Meditation is supposed to be a peaceful and blissful experience where you experience a peak of relaxation and live in the present moment. Right?
In theory, that’s what we strive for when starting meditation, but in practice, certain things can get in the way of enjoying and benefitting from meditation as intended.
For instance, some report being scared during their meditation experience. And while it may not be a minority, it’s still a sizable amount of meditation practitioners so it’s worth addressing.
I’ll share some tips, why you might be scared and what I would personally do when experiencing fear when meditating. Meditation itself isn’t scary, but it can be for some with negative memories stacked up, especially when these memories show up during meditation.
It’s a battle after all, because a key component of meditation is being mindful of the present moment, and focusing on your breath.
But it doesn’t always pan out as we expect, which is why I always recommend entering meditation devoid of any expectations. That way, you’ll also be applying the principles of mindfulness from the start, which goes a long way in making meditation less frightening and more effective.
Facing The Fear Head-On With Meditation
This doesn’t sound like the most attractive idea, but it’s no surprise that facing your fear makes you less vulnerable to said fear.
With meditation, at the very least, you have full control over when the experience stops, so if at any point, facing said fear gets too intense, you can always stop the practice and resume it another day, and gradually overcome the fear you had with meditation.
This is especially true if you are facing negative memories that trigger that same fear, the longer you postpone addressing it, the more those memories will intensify, and are likely to show up when you least expect them, which will only get in the way of your day-to-day and diminish your quality of life.
It’s easy for me to speak about facing fear with meditation, but at the end of the day, in one way or another, we all have some sort of fear, and if you are experiencing that fear with meditation, you can at least operate from the notion that you are tackling said fear within a safe environment.
Over time, this helps you to detach from that fear and it might even become non-existent. Your detachment could wind up becoming similar to the detachment of a video game character since you probably wouldn’t experience fear if the character you were playing was going through danger.
With meditation, you learn to see yourself from a third-person perspective, and that’s not to say that you completely renounce all fear whenever you meditate, after all, some fear is justified and would help you if you ever found yourself in a survival situation.
Plus, it’s a primal instinct that always will be there in one way or another, but at the very least, tackling the fear that stems from traumas will often make you stronger psychologically and mentally prepare you for bigger challenges, since you’ll grow a thicker skin.
Getting Out of The Comfort Zone
Meditation, at the surface, can be seen as something as simple as focusing on the present and the breath, but it’s much more than that. It’s a way to step out of your comfort zone, both on a physical and mental level.
There’s, after all, some subconscious resistance first when you start meditating, and a minority feels uncomfortable when they meditate because there are so many thoughts flowing and the silence of one’s own thoughts can be uncomfortable because of what they reveal to us.
But the more you learn to just sit with these thoughts and accept these thoughts, the less power these thoughts have over you.
Once you detach from your thoughts, you become free, and you can start by having the fundamental understanding that you are not your thoughts, and not all thoughts you have are yours.
Some thoughts are part of a belief system you adopted in your childhood or something someone else tried to get you to think, but there’s a you whose identity remains to be formed.
And with the massive amounts of thoughts that you have on a day-to-day basis, meditation allows you to take a step back, and pave the path so you can form your own thoughts that align more with your true identity, it’s a closer connection with yourself. But the price of such gain is discomfort because it involves questioning your belief systems.
When it comes to the physical benefits derived from meditation, they follow indirectly, for instance, with the mental strength you get from meditation comes discipline, and with stronger discipline, sticking to a training routine becomes easier.
Dark Thoughts and The Shadow Within
It’s no secret that when you enter meditation, you’ll often face parts of yourself you had buried subconsciously, or a part of you that you deny because these thoughts are dark. If you manage to shine a light upon these thoughts, they will no longer have power over you.
It can range from insecurities to traumas, but it’s a part of you to overcome, and that will often stand in the way of becoming your greatest self.
We don’t want to accept dark thoughts as part of our identity, but upon shining a light on these thoughts and that they are with you, these thoughts dissipate over time. The more you resist a thought or part of you for that matter, the more it sticks in the back of your mind.
These thoughts can tell you more about yourself and who you really are, as opposed to who you think you actually are. The more you know yourself, the easier it will be to change what you don’t like and form a new identity that aligns with your true self.
Meditation Is Not For Everyone
As much as it pains me to admit this, there is a minority that, almost no matter what, meditation isn’t for them. More notably, those who aren’t interested in any form of personal growth, are scared of change and aren’t willing to make sacrifices.
All those things are necessary on some level in order to thrive with meditation. It’s more of a mindset thing than anything else.
There are also others that get adverse effects from meditation but that’s a very small minority and at the end of the day, everyone should give meditation a fair attempt to determine whether it’s for them.
Now, if you are completely intolerant of facing any sort of discomfort, or fear, meditation likely won’t be for you. However, you could be fortunate enough to only have positive and calming experiences with meditation.
There are some that report seeing scary imagery during meditation, which one would think would be a more understandable reason not to continue pursuing the practice, except that it’s no different than nightmares, and during nightmares, you can’t always leave the dream, whereas meditation is something you always can stop.
What Should You Do To Make Meditation Less Scary?
While there’s no way to control your experience with meditation completely, there are a few ways that make the experience feel more within your control that you might consider if getting scared is a no-no.
No one wants to be scared, and getting scared with meditation is very rare, to begin with, but if, for whatever reason, what I’ve mentioned so far about overcoming fear with meditation doesn’t work with you, there are other things you could do.
Meditating With Others
One way to make meditation less scary is if you meditate with someone else. You might feel more protected and have a sense of collectiveness.
Eventually, you want to master being comfortable with being alone, but meditating with someone else is a good start, at least you’ll be getting more comfortable with meditation as time goes by and you’ll be able to do it on your own.
Now there’s no shame to meditate with someone else, I even recommend meditating with a pet if you can, but my point is, try to not operate from a place of fear, which, if your first impression of meditation was a scary one, it might be harder to not operate from a place of fear but meditation in itself isn’t scary and at its core, it’s just being in the now.
The past or future might be a fight-or-flight defense mechanism but it robs you of what you have before your eyes, that actually exists. The now, unlike the past and future.
Meditating With Your Eyes Open
There won’t always be someone there to meditate, and you’ll eventually want to get over any fear you have with meditation.
But if closing your eyes and focusing on your breath propels your mind to wander to a scary place for your mind, one simple fix is to meditate with your eyes open and be mindful of your surroundings. It sounds simple, right?
All you have to do is be present, and observant about your thoughts. You might not experience meditation at the same intensity as a practitioner that keeps their eyes closed, but you can still reap the benefits of meditation nonetheless.
All in all, don’t let fear hold you back, and as rough as it sounds, you need to overcome that fear if you want to have a fulfilling day-to-day life.