As we deepen in our capacity to be present in our lives, we can use meditation practices to understand our emotions. For many people, this is one of the most profound aspects of meditating. Emotions are complex manifestations we all experience. So when we get a handle on them by letting them be felt, we experience the profound shift that emotions can be navigated with compassion. Try this next meditation and see how it connects you to your emotional states.
Create a space to be fully present with your experience. Whether you have an hour or just 5 minutes, gift yourself a set amount of time to check-in with your body. Start by turning off your devices and find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Then, either sit, stand or lay down, and do a body scan. Observe how your body feels in the present moment. Does it feel at ease or tense? Agitated or calm? How is your breath? Is it short or long? Does it feel stuck somewhere in the body? Are there muscles that are sore or tight? Is there numbness in the body? Bring curiosity to the qualities in your physical experience. Notice the subtle changes or movements in your body. Notice the quality of your emotions as you scan your body. Many people find that places in their body are connected to emotional states. As these areas of the body relax and feel, the emotional states are eased.
Have a conversation with your body. Once you have created an intentional space to be with yourself, take a few deep breaths and feel into your body. When you feel ready, you can ask your body a few questions, and then wait and listen.
You can ask, “What wants my awareness now?”, or “What are you (the body) feeling?”, or “What do you, the body, need right now?”. You can be creative in your inquiry. Then, you can give space to listen and feel what comes. The response can be a sensation or feeling, It could also be a voice or an image. The language of the body can be subtle, so it helps to be patient, kind and curious, like you would with a child. This can be challenging at the beginning, but with practice it becomes easier.
Receive the body’s response with compassion and loving kindness. Notice if there are judgements or resistance in response to what the body is expressing. It can be helpful to bring a quality of compassion, care and love to whatever is coming up. Being gentle towards the body can help to ease the tension or resistance to whatever is arising. Welcoming the pain or emotions as they are, with acceptance and compassion, can help them to be understood and released.
Use Discernment. When feeling overwhelmed with emotions, it’s normal to want to temporarily escape them by doing things that might diminish the intensity. I do this sometimes by watching videos and movies on YouTube or Netflix. Sometimes it can help bring greater lightness, laughter or perspective. But it can also be numbing and can be a form of spiritual bypassing, to avoid feeling and facing the uncomfortable info arising in the body and mind. Whatever it is that you do to respond to the overwhelming feelings, you can reflect on how it may be supporting you, and whether it’s healthy to continue.
Ask for help. Sometimes it can feel as if we are in the middle of a tornado, spinning around and around in our thoughts, without knowing which way is up or down. Asking someone you trust for support can be a helpful way to stop the spinning. Their reminders, perspectives, suggestions, and love ground us and open us to the medicine of compassion.
As you become more comfortable and skilled in working with your emotions, here are others questions you can use in your investigations.
Is there anything you want to tell me?
Is there any feelings that we need to spend time with, acknowledge, give them time and let them be digested.
Has anything happened lately that did not feel right and was not acknowledged?
Have I learned something lately that I want to revisit and investigate deeper?
You will be surprised by the answers.
I hope these practices help with understanding your emotional states. May you take time each day to sit, feel, breath, move inwards and listen.
In Metta, Allison Ulan