Anxiety and zazen

I didn’t feel like sitting this morning, but sat anyway, for fifteen minutes again early in the morning. I slept badly due to pregnancy-related hip pain, so instead of sitting Burmese I sat kneeling which was much more comfortable.

The main thing I noticed today was the presence of anxiety. I was conscious to try and let the thoughts come and go rather than getting swept up in them, but it was  uncomfortable nonetheless. This is the truth of meditation – there’s nowhere to run from yourself. It’s a bit like therapy I suppose in that regard, you’re face to face with yourself, which can be extremely unpleasant.

But what to take away from these strong emotions such as anxiety? This interesting article reminds us that anxiety can be reduced to a fear of suffering, which we know is inevitable in life. Anxiety need not be thought of as a negative state, however the experience of it certainly feels that way. Anxiety is just anxiety, whether good or bad, and the key thing is that it is not permanent – it will pass. This experience of anxiety during zazen can serve as a reminder of the impermanence of all things, and also that we fear suffering, which is part of life.

As this author states, impermanence is one of the three marks of existence, along with no-self and suffering. Another article states:

The meat of the Zen life is unrelenting confrontation with one’s own psychological shortcomings

So quite a lot has emerged from a fifteen minute sit with anxiety today, and for that I am grateful. And the anxiety may even have passed.

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