DaRa continues the exploration of mindfulness of mind states in the talk on Working with Emotions.
She starts by giving a bit of a tour of the tools covered so far – sitting, walking, body, including all the sense experiences and breath, feeling tone (pleasant/unpleasant/neutral), working with thoughts, and heart practices of goodwill and compassion.
And then she gives an important clarification:
It’s not about the tools.
It’s not about the breath. It’s not about the body. It’s not about thoughts and emotions. It’s not about sound. You put all of that down in the end, because what it’s about is cultivating the conditions for being present, for mindfulness to be the place we dwell, where compassion is and wisdom is.
All of these are just tools to ground us and center as such that were able to cultivate, as best we can, the conditions for continuous mindfulness, the conditions for being present more times than not.
So again, that brings us back to the idea of our intention for practice. It’s always good to reflect on our intentions so that we can adjust as needed.
Then DaRa delves into another common thread as we examine the mind – emotions and how to work with them.
Really the bottom line is that emotions and thoughts are no different than physical pain or some of the other challenging aspects of being embodied that we’re having to negotiate. It’s just that thoughts and emotions are more entertaining. They capture us.
Likely as you have engaged in meditation, you have encountered emotions arising, being predominant, and changing. Some of the simple techniques to work with emotions is to softly label or note them when they arise, being more attuned to the embodied experience of it rather than the narrative around it.
One thing I’ve discovered by doing this practice, and it’s something DaRa mentions in her talk, is that I have had certain resistance to even noting some emotions. I am learning how there is conditioning – from society, from family and friends – that influence whether some flavors of anger, sadness, even some kinds of happiness, etc. are deemed acceptable or not. From that background, I see how I learned to repress some emotions (big girls don’t cry, do a good job but don’t too proud, etc.). Mindfulness of emotions has been a useful way to allow all of this to be present, so that a skillful relationship to those emotions can develop instead of burying them.
before I could releaseYung Pueblo, Inward
the weight of my sadness
and pain, I first had
to honor its existence
DaRa describes four aspects of working with emotions – the acronym is RAIN.
Recognize – With our mindful awareness, there is recognizing that we’re experiencing an emotion – the simple naming of it. Anger is like this. Boredom is like this. Joy is like this.
Acceptance – Our habitual behavior might be to push away difficult emotions or cling to pleasant emotions. Acceptance allows the experience to be here as it is. This doesn’t mean we’re condoning or justifying the emotion. Instead we’re being present with it, with our kind, non-judgmental attention. This gives us an opportunity to learn from it.
Investigation – The invitation here is to learn about the emotion in an embodied way. How is this anger, this joy, or whatever, experienced in the body, heart, mind? How are we responding to it now?
Need – In DaRa’s talk, she slips this ahead of Investigation, but for the sake of the acronym, I’ll keep it last. The question here is, what’s needed to best serve and support us? When the emotions are difficult, we want to bring a lot of care and compassion into the practice – skillfully turning to a resource (feet on the ground, sounds, seeing) and gently turning back to the emotion as we feel able.
With an acronym like RAIN, it can feel like there’s a linearity to it – first this, then that, etc. So I appreciated DaRa’s intertwining of Investigation and Need. I’ll admit, at first my logical tendency of mind complained, but there is an art to the practice – of weaving in and out – tuning in and adjusting. So here’s your permission to turn RAIN into your own melody.
You might enjoy this gentle meditation practice to work with emotions from Carol Cano. I found this meditation incorporated many of the tools DaRa invited in her talk – tuning into the body, grounding, using RAIN, resourcing.
How do you relate to emotions? What have you learned about them from your practice?
With good wishes,