Feeling fear in meditation

Alma asks…

“OK, I tried to do what you say, listen to the thoughts that is. And it’s HARD! Because the mind stream comes back in quickly, in less than a second. I have a very active mind, from the moment I wake up, the chatter starts and goes on and on…

But another thing I noticed is that when I start focusing on the endless thoughts as an outsider, I feel fear. Why fear? And then the thoughts overwhelm me again.

I didn’t mention before, but I was diagnosed with OCD and I had (and still have as a matter of fact) intrusive thoughts, which come in full strength in more stressful times. And they are annoying and tiring, and sometimes I have the impression of losing my mind. And they are scary, I know the trick here is to not be afraid of them, but it’s beyond me. I am afraid, period.

Actually this is how I came across you for the first time, searching about intrusive thoughts, and I found your unwanted thoughts article. I really like your advice and insights, but when it comes to putting them in practice, it’s hard, because I can’t stop being afraid of what these unwanted thoughts are telling me.

Thank you again for all your help.”

© Aurelio Asiain
© Aurelio Asiain

Thanks for writing in :-) First thing to get REALLY clear is that lifestyle and meditation as a key part of your lifestyle are the answers.

I’ve been where you are, so I know what it’s like and how hard it is to overcome.

Be sure to follow all the lifestyle guidance in Happy Guide because that’s going to mean your physical health and all factors that could be affecting how your physical brain works are addressed.

For example, food intolerances can affect your thinking so Happy Guide addresses those issues.

For anyone suffering ANY chronic health issue I recommend the no grain/dairy version of the Happy Guide diet which can be gradually relaxed back to the standard Happy Guide diet once you’re well again, provided symptoms don’t return…

The Happy Guide lifestyle essentially “removes all tacks” you might be sitting on, metaphorically speaking :-)

Alma, as I said in the unwanted thoughts article, the first time I did meditation practice, I started off just fine then I got lost in thought. When I realized, I looked at the clock and 20 minutes had passed… 20 minutes!! So yes, the out-of-control mindstream has gained some momentum and it takes a bit of dedication to turn things around.

It’s like if you neglected your garden… first you’d be overrun with weeds, then, seeds would blow in, wild bushes and trees would begin to sprout and before long you have a jungle! I know! My neighbor 2 doors down has that going on in his garden! And all that takes not just some casual weeding but some serious digging and uprooting!

So… what to do…

A regular 30 minutes intense meditation will, just on it’s own gradually work it’s magic and you’ll get back to your NATURAL state of a peaceful mind. But you can speed things along by “listening” at all those in-between moments. You can help things by making everything you do a meditation… focusing on your flow, what you’re doing right now.

You can use the listening method for your regular meditation too and if your mind just won’t be quiet, take a deep breath and hum for the outbreath, then LISTEN. If the mind-stream comes back, repeat. It’s quite a simple thing meditation–it’s just about saying “I am focusing HERE”… choice. With practice your WILL, your choice actually happens instead of thoughts just out-of-control and you lost in all that.

As you continue dedicated to these simple methods you’ll soon enough, reach a stage where peace is your default. I am generally aware when my mind even flickers and I am generally able to say yes or no to thoughts, to think consciously. That is real freedom! You can become aware that silence is the best place to begin to think consciously and so just keep returning every time to silence when you choose to think or become aware of thoughts that surface that may or may not have useful information. Just keep returning to silence–that is your place of choice, of sanity.

The fear is a strange thing but it’s normal. I don’t really know for sure why it happens but it does. Perhaps it’s fear of death… not physical death but ego death, which is what happens when you come to silence which is really, coming to your true being, your true self. It’s nothing more than feeling your own beingness and there’s nothing scary about that once you remember… this is how I felt all the time as a child.

But fear happens… it could be the fear of “loss of self” because in the mind-identified state, we are one with our projected self image and the constant mind-stream. We lose ourselves by identification with all the rapidly-firing ideas that project a false sense of self.

And we’ve been doing it for so long that to suddenly jolt out of it feels REALLY scary. If that happens, just carry on as normal for a while and then try again. You could try listening to relaxing music for a while to get to a calmer state before intense “listening” which will certainly lessen the jolt you feel.

Even when I was very experienced with meditation, sometimes the meditation would suddenly deepen and fear would rush in, my heart would start pounding with all the adrenaline released!

So ease into it all gently but persist… keep on keeping on, every day — 30 minutes meditation, flow, listening, keep coming back to silence.

This and all the other lifestyle elements in Happy Guide really bring you back to your natural state… the state children enjoy… health, peace of mind, flow.

What are all the noisy thoughts telling you? In the main, nothing! They are literally static from an ever growing, complex and disturbed web of thought habits that suck you in… they suck your ATTENTION in and that is from one viewpoint, a real tragedy — loss of true self, but from another viewpoint, the pain created from all this creates the will to wake up, to return. So ultimately “it’s all good.”

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Michael Kinnaird is the author of Happy Guide, the result of a 20 year exploration into what works for health and happiness.

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3 thoughts on “Feeling fear in meditation

  1. Is-ness is the nature of the inner emptiness; consciousness is the nature of the inner emptiness; bliss is the nature of the inner emptiness. That’s the fear people feel when they move into meditation.

    When they move into meditation they become afraid, they start trembling. A deep inner trembling arises. A deep anxiety and anguish arises. Why should it be so? You are coming nearer to a blissful state, nearer to an alert, aware consciousness, nearer to existence. Why are you scared of death?

    You are scared because you don’t know how to be empty. You know only how to be filled, you don’t know how to be empty. You don’t know how to die, how to die to the personality, how to remain in the inner emptiness. You don’t know. When you come inwards and thoughts start moving away from you, suddenly fear takes possession.

    Where are you going? You feel like you are disappearing, you feel like you are dying. A sort of non-existence grips you — as if you are standing at an abyss and you are looking down and it is bottomless. And you start trembling and perspiration pours from every pore of your body.

    Death is encountered.



  2. I know, thanks. This your first reply, a while ago. Which I tried to put into practice ever since.

    Thanks again, Mike


  3. Alma, I found this other answer so I thought I’d post it for reference…

    Thoughts YES, very hard at first. But now you see you have been leading two lives :-) THAT alone is an amazing realization. Now comes the practice of moving to the real :-)

    My tack is always to go for simplicity and effectiveness. To this end, I recommend simply listening to your thoughts. Make it a priority, you can do it all the time. This is about waking up, becoming AWARE and therefore moving into CHOICE.

    Simply listen to your thoughts… nothing more need be said really… it’s so simple (but takes a lot of effort at first).

    The unobserved mind-stream has tremendous momentum so it takes effort at first to simply listen. But eventually listening becomes your simple natural and effortless state.

    Start with 10 seconds of no-mind every so often… very often. Keep it important and frequent that you do this exercise. Stop for 10 seconds and listen intently for the next thought. Just doing this is waking up!! It takes alertness and that is the simple key to incredible sanity and peace of mind. Stay alert!!

    You can use little reminders to pay attention — to listen for the next thought… by sticking up post-it notes, or setting your mobile alarm and leaving it on snooze so it goes off every ten minutes.

    When you get some quiet time, sit, close eyes and practice listening for the next thought.

    If you do this earnestly and persistently, you can stay in the real world all the time :-)

    Read and re-read Happy Guide, especially the Live in the Moment chapter… it’s all there! :-)

    The method is so simple, it’s so easy to explain it… doing it… well it’s very difficult at first but simply persist and practice every second. I do it all day long — simply listening for the next thought with curiosity. It’s natural to me now, and in fact IS the natural me :-)



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