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21 May 2024

Meditation Helped Me Let Go of Overwhelming Anxiety

Nathalie Delaney

Exhausted all the time

I struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. I was so familiar with the feeling that I identified with it: ‘I AM an anxious person’. This thought pattern had become a necessary part of how I processed the challenges I faced in my life. I believed that if I had control over my external world, and if everything was perfect out there, then I would be happy.

Often I would make jokes about my anxious tendencies so that I did not have to face the fact that I felt powerless in their grip. Somehow, I managed to keep my head above water long enough that it appeared on the surface to others that I knew how to swim. I mastered the art of suppressing my feelings. Looking back now, I was exhausted all of the time.

Worry stole my ability to feel happy

Working in healthcare during a global pandemic brought to the surface a whole new level of fear and uncertainty for me that I was ill-equipped to cope with. On top of this global epidemic, Ireland's housing crisis was worsening, increasing my anxiety for my own future security. I spent most of my time worrying about my future and it quickly stole my ability to feel happy. I projected my fears onto those closest to me and this began to negatively impact my close relationships.

I was in a state of fight or flight, becoming more suspicious of people and how they viewed me. Everything was a threat and no matter where I looked, I found evidence to support this perception. The more disconnected from others I felt, the smaller my world became. This overwhelming emotion, that I was so familiar with, was building a new kind of momentum. I felt powerless, as if I was drowning, only this time I could not paddle to safety. I began experiencing frequent panic attacks. I often thought to myself ‘surely this can’t be the extent of my human existence?’ - that humans suffer and there’s nothing they can do about it. I was physically and emotionally tired of being controlled and pulled by external tides. I knew I could no longer pretend that I was in control, I could not laugh it off or expect those I loved to rescue me and I certainly could not wait for the world to be perfect in order to be happy.


Experiencing the benefits of meditation

Up until this time in my life I never considered myself spiritual, but I had this feeling in my heart that something was missing in my life, that there was another way. I had heard stories and read of the benefits of meditation practice in the past and decided to give it a go. I Googled meditation classes in my area and found a Kadampa Meditation Centre near me. I attended my first meditation class in April 2021 and instantly felt at ease.

I appreciated the relaxed approach the Resident Teacher took when delivering Dharma (Buddha’s teachings) and that there were no expectations placed on me. Everyone was there for different personal reasons, but we all shared one thing in common, the desire to be truly happy, moment to moment.
I listened carefully to the Dharma being shared and several things resonated with me during that class. The teacher explained that ‘wherever you lean you will eventually naturally land, just gently reverse the lean’ and also that ‘you are not ‘anxiety’, it is a feeling that you are overly familiar with and therefore you identify with it’. During my first guided meditation I felt my mind begin to settle and a peaceful feeling started to naturally arise. Things began to make sense and the clouds of confusion started to part. I realised that I was leaning into tendencies of anxiety and that’s where I landed, every time. I thought that if my mind can feel this peaceful during a short meditation then my mind cannot inherently BE anxious, and I can begin to reverse the lean. At that moment, I felt a shift in my mindset. I felt motivated and liberated by the idea that anxiety was just a temporary feeling which I was overly identifying with and that I could learn practices to help me reduce its power and eventually cause it to cease.


My mind is peaceful and clear

When I first started practicing, I found simple breathing meditations difficult. My mind was so busy, and I found it hard to concentrate for long periods at a time. With a gentle and relaxed approach, I practiced consistently and my meditation practice slowly improved. Meditation has shown me the true nature of my mind. That it is essentially peaceful and clear, that feelings of anxiety and fear are like clouds in the sky that I can learn to let go of and eventually become free of them. I started to notice this newly learned skill trickle into my day-to-day life. It transformed how I viewed myself and others, improving my interactions with family, friends, colleagues, and strangers. Learning to love and appreciate all living beings and to be grateful for this precious human life has helped me to feel more connected to others.

Meditation has help me to start truly living

Every day I learn to become more accepting of the way things really are. Discovering that true happiness comes from within and that it is not dependent upon external factors has been a profoundly liberating experience for me. Overall, Dharma, and the daily practice of meditation, has helped me to start truly living. I’m learning to become more present, and I deeply believe that this path can help me to be consistently happy and peaceful no matter what happens in my life.

Although my life is not completely free of negative emotions, I can say with confidence that they no longer rule me like before. Since my first meditation class I’ve not had a single panic attack or felt like ‘an anxious person’. I joined the Foundation Programme to deepen my understanding of Kadampa Buddhist practice and I can sincerely say that I’ve never looked back.

Nathalie attends Kadampa Meditation Center Dublin
Find a Kadampa Center near you.

Share Your Dharma Journey

If you have a personal story about the positive impact of Dharma in your life and would like to share it with the community, please feel free to reach out to us. You can submit your story by emailing it to [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you and sharing your inspiring journey with others.