Tending To Your Own Suffering
Lesson 13 Chapter 4
“Working with emotions during our meditation sessions sharpens our ability to recognize a feeling just as it begins, not fifteen consequential actions later. We can then go on to develop a more balanced relationship with it - neither letting it overwhelm us so that we lash out rashly, nor ignoring it because we’re afraid or ashamed of it.” - Sharon Salzberg, Real Happiness
Meditation For Difficult Emotions
Mindfulness teaches you how to skillfully manage difficult thoughts. Rather than run away from or dive deep into the content of emotions, we learn how to take a step back, pause, and “take a moment” before reacting. With practice, we come to know our own triggers and overreactions, which empowers us to reduce our stress from the inside out. This has a positive impact on our relationship with our self and others.
Most of us experience difficult emotions as a mixed bag of physical sensations and thoughts—usually in the form of a story we tell ourselves over and over. It is easy to get stuck in the cycle, but ruminating is rarely helpful.
One skillful response is to give your mind a place to rest that is either neutral or positive, as we do with focusing and relaxation meditations. At some point, however, you will be ready to explore your difficult emotions mindfully in order to reduce your suffering and gain insight.
This guided meditation will help you explore difficult emotions as physical experiences in your body. The point of this exercise is to witness the difficult emotions, without pushing them away or clinging to them. Notice how the emotions feels in this moment, and to whatever extent it is possible, let go of the story and touch into direct physical experience.
If you become overwhelmed, turn your focus solely to your breath. If you feel this practice is adding to your suffering, open your eyes and end the meditation. You can always try again at a later time.
The meditation concludes with a brief compassion practice and reflection prompt.