Monday, March 25, 2013

When Meditation Doesn't Feel Peaceful

"Running Against The Wind" by Tania Franco
I guided a meditation a few weeks ago where one of the participants began to feel a deep sadness and seemed stunned by this. I shared with the group that as you connect with deeper emotions, this is very common. I meditate regularly, and I don't always feel peaceful. There are even times when I meditate and cry. I accompany myself through the emotion and end up feeling a greater sense of calm afterwards. Sometimes I feel anxiety and breathe through it. What I have come to find, both personally and professionally, is by acknowledging an emotion it then reduces or ceases. I was reading that a pure emotion lasts chemically about one minute and a half.
If you are staying longer in an emotion, there is a mental desire to go there. The natural course is short.
When we still ourselves we have access to emotions that are suppressed. Yes, meditation supports feeling a greater sense of wellness and peace but this does not mean that we are not exposed to uncomfortable emotions such as sadness, anger or fear. Everyone has a complete range of emotions whether they are aware of it or not. Meditation does not eliminate them but it empowers us through them.
A regular meditative practice gives us courage to face the uncomfortable emotions and supports being more present for the pleasant ones. By being mindful the idea of change becomes less daunting and seems much more manageble. There's a realization that just as we have thousands of thoughts during our day, our emotions change from moment to moment.
Somehow emotions have become so mysterious to the majority that the myths about them are believed and shared with others as truths.
Sadness weakens you.
Anger makes you a monster.
Fear is unbecoming.
The truth is we ALL feel these emotions. The world would be a better place if we were taught that we have a right to feel them and how to deal with each emotion in a healthy way. When a loved one dies, sadness is an expected response. When we are walking down a dark alley in the night by ourselves, fear is healthy in order to protect ourselves. When someone treats us unfairly it is healthy to get angry. What might be unhealthy are the ways in which we behave or express these emotions.
Often times people identify an emotion that they are more comfortable with and tend to gravitate to that one more often than the other ones. An example can be a person that gets angry regularly but hardly ever feels sadness or vice versa, connects with sadness but not anger. It isn't that they are not exposed to the whole spectrum of emotions, but many times the more "comfortable" feeling hides the other ones. Ultimately, we are most empowered when we are aware.
Ask yourself a few questions:
What emotions do I feel comfortable with?
Which emotions feel uncomfortable?
How do I deal with these?
One of the first steps in embracing our feelings is to ask ourselves throughout the day: "How do I feel right now?" Do I feel angry? Sad? Fear? Joy? Peace? You might notice that you don't know how you feel and this is OK. This act doesn't only bring us awareness of uncomfortable emotions but it also helps us realize the many moments in which we feel content and at peace throughout the day. I have had clients who were depressed and believed that they only felt sad when in reality they had many moments of wellbeing that they were not present to.
Second step is identify where we feel emotions in our body and what sensations are felt. For instance when I feel really angry I feel like there's fire in my belly and throat.
A third step is to seek a healthy emotional outlet. There are many. I have written in prior posts and will continue to write about the wide variety of supportive practices in posts to come but for now I will mention a few:

Breathe- Take deep breaths for 5 minutes. This is the fastest way to physiologically relax.
Journal- Write about your thoughts and feelings without censoring yourself. When you are done you can tear the paper and throw it away. It's about releasing the emotion. Journaling has been thoroughly studied and time and again has proved to be a wonderful way of reducing stress and strengthening the immune system.
Talk about it- Confide in a close friend what you are feeling about the situation at hand. It can help give it perspective and reduce the emotional charge.
Make sound- Singing, laughing out loud, or toning are great ways to express emotions.
Move- Go for a walk, exercise, practice an energy psychology exercise, dance. Movement helps shift energy around.
Be patient with yourself as you begin to identify emotions and bodily sensations. Remember that the first step in being empowered is awareness. As you practice noticing how you feel you will get to know your body cues and yourself much better.

-Tania Franco