Friday, December 31, 2010

Meditation for Challenging Emotion

Meditation tends to make you calmer, more spacious, and more relaxed —at least most of the time. When you follow your breath, repeat a mantra, or practice some other basic technique every day, your mind begins to settle down naturally, while thoughts and feelings spontaneously bubble up and release like the fizz in a bottle of soda. The process is so relaxing that the folks in Transcendental Meditation call it unstressing. When you meditate regularly for a period of time, however, you may find that certain emotions or states of mind keep coming back to distract or disturb you. Instead of dispersing, the same sexual fantasies, sad or fearful thoughts, or painful memories may keep playing in your awareness like a CD stuck in the same old groove. Or you may be meditating on lovingkindness but keep coming up against unresolved resentment or rage. Instead of watching the mist rising from the lake, you’ve begun your descent into the muddy and sometimes turbulent waters of your inner experience. At first, you may be surprised, dismayed, or even frightened by what you encounter, and you may conclude that you’re doing something wrong. But have no fear! The truth is, your meditation has actually begun to deepen, and you’re ready to expand your range of meditation techniques to help you navigate this new terrain.
At this point, you may find it helpful to extend your practice of from your breathing and your bodily sensations to your thoughts and emotions. As you gently focus the light of your awareness on this dimension of your experience, you can begin to sort out what’s actually going on inside you. In the process, you can get to know yourself better —even make friends with yourself. If you keep it up, you can eventually start to penetrate and even unravel some old habitual patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving — patterns that have been causing you suffering and stress and keeping you stuck for a long, long time.

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