Meditation sessions are a perfect time to allow our emotions to envelop us. It takes discipline and inner strength to allow the emotions which have previously been overwhelming to come to the forefront of our mind.
Self-awareness means being acutely alert and aware of what you’re feeling. This is not about burying emotions in a box and ignoring them. In mindful meditation, it is about being actively aware of your emotions, however distressing or otherwise they may be, and feeling them one by one, so that the full force of the emotion is there. Then, and only then, can we defuse it, if we wish.
Give one emotion a name, look it in the face, allow it to envelop you and accept that you are feeling what you are feeling. The more you accept and embrace that emotion, the more you defuse it and decrease its power over you.
Now the non-judgement… This begins with awareness of your own thoughts and stopping yourself from labelling any of them as good or bad. They just are.
Accept your thoughts and feelings as natural and allow them to come. Non-reacting is allowing your thoughts and feelings to be, without resorting to the need to behave reactively in the same way you have reacted before.
Pause for a moment to reflect on your inner experience. Don’t act hastily and emotionally. So now, you can make this space as large as you like. And you can literally choose how you want to react to this emotion internally as well as externally. What you choose to do in your morning meditation, you will do subconsciously later in the day.
For example, if I feel angry, I feel angry. Having the emotion is not good nor bad. It is what it is. There may be many reasons I am angry and the causative effects of how I’m feeling right now are in the past. Maybe the causes will never stop. But the way I feel right now is a result of what has happened up to this point, and the past cannot be changed or undone.
Right now, while allowing the anger to envelop me, I have a choice to make. Would I like the internal reaction to be “to feel less angry”? Is it a sign of weakness that the same things or people which caused the anger will remain the same and I am changing to be less reactive? Does that mean that I’m allowing them to win? Or, in choosing to suffer less, am I indeed being responsibly selfish enough to be the winner?
If your motivation is to feel less hate, less hypertension and less pain, then maybe you will choose to simply feel less angry when the stimulus occurs next time. It is genuinely a choice. Or maybe the cause of the anger is gone, in which case it’s even easier to simply feel less anger about the past from now on. No matter how justified your anger is, if you choose to let the feelings of rage go, then you may feel more empowered and more free than the perpetrator if you choose to defuse it.
Once the internal reaction has been chosen, what do I want my external reaction to be? Again that’s your choice. Maybe you want to send an eloquent email. Maybe you feel like throwing furniture. Maybe you want to try (dare I suggest it) showing compassion towards an adversary?
It may be that, once the internal rage has become so weak that it’s way down your list of priorities, your external reaction is naturally one of calmness and physical non-reactivity in the face of what would have previously enraged you.
Holding on to distressing and painful emotions disempowers you. Letting go of them, if that’s what you choose, relieves the stress and burden on you to feel responsible for everything, especially those things that you cannot change.
Anger is just one emotion which can be looked at in this way. Anxiety is a great emotion to work with in a similar step-by-step fashion. Fear, grief and regret may be on your list also. When embracing anxiety and feeling it to its full extent, it can be quite nauseating and stressful. You may find your stomach sinking, your pulse increasing, your breaths becoming gasps. “Letting go” of anxiety is simply too difficult and impractical for most people due to the biochemical aspects of it as well as the external causes.
Spending extended periods of time focusing on nothingness can help with anxiety, as can focusing on your breaths and nothing else for as long as possible (ideally 20 minutes at a time). It’s hard but it’s very effective.
However, probably the most powerful tool I have used with my clients, along with the above, is learning to accept that anxiety is not going to go away anytime soon. Acceptance of anxiety as a part of your life (if it is), which contrasts so profoundly with trying to make it go away or cure it, can feel like laying down passively and succumbing to the horrors of it all.
However, if fighting against anxiety hasn’t worked this far, and “letting go” of anxiety is simply too difficult, maybe allowing it to just be, to play along in the background and be accepted for what it is, will decrease its hold over you.
Hans Selye said “It’s not stress that kills us. It’s our reaction to it” and this is true of every emotion you feel.