Arriving Home :: Emotions In Meditation
Emotions In Meditation
We've all been there. A feeling arises within the first few minutes of your meditation practice and you already want to get up and move. Whether it's fidgeting, agitation, a known sense of sadness, or feelings of anxiety and stress, any emotional experience that is uncomfortable can make us want to open our eyes and say, "I don't want to feel this right now."
Learning to skillfully work with our emotions through mindfulness can help US during meditation and when we encounter strong emotions in the midst of everyday life.
In this 'Arriving Home' we will first discuss the nature of emotions, and then go through best practices to meet our emotions with mindfulness.
The Nature of Emotions
I like to describe emotions as behaving much like the weather. Weather patterns will come in and come out, and then change in the blink of an eye. One moment it will be sunny, and the next it will be gloomy - emotions work in the same exact way. They rise and fall, come and go, bringing bursts of intensity with them - and then in the next moment, they're gone. Until we understand the impermanent nature of emotions, we tend to think our feelings, moods and emotions are permanent because we tend to over-identify with our emotions. In school, we are never taught the basic principles of emotion. How would we know to not let our emotions lay on us like a heavy cloak? How would we know that some emotions are more like tornadoes, destructive and sudden, while others feel like a hefty fog, thick and blanketing, reducing our ability to see?
Mindfully Working With Emotions
Once you understand emotions, it is easier to see them for what they are: currents of energy in motion. With this understanding, you can mindfully work with your emotions so they can pass through you in a healthy way.
RAIN Meditation is a practice for mindfulness of emotions. RAIN is an acronym for Recognize, Allow, Investigate, and Not-Identify/Nurture. Below we will walk through the meditation so you can practice it on your own as pleasant or unpleasant emotions arise.
As an emotion arises in meditation, we often can't help but notice. To bring mindfulness to your emotional experience you first want to recognize what the emotion actually is. You want to name it, label it and call it out for what it is. Once you name the emotion, you bring your mindful awareness to it and are instantly not so entangled in the emotion. Once you name the emotion, it is much easier to say "Oh I have anger. Or anger is here" instead of "I am angry." This makes a big difference.
- After you have named your emotion, the next step is to face it. This is mindfulness in action: learning to be with what is, in a non-judgmental way! Often we resist our emotions, especially if they are unpleasant, or we wish them away and want them never return. When practicing mindfulness of emotions, we learn not to turn away, but to allow them to be there.
- Once you have allowed the emotion to be, we then turn towards it. Mindful investigation of your emotions is the practice of observing how the emotional experience is affecting you in your body, heart and mind. Bring your mindful attention to where the emotion is living in the body first. If you are feeling anxious, you may feel tightness in your chest or tension in your jaw. If you are feeling joy, you may feel warmth in your heart and lightness in your body. Notice the physical expressions of your feeling in your body and notice your state of mind. Is the mind anxious or relaxed? At ease or fearful? Be your own inner-scientist when investigating your emotions.
N: Not-Identify & Nurture
This last step of RAIN is where we learn to let go and to transform our emotions in a healthy way. The beauty is if you have already gone through the first three steps of RAIN you have already done the first part of N, Not-Identify. After you name your emotion, you lessen your identification with it. Once you let your emotion be there, you are softening its charge and separating yourself from it. Through investigation, you see it for what it is, another changing emotion that is here for now, not forever.
Then comes the second part of N which is Nurture. Once you have not-identified, you apply the healing balm of compassion to it. Through kind understanding, sincere empathy and compassion, your emotion will let go and transform over time.
You can practice RAIN Meditation during your meditation practice, more formally as a meditation in itself and also on the spot as emotions arise in the moment during the day.
May you learn to meet your emotions with ease, care and compassion.
With Love, Amanda