Breathe—repeat as necessary

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I’m scared to keep meditating because I’m afraid I might unravel something and never recover. I was recently diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and anxiety. So many things make sense, but I’m also sad about the diagnosis. Does it mean that all my efforts are a waste? Is it hopeless? I don’t know whether to give up on doing inner work and let medication pave the way to the sofa or the fridge or the TV, or continue going to group therapy and work with doctors and meditate. Please help.

Meditation has become a catchall term to describe a variety of activities, very few of them spiritual. I’ve heard people claim to be meditators, but while talking with them I discover they actually practice guided visualization (listening to a recorded or live voice). Other people listen to music (with or without lyrics), and allow it to direct their thoughts and feelings. People also use apps as reminders to attempt mindfulness, which is not the same as a meditation practice. Apps tend to engage the ego, especially those apps that gamify experiences with gold stars for milestones. None of these activities exercise the inner musculature necessary to be present or to undo the habits of distraction that a mind or a smartphone offers.

Meditation doesn’t require incense or a special pillow or a community or a smartphone. It’s the antidote to need. Learning to sit still and be at peace weans us from the addiction to adrenaline that drives most emotional dramas.

Your situation is different. Right now, you are afraid of your mind. Instead, see yourself as needing to develop a new way to thrive. Choose to live a healthy life with your diagnosis. Do everything you can to take care of yourself: Go to group therapy. Work with doctors who understand and support your health. Eat fresh, organic food daily, and lots of greens. Go for a walk in nature or a park every day. Take your medication. Try to counteract each negative thought about yourself or others or the world with a positive thought. Practice this when you are feeling good. It will help your inner strength to grow. That way, fortitude might surface when you need it most.

One trait of a borderline personality is a tendency to view things in extremes—all good or all bad. Someone who was a friend is suddenly an enemy. That behavior also permeates social media. If you spend too much time online, you might find it triggering to discover that someone who was once lauded is now being demonized. So be kind to yourself. Step out of the news stream whenever you like.

And yes, meditate, but only if it feels right. Perhaps work one-on-one with a meditation teacher who is also a psychologist. If this is not possible, sit quietly for three minutes, eyes closed. Breathe. Allow each breath to deepen and lengthen. The second before it feels like too much, stop. Use your breath to center yourself like this at regular intervals during the day.

No need to call it meditation. Call it getting to know yourself as a friend.

Meditation of the Week

“Sometimes you crawl out of bed in the morning, and you think, ‘I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside, remembering all the times you’ve felt that way,’” wrote Charles Bukowski in his poem, “Gamblers All.” Can you savor the light on the horizon?