The truth about why I started meditation practice…
…and what Buddhism has done for me.
I was inspired me to be open and honest in a way that I have not been before. I hope that this might help someone, somewhere.
I have something called social anxiety disorder.
Have you heard of it? They say that around seven percent of the population has it.
It started when I was a teen, which is pretty normal for this disorder. People that have known me since I was young might have noticed a change between when I was a child and when I was a teenager. It got a lot worse after I lost my parents.
Some of you might not believe it exists.
It manifests itself in several ways:
I don’t really start conversations, I tend to avoid social situations and I really don’t like crowded places. I’m always in a hurry when I’m running errands or something, not because I’m impatient, but because I want to get away from crowded places as soon as possible. Also, I don’t really do small talk.
If you talk to me and I seem overly quiet or standoffish, that is why. It’s not because I don’t like you, I promise. I can suffer from a little bit of anxiety even in the presence of people I’ve known a long time, the only exception being my wife and children.
In fact, just being around my kids does a lot to dispel my anxiety.
I don’t know if other people notice my anxiety, but it’s quite apparent to me. It has, at times in my life, led me to make some bad decisions and also resulted in having real panic attacks.
What does social anxiety disorder have to do with meditation?
I’ve tried different methods for managing my anxiety. I tried a medication called Paxil. It helped, but I felt like it turned me into a crazy person. Pills probably work well for some people, but not for me.
I tried things like forcing myself into really uncomfortable situations. That didn’t really work. For a long time I tried incessantly flirting with women. Flirting is one of the few things that never really made me uncomfortable, so I could distract myself from anxiety by flirting. That worked to a point, but I’m sure it led a few people to believe I’m some sort of womanizer. And I’m sure it led to some hurt feelings somewhere.
Being intimate with someone—that helped a lot—but anxiety management is probably a bad reason to be intimate with someone, isn’t it?
Then, I tried meditation. The practice of meditation is the only thing that really has helped me to manage my social anxiety. I still have it and I feel it every day, but it’s much less severe than before I started meditating.
Meditation, which forces us to look inward and is focused on mental and spiritual development, has been shown to help people with anxiety problems.
Clearing my mind,
focusing my attention inward,
looking deep inside myself.
A few times during my life, I stopped meditating for a little while and the anxiety came roaring back.
Trying meditation and wanting to learn more about it is how I ended up studying Buddhism. Buddhist teachings really resonated with me—it isn’t a religion in the way people usually think of religion. It is a series of practices designed to help us avoid suffering, the cause of which is ego and attachment.
What is anxiety, if not being attached to a certain comfort zone?
Buddhism also teaches that all things are interconnected.
If I’m really interconnected with everyone I meet, how can I feel anxious about meeting them? This interconnectedness is something we can see if we start looking within ourselves and asking things like, “Who am I?”
Buddhist practice helped me. It made me want to be a Buddhist. It made me love Buddhism. Buddhist practice is about helping: not only helping others, but also yourself.
I do still have social anxiety disorder and I don’t think it will ever go away. Although I still struggle with it sometimes, it’s much less often.
I think everyone has some mental issue or another. Meditation could help you too.
Like elephant meditation on Facebook.
Ed: Catherine Monkman
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