By Sharon Salzberg
Instead of trying to make difficult emotions change or go away, you can simply tune in to how they show up in your body, and see how they’re always changing on their own.
When we’re caught in the throes of an emotion like sadness, loneliness, or anger, shifting our awareness into our body allows us to experience the ever-changing nature of these strong and often unpleasant emotions. This practice will help you get used to the feeling of paying attention to difficult emotions in the body with curiosity and without judgment.
Staying with Awareness of Difficult Emotions
- Sit comfortably with your eyes either closed or slightly open, however you feel most at ease. You can begin this practice by bringing to mind a difficult or troubling thought or situation. Something that carries view an intense emotion such as sadness, fear, shame or anger.
- See where you feel this emotion in your body. What does it feel like? Where do you feel sensations arising? How are these sensations changing?
- See if you can you experience the sensations fully in the present moment. Can you experience them without getting hijacked by them—without immediately or anxiously working to make them go away? If you see those kinds of reactions in your mind, settle back. Come back into your body. Feel the different sensations being born of that emotion in this moment.
- Let go of any reactions or judgments. If you find you’re adding judgment, condemnation, future projection, practice letting go of those reactions as best you can. Almost as though they were birds now flying out of your hands into the air. Let them go, and return to the sensations of the emotion.
- Shift your attention to fully feel the sensation. Bring your focus of awareness to the part of the body where those sensations are the strongest. Once your attention is moved to the bodily sensations, perhaps say to yourself, “It’s okay, whatever it is, it’s okay. I can feel this without pushing it away or getting caught up in it.”
- Stay with this awareness of the bodily sensations. Notice your relationship to them. You’re just coming to accept them, letting them be. Softening and opening to them.
- Often the emotion is not just one thing. Maybe moments of sadness, moments of fear, moments of frustration, moments of helplessness. We just watch them arise and pass away. None of these states is permanent, unchanging. They’re moving and shifting.
- Stay curious about your present experience. No matter what story or add-on arises, come back to your direct experience in the moment. What am I feeling right now? What does it feel like? What’s happening? What’s its nature? And when you feel ready, you can open your eyes or lift your gaze and end the session.
Keywords; mindfulness, meditation, sadness, loneliness, anger