Day 19 of 30: Relating To Emotions
Yesterday, you practiced being with your desire.
Today, we’ll continue on by exploring your relationship to emotions. Similar to desire, your emotions are experiences that:
- Include both bodily sensations and thoughts
- Range in intensity
- Often compel action
Today we’re like scientists studying ourselves. What are these emotions? Why do you have them?
I don’t recall which book it is in, but I think it is Sharon Salzberg who offers this powerful thought experiment: People from a different world visit our planet and make contact with you. They provide a translator so you can understand their communication. They evolved under very different conditions so they look nothing like you. They share with you, “We heard of this thing called anger and we don’t think we have it in our experience. What is this thing? Tell us what experiencing anger is like. When does it arise? Why does it happen? How does it serve you?”
Explaining the roots, experience, and purpose for each type of emotion to that level of detail can force some clarity, right?
Meditation is Relating
A helpful reminder is that the choice for how to relate to your experience is up to you. You can choose to be in the role of observer. Or you can be in the middle of what is happening.
Returning to the analogy of a river we explored several days ago, you can stand where it is peaceful & safe on the riverbank, or you can be in the middle of a (sometimes roaring & choppy) current that shakes you & pushes on you. The river is the stream of successive feelings and emotions. Are you in them? Or are you observing them? If your experience is you are in the mix of your feelings and emotions, (i) please hang in there with more repetitions of daily meditation practice, and (ii) you may choose to return to daily calm focus meditation until you notice a shift in how you are relating to your experience.
As a starting point for today, I invite you to try on a specific orientation for when an emotional experience arises. It’ll be a helpful starting point as we progress and build on these foundations in successive days. When an emotional experience arises and you notice it:
- Welcome it like a friend (“Hello, joy! I know you. Great to see you!!!”)
- Attend to it as if it is bringing you an important time-sensitive message (“Thank you for bringing me this message! I know it is important so I’ll read it right now.”)
In some cultures today, you may have been taught that some emotional experiences are ‘bad.’ Caregivers or other authorities may have said in a stern voice:
- Judgment: “Don’t be a jealous person! Stop being so crazy.”
- Demand: “Go to your room and come back when you can control your anger.”
- Dismissal: “Pull yourself together. There’s nothing to be sad about.”
What possibilities and insights arise when the jealousy, anger, sadness, or whatever the emotion is, are your friends who care about you and are bringing you messages that they think are important for your welfare?
The invitation to you is to do a little prep before your meditation practice today. If you’re up for it, think of a recent experience in which you felt joy.
- Once you have selected one recent experience of joy, set your timer and then practice calm focus meditation until you notice your concentration deepen.
- When you notice a shift into a more calm focused state, please direct your awareness to remembering the recent experience in which you felt joy. Imagine it in as much detail as possible until joy arises in you now.
- As you notice the joy, first say “Hello” to it. Welcome it. “What do you have to tell me?”
- After greeting the joy, rest your attention on your bodily sensations for a few minutes. Savor them. Where do you feel them in your body? What are the felt senses of these feelings? Do you notice any shift in the feelings over time as you pay attention to them?
- After sitting with these feelings for a few minutes, please turn your attention to watching your thoughts. I invite you to watch them. Please don’t give any one thought energy by pursuing it. A thought arises, notice it, and then let it go. Do you notice any patterns?
- After a few minutes observing your thoughts, the invitation is to direct your thoughts by asking yourself a few times: “What is this joy trying to tell me? What is its important message?” Sit with that questions for a bit. The general message of joy is appreciation, such as the form of “I really like it when ____ .” Try filling in the blank specifically for this recent experience. “I really like it when _____ .” Then one more time, only this time adding why you like it. “I really like it when _____ because it contributes to my needs for _______ .” (Example: “I really like it when my sister calls me because it contributes to my need for connection.”). If time permits, continue on repeating the question and answers to see if there is any more to be understood about the reasons for your experience of joy and what is important to you.
Lots of words and steps above. Don’t worry too much if it today’s meditation did not unfold exactly as outlined above. It may have been the first time you’ve tried something like this practice. If so, I’d encourage you to make time to return to it a second time once you feel more comfortable with these steps.
If you’d like, please offer what you learned about the experience of joy and your relationship to it in today’s practice by sharing in the comments below. Please raise awareness of this content by sharing it using the social media icons adjacent to it. Please reach out to me if I can support you.
See you tomorrow!
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The Guest House by Rumi
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each as been sent
as a guide from beyond.