In dealing with anxiety, I’ve come to accept that while fearful thoughts come and go, I remain the same.
Visualizations have been helpful in realizing this. One of my favorites, the one made famous by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD — creator of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program — is the Mountain Meditation, and I value this visualization particularly because it is so meaningful in its description.
For this meditation, you settle into your seat and bring your attention to your body. Scanning your different parts, from your feet to your head. Feeling yourself breathe as you go. No need to change anything; you’re simply noticing sensations.
As you sit with eyes closed, shift your thoughts to a beautiful mountain, tall and stately. Imagine the details about it, it can be whatever kind of mountain you choose. Steep or gently sloping, rocky or carpeted with greenery. Allow the image to form itself: the mountain is stable, majestic and unperturbed regardless of the season or weather.
Then, once you have a clear picture of your mountain…allow yourself to become the mountain, settling into its form and taking on its characteristics. Feel yourself grounded in its stillness.
Sitting as the mountain, imagine the seasonal changes and the different weather that each brings. Through the snow of winter that blankets everything, the spring thaw as nature awakens and buds burst open, the summer teeming with life under the warmth of the sun, and autumn with its changing colors and cooler breezes that move you into a quieter state in preparation for the coming winter again.
All these bring wind, precipitation and occasionally harsh conditions whether they be cold or heat. But the mountain still sits as it always has, unmoving and unbothered.
And so you, as the mountain, also sit in the midst of different conditions. When you take on the garb of the mountain, you link with its strength and stability and unchanging nature from day to month to year. This meditation encourages us to see through the chaos of our everyday lives and find the persistent calm behind it.
This is one of my favorite meditations because it carries so much meaning. Below is a YouTube video of Dr. Kabat-Zinn leading a 20-minute Mountain Meditation:
If you would like to read a version of it, PalouseMindfulness.com has provided their own adapted transcript of Kabat-Zinn’s Mountain Meditation in a pdf file. Alternatively, googling “mountain meditation” will also bring up a nice variety of recordings.
I encourage you to try this when you feel you need extra grounding.