It happens that people get anxious in meditation or even get a panic attack with a deadly outcome (suicide). I know of two cases in my immediate environment.
It’s a serious matter.
Prime cause: sensing a loss of control
In meditation, this is most frequently related to depersonalization, the ‘loss of self,’ the feeling of no longer being an entity in uncontroversial control of oneself ― whether or not symbolized through a hallucinatory experience of something outside.
To any organism, this can be related to the sense of no longer being an active agent, or even no longer being alive, being symbolically ‘dead while alive.’ Since life itself starts with a sense of active agency, losing it may be challenging indeed.
I said this is a serious matter!
And yet this is also the aim of deep meditation.
Any meditation that has not this finality – whether the purpose is to attain it or not – is a substitute, not the real thing.
This should lead to caution. At the same time, even crossing a street is deadly challenging if one doesn’t know what one is doing. It’s no reason to keep standing on one side forever. Correct support is indicated.
Another part of deep meditation: being friendly to oneself
This makes the ‘loss of self’ into a loss of only the usual idea of the self ― still not straightforward but a different game altogether.
‘The self’ is not an object you might lose, although, in everyday life, it may feel as such, and people may vehemently hold on to such. Meditation gets interesting when it serves to let you depart from this illusion.
The red light – do not cross the street – is on when you think you need to do this departing by force, being not from the inside out.
The green light is on when you are ready to ‘let your self evolve’ from the inside out.
Who can be anxious in meditation?
Think of this: ‘you’ cannot decide to be anxious or not. It happens to ‘you’ (or not). It is your deeper self that generates the anxiety. It is your self itself that is anxious of getting lost ― which, as said, is precisely the aim of deep meditation.
Therefore, the thing to do is to invite your self, to let it evolve ‘from the inside out,’ not to coerce it in any way. If you do this properly, it will react when it is ready, and otherwise not.
The royal road toward meditation is spontaneous.
All the effort that you may make before this happens quite entirely by itself is needed to then get it for free.
Even so, take care of any anxiety that may arrive at you. It is not needed, but if it comes, it is part of your experience, which you should validate. Don’t try to avoid it; don’t look away from it; don’t try to actively subdue it; don’t run away. It is there for a reason. It is your friend.
It doesn’t want to hurt you.
If it does, you are hurting yourself ― possibly quite substantially. Seriously enough, stay away from deep meditation if you don’t understand this. It is dangerous.
Otherwise, one good preventive idea is to devote part of your mediation on feeling safe and OKAY. There is no danger ahead – and instead, many worthwhile experiences – if you can let your self evolve by itself ― by definition in congruence with your own deepest wish.
If you are ready, you may take as a lesson my own hilarious adventure in the zendo.