Oakville Zen Meditation

#143 How to meditate on our emotions and struggles Jan. 22th 16

                                 How to meditate on emotions and struggles?

How can I meditate on my anger for example or grief, fear, guilt, etc.? This is a very good question.

The main purpose of meditation is to control, at least partially, our ego-driven mind and its non-stop stream of thoughts and feelings. In order to do so we sit still, in silence and focus, usually, on our breathing to anchor the mind that is to force our mind to focus on our in-out breathing as mind anchor.

Every time a thought pops out, we just acknowledge it, then press the delete key and go back to our breathing.

Therefore, after a while of daily practice we learn to be aware of our incoming thoughts as they appear and to do whatever you want with them. Without awareness no action can be taken.

So, awareness is key as the first step to master if we want to control thoughts and feelings. Without such initial awareness, control them is impossible and the mind runs the show 24/7 with us as its poppet.

Being simply aware does not mean to analyze, to judge and to make a decision.

Conscious awareness is simply to observe, to pay attention, to watch w/o any judgment or decision attached.

This is also called mindfulness. To be mindful is to pay attention to focus, mindlessly that is w/o thinking.

If focusing on our own breathing is relatively easy since breathing is non-emotional but can we focus on something more emotional? In other words:

Can we meditate on difficult issues such as deep emotions and current issues in order to control them in a non-emotional way.

The answer is yes for most people who have been meditating regularly with a group and solo.

Lets take the following example:

Stella Smith 42 is very upset against X because X’s behavior is unfair and is hurting her. Stella is mad and angry. Can she meditate on her anger in order to deal with it positively rather than being trapped in an emotional roller coaster? Here are few tips that Stella may consider.

If the anger is totally new and very intense, Stella should not meditate on it right away.

Don’t squeeze a hot coal, the pain will get worse.

So, allow few hours even a day of cooling time since it is almost impossible to focus on an extremely intense emotion. By the way, it is worthwhile for Stella to write down her issues, problems and feelings on a little diary. By doing so it will help not only to cool down somewhat but also to keep tracking on what issues to meditate on.

After one or two days Stella looks at her issues list and decides to start to meditate on her anger as priority.

There are 2 components to consider while meditating on negative feelings:

Quantitative: How much /how long?

She started progressively, alternating focusing on breathing for 10-15 min. for example, then focusing on her anger for a shorter duration. She did increase the duration on her anger in short increments.

When it was too emotional, Stella went back to her more relaxing breathing.

Over time, she was able to spend most of her meditation on her anger w/o over reactions.

Qualitative: How to do it?

How Stella was able to meditate on something very upsetting w/o being too emotional? The keys were: Stella is sensing her anger and its degree from her body’s responses to it since the body is always reacting  to emotions before you realize them. This is a great skill to learn.

She accepts her anger rather than resisting or fighting against it. The more she is resisting, the worse it is.Then she focuses on her emotion w/o trying to analyze it, w/o judging it, w/o searching a solution. No whom, why, how, when, where, what should I do, what her/he should do, the pros, the cons, who is right, who is wrong, etc.

Stella is observing, contemplating, and watching her anger as it is – a state- , like a mirror reflecting things in front of it. By using this passive, neural and non-emotional thinking approach over and over, she knew that her emotional mind will go on neutral gear by adapting and reprograming itself thru new biological wiring.

What is the mechanism?

Not very well understood.

Neuro biomedical & imaging sciences have shown that thinking itself modifies the anatomy, neural circuits and neuro-biochemical composition and functions of the brain including our emotional centers. This is called neuroplasticity. Thinking non-emotionally does drop the amount and activity of our major emotional hormones such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, acetylcholine, histamine, Gaba, glutamine. This is probably similar to the habituation produced by vaccination where small amounts of x, y is inducing tolerance. Same with our emotions. Looking mindfully that is non-emotionally to anger makes our ego less emotional and more tolerant.