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Meditation and Mindfulness: Dealing With Emotion

Not sure where to go with your emotions? Headspace talks about awareness of emotion. But what if you're already aware of the emotion, but simply aren't sure what to do with it?

Author: Andy Puddicombe
Date: Aug 21, 2011 - 2:21:12 AM

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Not sure where to go with your emotions? Headspace talks about awareness of emotion. But what if you're already aware of the emotion, but simply aren't sure what to do with it? Although simply sitting with awareness can be very useful in these situations, sometimes it feels easier to be a bit more proactive with the do something with it. Here's a useful mental technique for investigating and increasing your understanding of how and why you feel the way you do...


1) Having focused on the breath and allowed the mind to settle, turn your attention to the feeling of anger, sadness, anxiety, or whatever emotion is bothering you.


2) First of all, where do you feel it physically? Is it in your arms, legs, chest, stomach, head, or somewhere else altogether? You may well feel it in several parts of the body, quickly alternating between one place and the other, giving the impression that it is ‘everywhere’. If this is the case, just allow your attention to settle on the part of the body where the feeling is most intense. Alternatively, it may feel as though it is ‘stuck’ in one place. Either way, gradually refine your search, narrowing the area down until you feel you have found the very core of the discomfort.


3) At first, moving closer to the feeling in this way may seem a little counterintuitive – we have after all spent most of our life running away from it. Because of this, it is quite common to feel a little uneasy or even scared about the idea of sinking down into the feeling. But notice what happens when you move closer to it, rather than trying to get away. What happens when you simply observe it, rather than trying to get rid of it? Does it have a shape, a colour, or perhaps a particular sensation? Try and bring a genuine sense of curiosity to the process. 


4) Once you have pin-pointed the area, rest your attention on that point in a very light and gentle way - still aware of the movement of breath, but in a much more general way than before. In the same way that you feel a sinking sensation when you sit on a very comfortable sofa or chair, imagine that you are just sinking down into the middle of the feeling. There is no force required, as it is a very natural sinking process. If you find that the mind doesn’t want to sink down into the feeling – which can happen sometimes – then simply let it rest wherever it is up to, even if it feels as though it is on the very surface of the feeling. After a minute or so, imagine the mind sinks a little further into the feeling, and then again after another minute or so. Repeat this 4 or 5 times until you feel as though you are right at the heart of the feeling.


5) Now imagine that the body is breathing through that very same point. It is as if the body is naturally breathing in and out through the area of discomfort. Remember, you have nothing to do in this process. Your only task is to notice when the mind has become distracted, when it has wandered off, and then very gently return the attention to that same point. Having returned, you can then once again watch how the body breathes in and out through that area.

Having rested in this one area for several minutes, with no special effort, allow your awareness to become a little wider, returning to the more general feeling of the chest or the stomach rising and falling with the passing of the breath.


By doing this exercise on a regular basis you'll very quickly begin to understand emotions in a whole new way.

Headspace : Meditation, but not as you know it.

Andy Puddicombe is the author of this article on Meditate. Find more information, about Mindful here

View all articles by Andy Puddicombe

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