We all experience difficulties in our lives. Once we can understand that they are not permanent, that they are simply an experience we are having, we can stop avoiding them.
On last week’s episode, Teresa spoke with you about Turning Toward the Difficult. It is often discomfort that keeps us from dealing with things that are difficult. This meditation can help you practice being mindful when facing the difficult areas of your life.
The best method for increasing our mindfulness is meditation, so I invite you now to join me as we learn to bring our attention and focus on this present moment. Let’s prepare for our session. Sit comfortably straight, not rigid, to allow air to flow freely through your body. If you are sitting in a chair, move forward so that you are not relying on the back of the chair for support. If you sit on the floor, use a cushion or folded blanket so that your knees are slightly lower than your hips.
I suggest you breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, but if you can’t, that’s ok. Just breathe in whatever way is most comfortable for you. As you begin to relax, note that you may experience bodily sensations while meditating. Salivation. Grumbling stomach. It’s just your prefrontal cortex waking up so it’s not a problem. If during meditation you experience too much discomfort, physically or emotionally, simply stop and take a couple of deep breaths. Perhaps drink a little water. You can return to the meditation if you like or you can simply stop and try again later.
Give yourself permission to take this break away from your tasks and responsibilities. Take a nice deep breath in, relax the body, and breathe out. We’re now ready to meditate together.
As you begin to settle into your consciousness, imagine that you are accompanied by someone or something that brings you immense comfort. (Pause 5)
It might be a person, such as a parent or a good friend. Maybe a pet, or even just a blanket or chair that you find solace in. Let that comfort envelop you. (Pause 3)
Let its presence wrap around you and hold you safely. (Pause 3)
Now that you have identified the comforting presence, turn your attention to something that may be troubling you. Until you have had time to practice this meditation, just try to focus on something smaller at first. Something that definitely carries strong emotions behind it, but not the biggest trouble you have in your life.
Maybe there is something going on that you wish were different, perhaps something about yourself you aren’t happy with, or even just something on your to-do list that you are not looking forward to.
There is no wrong choice here.
If you have more than one thing you’d like to address, come back to the meditation and address each issue separately. You have the choice to focus on whatever you want. You are in control.
Once you have found your issue you are choosing to work on, bring about your curiosity. Your beginner’s mind.
When your attention is focused on this area, begin to identify your feelings. Anger, fear, sadness, impatience, confusion. What emotions are rising to the surface?
Notice your emotions or feelings without judging yourself for experiencing them.
You are like a mountain, strong and steadfast, and the emotions are the weather - the wind, the sunshine, the rain - that comes and goes. Don’t identify yourself as part of them. They are simply something you are experiencing.
Once you have identified the name of the emotion, notice where you are feeling it in your body.
It might manifest as tension in your neck, a pain in your stomach, or maybe a general feeling of unease. Just notice it and try not to demand it be any different than it is. Pause and observe it.
Perhaps try to soften your reaction to the feeling or emotion. Imagine yourself dealing with the feeling the same way you would a child or a pet in distress. How might your reaction be different? You might be more gentle, more tender.
Allow yourself space to Hold this experience of difficulty gently and with compassion.
Remembering that holding the space doesn’t mean that you like the feeling, it is just acknowledging it is there.
You might notice that as you allow the space, you will feel different sensations in your body. Allow the sensations to move through your body if they arise.
See if you can remain curious, spending time with yourself long enough to connect with what you’re noticing or feeling, but not allowing yourself to become overwhelmed. If you do begin to feel overwhelmed, you can pause, breathe and notice your body in the space where you are meditating. If that does not ease your discomfort, you can stop the meditation and return to it at another time. Understanding that you are in control.
Without pushing away the difficult emotions or event, or feeling, begin to bring a positive experience to mind.
Something that makes you feel happy, grateful, or maybe you just feel comfort from it. Warmth.
Make space for those feelings, wherever they reside in your body. Notice them, just as you did with the difficult feelings. See them without judgement or attachment.
How do you feel, where do you feel it?
With the same curiosity, explore those emotions…be grateful for that experience of comfort or whatever it may be.
If the difficult emotions start to rise again, don’t push them away. Notice they are there, right beside the pleasant feelings…approach them both with kindness and gentleness. They are not who you are. They are what you are experiencing.
Make space for both the pleasant and the difficult between each breath you take.
As you continue to notice the two areas, you begin to make even more space for them… And you also begin to notice the space in which your body is taking up in the room. As you do this, you notice there is so much room, but you still bring your awareness even wider.
If you can, expand that to go beyond the walls within which you find yourself, moving to the space outside. There’s so much room for the feelings to exist, So much space to breathe.
And now, going even wider, perhaps looking down from the sky on the city you are in, to the building in which you sit, on the difficult and pleasant areas as tiny little specks in that space.
Your awareness continues to expand further, looking down on the city, further out on the country, still observing the emotions and feelings. And while the difficulty hasn’t changed, your view of it has. It is now something that is part of a larger whole.
And if you can imagine it, you can see the entire world now. You can see other people with their difficulties, who are experiencing the same kind of pain, the same unpleasantness, they are feeling the same emotions - maybe more, maybe less.
You feel that same comfort you did before, now recognizing that you are not alone.
The space between you, the feelings, and the experience are surrounded by the cushion of the breath.
You begin to bring your awareness back into the room in which you are in, keeping that wider awareness big enough to hold both the difficulties and the pleasantness in your life.
Come back to the breath for the next moment on your own, Treating yourself with compassion and kindness if any unease begins to come up.
Pause (60 seconds)
Continue to focus on the breath as you slowly and gently bring your awareness back to the present moment.