Whether you are rich or poor, high-class or low-class, male or female, gay or straight…you get the point, living in this world produces stress and anxiety. Let’s face it, it’s all relative to your situation. So the question begs to be asked, how can a meditation practice help all these different kinds of people? The answer lies in its ability to teach you how to listen.
Susan Scott Morales in her latest Ann Arbor post talks about how meditation is an exercise in active listening to your inner life. According to Morales, by breaking down a person’s negative behavior-thought-feeling process and using the observing mind to extend compassion to the feeling, in most cases, the feeling dissolves. As a result, a person can make clearer, more informed choices.
Take this simple example. You’ve received a poor evaluation (or report card, or critique.) You were expecting a positive one and feel punched in the stomach.
Immediately you analyze what might have gone wrong. You’re in your head. This strategy can play out to absurd levels: “I’ll never get ahead.” What if instead of thinking about it, you focus on the feeling in your gut? Sit down, or close your eyes and simply be with the feeling?
It might play out like this: “It hurts badly.” Then, “Like when I was cut from the team.” (Or something similar; we’ve all had disappointments.) Again, notice, “It hurts.”
Now this is the important twist: Allow the part of you who has been observing your thoughts and your feelings to extend compassion to the pain. Relax into the feeling of compassion. With this simple exercise, you’ll notice the feeling subside and, in some cases, dissolve.
With the edge off the feeling, we’re more able to make clear choices in how we react to a situation. Whenever you feel a pang of discomfort, an icky feeling, it’s a clue to finding more freedom within yourself. The key is to practice this as often as possible.
Read more from Morales on how to use meditation to create your listening edge to help you in times of stress and anxiety here.