As we deepen in our capacity to be present in our lives, we can use meditation to understand our emotions. For many people, this is the most profound aspect of meditating. Emotions are complex manifestations we all experience. So when we get a handle on them, it is a revelation. By turning towards emotional states and letting them be felt, we experience the profound shift that emotions can be navigated with understanding. Try these next meditations and see how they connect you to your emotional states.
Create a space to be fully present with your experience.
Whether you have an hour or just 10 minutes, gift yourself a set amount of time to check-in with your body. Emotions always have a physiological response. So when we feel our bodies, we begin the connection to our emotions.
Start by turning off your devices, computer and phone. Find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted or interrupted. Then, either sit or lay down. Get as comfortable as you can.
Next do a body scan. Observe how your body feels in the present moment. Kindly and patiently turn your awareness to the sensations of your body.
Notice where does your body touches the ground. Bring attention to where can you tangibly connect with your breath in your body? Does it feel at ease or tense? Agitated or calm? Is it short or long? Does it feel stuck somewhere in the body? Are there muscles that are sore or tight? Bring kind curiosity to these sensations. These sensations are your body taking care of itself. As you stay with the sensations, notice the subtle changes or internal movements unfolding. This body scan can be your meditation for several sessions.
Next, have a conversation with your body.
Once you have created an intentional space to be with your body sensations, you can move onto the next stage of being with your emotions. After you do your body scan and feel how it calms you, take a few deep breaths and feel deeper into your body. When you feel ready, you can ask your body a few questions. This will take time and a leap of faith. Rest assured, your body will responds to your questions in curious ways.
You can ask, “Body, what wants my awareness now?”, or “What emotions need my attention and kindness?”, or “What do you, the body, need right now?” You can be creative in your inquiry. Then, give space to listen and feel what unfolds.
The response may be a sensation or feeling. It could also be a voice or an image. The language of the body can be subtle. 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 to listen inwards.
You may find it helpful is to keep a meditation dairy. Write down whatever your body shares and offers. Then read it back to yourself and receive the insight.
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 is helpful to bring a quality of compassion, care and love to whatever is coming up. Being gentle towards the body and emotional state expressed through it, can help to ease the tension or resistance. Welcome the pain or emotions as they are. With acceptance and compassion, they will be understood and released over time and inquiry. With increased understanding, the choice of how to respond to them will arise.
When feeling overwhelmed with emotions, it’s normal to want to temporarily escape them by doing things that might diminish the intensity. Be kind with yourself. Give yourself the permission to take a break from the emotional state. Sometimes it can be helpful to choose to do something else which brings lightness, laughter or perspective.
Yet, be on alert, if you are avoiding your emotions all the time. This can be a sign of emotional bypassing which is avoiding feelings which are uncomfortable. Whatever it is that you do to respond to the overwhelming feelings, you can reflect on how it is supporting you. Signs that you are making emotional progress is that you see that you can be with your emotions and accompanying sensations for more and more time in your meditations. Another sing of emotional intelligence is that you see that your emotions are momentary and circumstantial. They only arise with specific causes and conditions. Another sign of emotional intelligence is that you recognize that you are not alone in experiencing difficult emotional states.
Ask for help.
With difficult emotional states, 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 we trust for support can be a wise way to stop the spinning. Their presence, perspective, suggestions and love ground us. Their friendship opens us to the medicine of compassion.
As you become more comfortable and skilled in working with your emotions, here are other open 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? How does it want to be acknowledged?
Have I learned something lately that I want to revisit and investigate deeper?
I hope these practices help with understanding your emotional states. May you take time each day to sit, breath, sense and attune to evolve.
In Metta, Allison Ulan