Working with Emotions

I have been studying the relationship between emotions and meditation.   It is interesting that one can become attuned, if you will, to how emotions effect their body.   There are some forms of meditation that have been helpful.  I want to clarify that emotions are not good or bad in themselves.   It is our response to them that causes issues for us.  This is an ongoing study for me and I will try to share as much of it as I can with you.   Please offer your comments and advice too.

In sitting meditation, I have begun to do some practice where I work with emotions.  I think of something that pisses me off or angers me or hurts me. Then I hold that emotion long enough to observe it, study it and work with it. Then I let it go.   I find that certain kinds of emotional “feelings” cause certain sensations in my body.   For example, anger, for me, causes a tightness in my neck and sometimes overtakes my thinking process where I find myself saying something I would rather not have said.    In working with this on the meditation cushion or chair, I have begun to notice the various kinds of physical sensations that happen based no whatever emotional feeling I experience.  Another example is when I am afraid.   I find that I become weak- kneed and my sight tends to become confused.    I have worked with this and, in some cases, I can pinpoint the moment when the emotion arises and my body begins to react. Please do not think that I think I am some great spiritual person because of this.    I am still very much working with it. However, I know from experience that it it possible to work with emotions.

I can sometimes let the stong emotion go and it will subside with hardly any struggle.  Then again, it might fight to hold it’s place.  The Sakyong says that we can take one of two approaches when working with emotions.

First, “if we have developed our practice to the point where we can just breath and let the strong emotion go, that’s what we should do.  Relying on our stable mind, we can let the power of our meditation bring us back to the breath which gives us space.  The the emotion begins to lose its grip.

The other approach is to dismantle it by contemplating it.  Dismantling is grounded in knowing that no matter how solid the emotion feels, it’s fabricated…

The tight ball of hatred, desire, or jealousy feels so solid that we actually feel it in our body as a lump in our throat, a rising wave of heat, an aching heart.
An emotion that feels as big as a house can be dismantled brick by brick.  In dismantling, we use the emotion as an object of meditation.   The way dismantling works is that we engage the missing element: reason.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but reason is not so close when I really get emotional.  It takes some practice, patience and faith to effectively deal with the emotion.   Thich Nhat Hanh defines faith as, “the confidence we receive when we put into practice a teaching that helps us overcome difficulties and obtain some transformation.   It is like the confidence that a farmer has in his way of growing crops.   It is not blind.   It is not some believe in a set of ideas or dogmas.”   Having worked with emotions and finding that there has been even a bit of success in not letting emotions overtake me, I have faith the the practice will continue to help me.

I will write more later about dealing with emotions.

Peace To You All


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