through a series of exercises designed to help you recognize reactivity and then turn off this reactivity through mindfulness. Mindfulness is empowering, restoring freedom and choice, while creating the proper inner space that allows emotions to play out and resolve at the core level. Mindfulness training prevents you from falling victim to conditioned stress reactions and puts you back in the driver’s seat, allowing you to control how you want to feel, rather than just falling under the spell of your habitual reactivity. The approach is relatively easy to learn and can be communicated very well through email correspondence and online webcam sessions.

It’s 8 am and you wake up after a hard night’s sleep to find your alarm didn’t go off. This agitates him a lot when he realizes that he will be late for work and his boss scolded him for being late last week. You fall out of bed and run downstairs for breakfast. no coffee You get nervous at the prospect of starting the day without coffee and lose your temper with your partner for forgetting to turn on the coffee maker. So you feel guilty for being angry, and that weighs heavily on your mind as you get into your car. The car won’t start. Now he is furious, because he recently paid a lot of money to have the car serviced. By being late, you hit rush hour and have to deal with all the frustrations of slow traffic, which raises your stress level to the boiling point. Things get even worse when a car cuts out in front of you and you explode in anger and yell at the driver. The driver turns out to be an old woman and you feel ashamed and guilty for your inappropriate reactions. You eventually make it to the office, but there’s nowhere to park, as you’re late and you get even more discouraged. Exhausted, you finally make it to the office, sit down at your work, and start a day doing work you don’t enjoy in an environment you hate and with people who don’t seem to appreciate how hard you work. The boss says that he wants to see you and the panic sets in.

Does this sound familiar?

For much of the time we live in slavery to the usual negative emotional reactions of agitation, disappointment, frustration, anger, guilt, stress, anxiety, and fear. Emotional suffering is not caused by being late or having difficulty getting to work. These can be a source of pain, but they are not enough to cause mental suffering. Suffering is always a product of the way we react to such events, and these subjective reactions are something we have unconsciously learned. As the saying goes,

“Bread is inevitable, but suffering is optional.”

We learn to react with anger and disappointment when things don’t go our way, in exactly the same way that we learn to be happy when our expectations are met. This is an important point, because although we can’t have complete control over external events, we can control how we react to them. If you remain attached to your reactions, then you will suffer as long as those attachments remain in place. This is what mindfulness is all about: learning to recognize your reactions and then respond to each one with mindfulness, and through that process of touching each reaction with mindfulness, you learn to let go of your subjective reactions.

Mindfulness is something we are all familiar with on some level. We learn to be mindful when painting a picture or doing any activity that requires concentration. If we are wise, we will practice mindfulness by listening to our spouse or friend. We all know how important it is to listen with an open mind and be fully present. If you’re not there and you’re lost in your own thoughts or lost in your own impulse to try to fix things, then your partner will probably feel like you’re not listening and communication will suffer. Being mindful means being aware of what is happening right now, in the present moment. This means acknowledging everything that happens in the subjective world of your own reactions, as well as in the objective world of experience. To be fully present, you must be aware of internal and external events.

In our usual unconscious and carefree state, we let our thoughts and emotions run wild, like unsupervised children, and this leads to confusion, disorder, and emotional stress. Developing the skill of mindfulness means that we stop, observe, and listen to what is going on in the mind. We teach ourselves to recognize a thought when it arises and to see an emotional reaction when it arises. This is learning to recognize the contents of the mind and respond to them mindfully. Now this is immensely important, because in that brief moment of conscious recognition comes a moment of choice, before we get lost in thought or emotional reaction. In mindfulness practice, we learn to recognize this gap and cultivate it so that it becomes longer and stronger. With practice, we gain a completely different perception and see the contents of the mind as objects, like children in the classroom. We begin to see that we don’t have to react, that we don’t have to be pulled into reactivity by thoughts or emotions that arise in the mind. We can learn to say, “Thank you, but no thanks. I choose not to react at this time.” This is a completely different scenario than our usual impulsive reactivity, where we are forced to react according to whatever content arises in the mind.

What we learn during mindfulness meditation therapy is to make a fundamental shift in our identity from being identified with the contents of our mind, to being the awareness of the contents of our mind. Anger, disappointment, frustration, anxiety arise, but we no longer identify with this content; we just say, “Thank you, but no thanks,” and remain attentive, observing and knowing what is present, but without the added reactivity that just makes things worse. This is learning to see that we are not equal to our thoughts, but are actually much greater than any of the negative thoughts, emotions, or beliefs that arise. Our essential nature is as a container of all this content, the conscious space that it contains; pure knowing itself. This fundamental change from being our thoughts to being the knowledge of our thoughts is the most important first step on the path of inner transformation, and mindfulness is an excellent tool for cultivating this new state of being.

mindfulness meditation
We can practice mindfulness throughout the day in all our activities: in our physical actions; when talking; and most important of all, the activities of our mind. This is cultivating mindfulness of body, speech, and mind. What we are learning through mindfulness is to be more present in all of these activities, while also learning to be aware of any impulses to react to any activity that involves the body, speech, and mind.

Set yourself a task. Challenge yourself to be mindful when talking to a friend or colleague. In addition to learning to be aware of these activities, also look closely for any impulses to react emotionally. Look for anything that causes a commotion and throws you off balance. Recognize these reactions and respond to them with mindfulness.

It is also good to set aside 15 to 30 minutes each day to practice mindfulness meditation. Not having to deal with a lot of distractions and demands can give you time to really work on your mindfulness skills. Mindfulness meditation means turning your attention inward to examine your mind in detail and in depth. The more you become familiar with all the habitual activities, impulses, and reactivity that make up the mind, the less control they will have over you and the more freedom you will experience. It’s always what you don’t see that hurts you the most, and mindfulness meditation is learning to see exactly what is present in the mind. When we separate or disassociate from our inner emotions, they will control us. The purpose of mindfulness meditation is to reconnect with these inner parts that clearly need our attention and care.

Take a few minutes to relax, and then close your eyes and go in and get in touch with that inner stillness that lies just below the surface when we stop thinking and reacting. Spend the first part of your meditation session residing in this inner stillness and watch the arising of thoughts, worries and other mental objects, which will inevitably arise. Greet every thought, feeling, or impulse. Acknowledge it and then gently release it and return your attention to the still center. You may notice sounds, sensations in the body, or other physical sensations. Notice each sense object as it enters your field of awareness, and then respond by gently releasing it. In this way you cultivate the inner place of pure knowing that is still, calm and non-reactive. This internal state of composure and stability is called samadhi, and as we develop samadhi, we develop a very powerful internal resource and force that helps us maintain balance and prevents us from becoming reactive. After we have developed the felt sense of this inner center of stillness, we can proceed to the more difficult step of investigating our patterns of emotional reactivity.

Imagine a scenario (past, present, or future) that you know is abuzz with reactivity. Perhaps a recent argument with a spouse, or something that is worrying you, or something that is creating anxiety and stress in your life.

Now practice learning to recognize any emotional impulses that arise and try to unbalance him so that he thinks or gets upset or agitated. Learn to recognize each thought object, each thought, feeling, and impulse, and respond to each with mindfulness and simply see it for what it is. When you respond mindfully in this way, in each moment of conscious contact, you are also spontaneously releasing the urge to react. Notice how each moment of mindfulness brings you back to that inner stillness and inner calm that is not identified with the reactive content of the mind.

This is not an easy process and it will take time to develop, but what could be more important than learning not to react; to develop inner freedom and choice; of cultivating inner strength and stability of mind in the midst of the chaos of our lives? If you make the effort, you can develop the skill of mindfulness, and it will grow exponentially as you begin to experience the benefits of not falling victim to life’s ups and downs. Each mindfulness response strengthens the mind; any reaction based on unconsciousness weakens the mind. Mindfulness energizes our being; reactivity exhausts the mind and spirit. Mindfulness makes us more compassionate; reactivity makes us more violent.

The choice is yours: responsiveness or reactivity; care or suffering. Good luck!

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