As we sit in meditation and start to observe emotions as they arise and pass, we may start to notice tendencies and trends in what comes up most often and how we relate to them.
Pema Chodron describes our usual tendencies when it comes to uncomfortable emotions, and how we can learn from them:
Generally speaking, we regard discomfort in any form as bad news. But for practitioners or spiritual warriors–people who have a certain hunger to know what is true–feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, chapter 3
As part of the program I’m currently taking, we were invited into an inquiry practice to learn from ourselves about how we relate to emotions. We did these questions in triads, each person talking while the other two listened mindfully. I have also done similar reflections as a written exercise. Here are the questions Mark and Martin suggested for us for reflection:
- What are your more common emotions in meditation and in life?
- What do you do when you notice them?
- How do you work with them? Do you ignore, suppress, act out, get curious, meet with kindness and awareness, inquire into them, etc.?
- How may mindfulness support working with them?
- What else supports you in working with emotions?
When I have done this type of refection as a written exercise, the instructions are to set a timer (e.g. 3 minutes) and just keep writing for for that period. If you get stuck, you can just write one of the prompts and see what comes next. It’s for no one’s eyes but your own, so grammar, spelling, and making it sound good doesn’t matter.
It’s important to treat this inquiry with kindness and tenderness. Listen to the wisdom of your heart and body and only explore to the extent it feels skillful.
If you would grow
If you would grow to your best self
Be patient, not demanding
Accepting, not condemning
Nurturing, not withholding
Self-marveling, not belittling
Gently guiding, not pushing and punishing
For you are more sensitive than you know
Mankind is as tough as war yet delicate as flowers
We can endure agonies but we open fully only to warmth and light
And our need to grow is as fragile as a fragrance dispersed by storms of willby Daniel F. Mead, as shared here:
To return only when those storm are still
So, accept, respect, and attend your sensitivity
A flower cannot be opened with a hammer.
Did you try the reflection exercise? How was it? I’m interested to hear of your experience.
With appreciation for your dedication to the practice,