Zen & Buddhism Q&As

Can I meditate if I suffer from anxiety or depression?

If you are troubled by conditions like anxiety or depression, then meditation generally, and Zazen in particular, can potentially be very helpful. 

Zazen is helpful for both of these conditions and for a number of other psychological difficulties because of its emphasis on ‘non-judgemental awareness’ and ‘embodiment’. 

People who suffer from depression, for example, tend to be very mind focused and our practice is to encourage and develop a body awareness and from that an awareness of our environment, and subsequently an awareness of the wider world, with us as an intrinsic part of it. 

However, some people who suffer from very acute anxiety or quite strong depression, may require a practice which is more directed. Therefore a practice deriving from western mindfulness approaches may be more supportive because if you are in quite a difficult state, then just sitting in silence for what may feel to be interminable amounts of time may not be helpful at all.

It can be very helpful to combine meditation with intelligent therapy. Those two things can support each other. It also assists to have some active physical practice alongside Zazen such as yoga, or Qi Gong, or running for example; anything which makes our felt sense of our body more apparent.

If you are unfortunate enough to suffer from psychosis, I do not recommend doing Zazen, it would be better to do a much more directed form of meditation.