When it comes to meditation, one argument presented by many skeptics is the belief that it causes you to stifle and suppress your emotions rather than feeling them. I wonder if those skeptics have actually tried to practice meditation?
Just to be fair. Although one goal in any meditation practice is to learn how not to be consumed by emotion, the only way to do that is by feeling. The trick, however, is to disengage from the story that generally attaches itself to that feeling.
In this latest Huffington Post, David Nichtern gives a great overview of mindfulness meditation by breaking down its components and addressing how to deal with the “story line” that accompanies many strong emotions.
1. Place our awareness on our breath.
2. Recognize what arises in our minds — without trying to manipulate, judge or suppress anything.
3. Simply see what arises in our mind as it comes up. Just notice it.
4. Then let go of the thoughts and return our awareness to the breath thereby coming back to the present moment.
This sequence is what we initiate repeatedly in our meditation session — as opposed to trying to stifle our thoughts and somehow magically hold on to that peaceful state. This more detailed method gives us some ground to work with — that being our mind as it is rather than as we wish it could be. We might find this practice more realistic, more workable, and more compassionate to ourselves. Of course it is up to each one of us to determine how we will proceed.
When it comes to experiencing strong emotions in our practice, it can be helpful to notice that what we call emotions really has two major components. One is the “story line”, which we do identify in our meditation practice as “thinking” and when we recognize it as such we are encouraged to let it go and return our awareness to our breathing and therefore to the present moment. The other component is actually energy that has a life beyond the “story line” — the energy and physical sensation of anger, passion, envy, pride, etc.
Read more from Nichtern on mindfulness meditation here.