Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby retrofuturist » Mon May 04, 2009 12:26 am


As a pre-cursor, a quick note to let you know I'm not seeking medical advice or anything along those lines. I'm interested in Buddhist responses, based on Buddhist logic....

A couple of people I know have diagnosed anxiety disorders, but neither of them are currently able to see the connection between their perceptions and responses, and the role that plays in fuelling the cycle of anxiety. Both of these people aren't Buddhist, and one isn't yet prepared to consider meditation as a possible option.

Firstly, does anyone have any suggestions about what type of meditation subjects or techniques would be most suitable for such people, looking to avoid "panic attacks" in the future. Having no meditation experience, it would need to be something simple, possibly something guided, something that could be done in short sessions of up to 30 minutes, and certainly not an extended retreat. It would need to be possible to explain what the meditation practice is, and the simple logic behind how it works.

Secondly, does anyone have any ideas why someone would actively resist meditation or mindfulness as a means to mitigate the likelihood and severity of a panic attack? Some possible reasons that I know of include:

* Fear of the meditation process or coming face-to-face with the "root cause"
* Meditation as "brainwashing"
* The problem being perceived as having physical/chemical origins, and the mental result is therefore uncontrollable
* Disbelief in its efficacy
* Preference for Western methods (e.g. psychiatry, psychology)

Are there any other reasons someone in such a situation could want to avoid meditation?

Thirdly, links to any simple online texts which explain any of the above would be greatly appreciated.

Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby Jechbi » Mon May 04, 2009 1:01 am

Maybe something from ?

Can't vouch for , but they offer online courses. Maybe someone else has knowledge of this?

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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby genkaku » Mon May 04, 2009 1:10 am

Dear retro -- You will pardon me if I give you a scatter-gun response based on suggestions I have heard from time to time.

-- A former psychoanalyst friend of mind once wrote to say she was trying to lend a hand with a book a friend was writing. The book was to be a compendium of very quick-hit suggestions for those feeling depressed or uncertain. She asked if I had any fortune cookies to add. Naturally ( :smile: ) , I did: "Go outside."

-- Another shrink friend once suggested the following as a "very powerful" exercise. She was into Tibetan Buddhism, I think, but she didn't gum up the works with any references to Buddhism. Sitting comfortably erect on a chair, close the eyes, and inhale a full inhale. While inhaling, envision a mountain. The mountain represents the most obvious problem at hand. Breathe in on the mountain. This ... mountain ... is ... the ... problem. Then exhale a full exhale ... and while exhaling, smile. Do this three times. At the end of the third time, pat the tops of your thighs gently ten times. Repeat as necessary.

-- Minus the thigh-patting or any reference to the mountain, I gave the suggestion above to a woman whose world was blown apart when it was discovered her teenager son had diabetes. It was wracking for the boy. It was wracking for the mom. I made the suggestion, minus any Buddhism talk. She tried it ... and for her ... well, its efficacy blew her away.

Just very small suggestions, obviously.
Smile just one smile

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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby Jechbi » Mon May 04, 2009 1:16 am

cool, genkaku. That's tonglen. Here's more:

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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby zavk » Mon May 04, 2009 1:47 am

Hi Retro,

I heard from someone that there are certain techniques in therapy that use body awareness to manage panic and anxiety disorders. It could be something that is done in CBT, I'm not sure. This could be one way of suggesting meditation to them. I think for people with such disorders, it would be helpful to give them a more concrete 'anchor' such as the body to work with, before they begin to explore their perceptual and cognitive processes.

Just my two cents.... I'll let others with expertise in the field of psychotherapy offer a more detailed response.
With metta,

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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby cooran » Mon May 04, 2009 2:49 am

Hello Retro,

I think this might help your friends. I recently did training with Russ Harris and was quite impressed.

"Mindfulness’ is a hot topic in Western psychology: increasingly recognised as an effective way to reduce stress, increase self-awareness, enhance emotional intelligence, and undermine destructive emotive, cognitive, and behavioural processes.
Although mindfulness has only recently been embraced by Western psychology, it is an ancient practice found in a wide range of Eastern philosophies, including Buddhism, Taoism and Yoga. Mindfulness involves consciously bringing awareness to your here-and-now experience with openness, interest, and receptiveness. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a world authority on the use of mindfulness training in the management of clinical problems, defines it as: "Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally."
Mindfulness is about waking up, connecting with ourselves, and appreciating the fullness of each moment of life. Kabat-Zinn calls it, "The art of conscious living." It is a profound way to enhance psychological and emotional resilience, and increase life satisfaction.

Embracing Your Demons: an Overview of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy by R U S S E L L H A R R I S

"The more time and energy we spend
trying to avoid or get rid of unwanted
private experiences the more we are
likely to suffer psychologically in the
long term. Anxiety disorders provide a
good example. It is not the presence of
anxiety that comprises the essence of
an anxiety disorder. After all, anxiety
is a normal human emotion that we all
experience. At the core of any anxiety
disorder lies a major preoccupation
with trying to avoid or get rid of
anxiety. OCD provides a florid
example; I never cease to be amazed
by the elaborate rituals that OCD
sufferers devise, in vain attempts to get
rid of anxiety-provoking thoughts and
images. Sadly, the more importance
we place on avoiding anxiety, the
more we develop anxiety about our
anxiety—thereby exacerbating it. It’s
a vicious cycle, found at the centre of
any anxiety disorder. (What is a panic
attack, if not anxiety about anxiety?)"


---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Mon May 04, 2009 3:53 am

Hi Retro,

I have a severe anxiety disorder and at times it's disabling. I would be curious to know a little more about the type of anxiety your friends suffer from. For example, if they have "attacks" of anxiety, or if it's a generalized experience of anxiety.

I've found single-pointed meditation and regular practice with mindfulness throughout the day to be extremely helpful. My experience has been that during an attack there is the feeling of being very out-of-control. Over a period of time meditation has helped me to train my mind a bit to get through the attacks easier, maintain a sense of control, minimize the uncomfortable physical sensations, and minimize racing thoughts that can accompany an attack.

This is just a tiny comment on the matter. I'll reflect and write more, and if you're able to share any more info with your friends' permission that might be helpful too.


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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Mon May 04, 2009 3:55 am

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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby Cittasanto » Mon May 04, 2009 8:56 am

The Breath is best I find.

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby Nibbida » Wed May 06, 2009 2:49 am

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Re: Suitable meditation techniques/subjects for panic disorders

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Wed May 06, 2009 4:14 pm

Hi Nibanna,

Thanks for sharing what you did. I get anxiety attacks in my sleep with carry-over anxiety too, but I've never heard anyone else say that.


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