Last updated July, 2016.
"My goal for meditating is to overcome anxiety. Is this reasonable?"
First, consider changing your perspective from "overcoming" to dealing with it skillfully.
If you believe you will completely overcome something (i.e., get rid of your anxiety), you'll be frustrated if anxious thoughts and emotions come back. You will judge yourself, and may give up practicing because you believe you've failed.
Second, what does the word "goal" mean to you? Are you rejecting your present circumstances, driving towards a future vision of yourself, and pinning your happiness to whether or not you achieve that vision?
If you're wishing your circumstances are different than they are, this will likely give rise to more anxiety and make your condition worse.
Instead, accept things as they are right here and now. Cultivate awareness of what's happening in your mind. See what your anxiety is composed of - is there doubt? Fear? Worry?
Notice what's there, but don't try to fight it - simply let it be as it is. And then, move your attention away from it.
This may be uncomfortable at first - we tend to feel we are "giving in" if we aren't fighting. But, that's not the case. Those thoughts and emotions are there whether you fight them or not.
If you do fight them, you are indulging them - you are giving them fuel. This gives rise to more thoughts and emotions, and they become persistent and pervasive. This is how you get dragged into those "pits of despair."
When you let everything be as it is, however, you will discover it's not the problem your mind made it out to be. The thoughts and emotions are temporary: they'll come, but they'll also go - provided you don't allow your attention to get caught up in them (provided you don't indulge them).
How do you do it?
When you meditate, focus your attention on an anchor (usually your breath or a mantra). When those thoughts and emotions arise and you notice your attention is caught up in them, simply return it to your anchor.
Do it over and over, because you are developing a skill. And, you can transfer that skill to your "non-meditating" time.
When you aren't meditating (when you are going about your daily activities), focus your attention on the present moment. When those thoughts and emotions arise and you notice your attention is caught up in them, simply return it to the present moment.
This is how meditation and mindfulness work. You aren't "overcoming" anything - you are changing your relationship with it.
And, by cultivating awareness, you begin to realize you don't have to take the bait and follow your thoughts, emotions, and other mind-made activity into a pit of despair.
Where to now?
Most of us go through life in a state of distraction, and we don't even realize it.
We are immersed in a never-ending stream of thoughts and emotions. They hijack our attention, and cause the struggles we deal with every day (continue reading)...
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