So I was doing breath meditation each day for 30 mins or so for around 2 years. Then over the past year I have found that it is causing me to feel strange and anxious when doing everyday tasks. When I meditate I don't feel the symptoms but during the day when I have to start thinking the symptoms come.

When its at its worst loud sounds can make me feel very odd (e.g. someone shouting or laughing suddenly and loudly). However, if I have to speak and have a conversation then the symptoms tend to go.

It's very frustrating because meditation has been such a great interest for me and has helped me so much in lots of other areas that I am reluctant to give it up completely. I am a pragmatist though and if the right move is to give it up completely then I will do that.

Has anyone else had any experience of this or got any advice. Obviously its a tricky thing to advise on as you don't know the entirety of the situation but any help would be really appreciated.


  • Calm is our natural state. Please seek out an experienced teacher.
    – C Smith
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 21:44
  • This adds to my suspicion about mindfulness meditation as a stand-alone practice. .
    – user14119
    Commented Sep 22, 2019 at 11:14

8 Answers 8


You said anxiety symptoms cease when you meditate.

A great opportunity for learning the cause of your anxiety has come to you. Once you see the cause, you'll become forever free of any form of anxiety.

Now it's time to put the hard work of meditation you've done in the past 2 years into practical use.

Try this:

Make the anxiety arise. How? You already know how. Go into the environment where you start feeling anxious.

Once anxiety arises, go quickly in meditation and observe how the symptoms cease.

Then, come quickly out of meditation and observe how the symptoms arise.

Then, go again in meditation, but this time slowly, and observe how the symptoms cease.

Then, come out of meditation, but this time slowly, and observe how the symptoms arise.

Then, do the above very very slowly and observe very very attentively. Then do it again, but veryyyyy veryyyyy slowly and observe veryyyyy veryyyyy attentively.

Do the above exercise many many times. Observe precisely, like a scientist observes things under the microscope. You'll see the cause of your anxiety. Once you know the cause, you'll gain total freedom from anxiety.

  • Thanks very much for this. I am trying to follow this approach. Aiming to observe the anxiety itself to understand it better. It is tricky as its the act of meditating that is making me anxious so the more I simply observe the more anxious I become. However, I am trying to keep sitting with it. Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 15:34

Simple answer: It's a phase, it will pass.

Detailed answer: Mindfulness meditation doesn't result in a strictly upward curve in terms of clarity or perceived well being. This is one of the reasons for getting guidance from someone experienced, so that they can give you proper feedback on whether you are making progress or not.

If you don't have a teacher/can't find one, I can give you some tools for self diagnosis, let me know in the comments. But be warned, self diagnosis has its own issues and assuming oneself to be in different stage can cause unnecessary and needless suffering that one can do without by just sticking to regular practice.


refer to rows 2 (possible current stage) and 3.1 (possible reason for worsening symptoms)

  • Yeah would appreciate tools for self diagnosis. Will use it with the necessary caveats. I'm not sure it is a phase because its been ongoing for around a year now. Also if I meditate through the symptoms they just get worse. Thanks for your help :) Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 14:53

So the situation is this: When you venture into the world you experience anxiety and a sense of depersonalization. When you return to your sitting practice everything becomes calm.

What is the problem?

The world is an anxiety-producing thing and the escape from it is to recognize that there is no personal-self there.

Sitting and examining and letting go brings forth the perception of things as they are. Recognizing things as they are (they change, they bring pain, they are not you or yours) one should become anxious ... to escape by recognizing the impersonal nature of a world that is nothing but a vehicle for inflicting pain.

Your mind has recognized both the problem and its solution. Your Persona fights tooth-and-nail to preserve the status quo by making you think the problem is solvable by going deeper into the world. It isn't. Your meditation is clearly telling you which way to go.

Read the suttas!


Mindfulness is just awareness of whatever is there now.

Why would be truly aware of things (non-depressedly or attachedly) ever lead to anything but greater clarity and energy?

Try breaking down the sensations that you are feeling in and out of meditation.

You are holding onto some concept either in Practice or normal life.

More calm but consistent awareness is best following the Five Faculties. An in-depth study of this subject will be of great benefit to Practice and may help you find out what you are doing wrong with your attention.

  • When I am meditating and am aware then I am fine. It's when thoughts come back that the issue arises. I sub-consciously don't like the sense of calm and the experience of no-thought. I am having a reaction to it. Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 16:10
  • Some people have an anxious attachment to activity, and others have an attachment to nothing and peace. Neither are ultimately good because (1) what use is activity? everything is empty anyway, sands on the ocean of time and on the other hand (2) nothing does not have an ostensible immediate benefit as activity does. Anyway, whatever reaction you are having it is transforming you in an ultimately good way. I'd suggest to spend an equal amount of time studying meditation as practicing and that will be informative to achieving specific points in meditation.
    – Ahmed
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 15:25

In order to understand why you "feel strange and anxious" you need to understand a bit about the psychology of mindfulness meditation and about the psychology of sankhara (schemata according to Emmanuel Kant) in particular. As an unconscious cognitive process, sankhara is a fundamental adaptive and very intelligent process whereby we make sense of our experience (and form beliefs, feelings, wishes, attitudes, and the like). This process results in the formation of a set of relevant dispositions (beliefs, desires, fears, motives, perceptions, and other adaptive strategies). In the Pali language, this set of dispositions is also called a sankhara. Hence, the term sankhara has two but closely related meanings. There are several types of sankhara. The type that is relevant to your situation is the kind of sankhara that infants and young children form when they are forced to adapt to other people or circumstances they do not understand. In extreme cases, this is the means by which children adapt to physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse. This kind of sankhara always has a history of adaptations to the recurrences of the same problem. I my view, you are re-experiencing a childhood adaptation to a very difficult situation. An advanced form of mindfulness meditation was suggested by the Buddha in the Satipattana Sutta called meditating on "the body in the body." This process was re-discovered by Eugene Gendlin, a clinical psychologist. He called it the process of "focusing" in his book called Focusing. I recommend you read it. In my own book on the subject, I would suggest that you are experiencing the effect of a safeguard process that has the function of detecting, revising, or correcting poorly informed or maladaptive sankhara. In your case, you are probably in the process of recalling a very distressing childhood situation, such as a very angry, indifferent, violent, unloving, or unaware parent or caregiver. The safeguard process causes you to gradually recall a distressing situation bit by bit. This allows you to become unafraid of the original experience. Eventually, whether you try "focusing" on it or continue to meditate, you will fully recall a very troublesome or traumatic experience to which you needed to adapt without understanding it. At the time, you were forced to make a decision (a mental action or karma in Buddhist terminology) as to how adapt. The process of this imposed (by the safeguard process) recollection is to give you a chance to recall and then revise this decision and thereby free you from a painful or distressing emotion (a form of suffering in Buddhist terminology). It is important that you recognize this safeguard process is trying to help you. Safeguard processes are your best friends once you understand them. They are innate forms of intelligence (sankhara) that come from your core intelligence (Bodhicitta). But that is another story.


I actually have the same experiences and symptoms as you do: * Passion on Meditation * When you talk to somebody you feel relief * Dream like state * You frightened when you hear a big noise etc etc

May be you could help me. May be You have discovered something good to overcome it in these years. Please contact me.

Warm Regards



Mindfulness meditation will not cause any anxiety or stress as the very nature and purpose of it is to help people to come out of anxiety. This is provided:

  • you practice the right technique
  • you practice the technique properly

In meditation, one has to maintain equality and terms of experience and progress. There many who get frustrated in doing meditation when one is expecting a certain result, experience and progress. From what you say this might be the case of what you are experiencing. See if this is the case and the instruction one is to practice and then continue.


Do you have any expectation as to what meditation should be, or expected results of meditation? Do you think of meditation as a "task" or a "chore" to do in order to accomplish X, Y, or Z objective? Anxiety is rooted in expectation, as it is ultimately a result of the mind feeling unfulfilled, and to be unfulfilled implies that we're holding onto some sort of expectation as to the way things "ought to be". It's like trying to take a drink of water by clenching your hands at it, instead of cupping your hands and allowing the water to gently flow in and be collected. To rigidly create a distinction between meditation and "not-meditation" can further exaggerate anxious symptoms as these separating, polarizing definitions form an expectation around what meditation is and is not. It is helpful to draw less of this distinction, and understand that beneath the loudness of the outer world, that meditative presence is eternally present, the calm stillness that is our true nature.

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