Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully

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Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully

Postby powerhawk » Sat Dec 31, 2011 1:18 am

Hello,

I am a rather new meditator and have been trying to mindfully follow emotions in my body. (i.e. I pay attention to the physical sensations of the emotion in the present moment)

The center of my negative emotions tends to be my head and throat. I feel a sort of pushing and tension inside my head and near my throat. I try to pay attention nonjudgementally in the moment to these feelings as they play out. However, as I have done this, it seems as though these dull sensations of tension stick around for as long as I continue to pay attention. In some cases, I have remained mindful of this dull pushing sensation in my head for up to 30 minutes before changing activities.

Now, if I were to go and do something else instead of remaining mindful of the sensations, they subside much quicker! They also seem to go away more quickly if I change the focus of my attention to the breath.

I'm not sure how to proceed. From what I've read, many teachers advise becoming mindful of the body sensations associated with negative emotions until they subside, but this doesn't seem to be working so well. Could it perhaps have something to do with the quality of the attention that I am giving?

Thanks
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Re: Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully

Postby dakini_boi » Sat Dec 31, 2011 3:45 am

Yes, often when focusing on body sensations, they can intensify. Your focus may be too hard. Instead, try to allow sensations to be there - like, notice sensations instead of focusing on them. I have a couple other suggestions re. meditation technique - If you want to continue practicing being mindful of body sensations, another technique (other than focusing where sensations are most obvious) is to scan the body. You will become aware of sensations elsewhere - even if you bring your attention to parts of the body where there at first appears to be no sensation. Another idea is to let your awareness rest below your navel, in the dan tien area (often described as four finger-widths below the navel). This is used a lot in Taoist and some Buddhist meditation. This is helpful, because by letting the attention rest there, the body's energy naturally becomes regulated and mind is calmed. Following the breath can have a similar effect, as you have noticed. It depends on what type of meditation you are practicing, and what tradition you are following. May I ask, where are you learning meditation?
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Re: Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully

Postby Konchog1 » Sat Dec 31, 2011 4:05 am

powerhawk wrote:Now, if I were to go and do something else instead of remaining mindful of the sensations, they subside much quicker! They also seem to go away more quickly if I change the focus of my attention to the breath.
Well of course, they disappear if you don't pay attention to them :)

Generally what I do is a non Buddhist technique but it might help. After you find where the feeling is and what it is, personify it. For example, if you're angry at yourself imagine it's an angry teacher and dialogue how it's improper to be angry and so forth. Good luck.
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Re: Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully

Postby powerhawk » Sat Dec 31, 2011 4:48 am

dakini_boi wrote:Yes, often when focusing on body sensations, they can intensify. Your focus may be too hard. Instead, try to allow sensations to be there - like, notice sensations instead of focusing on them. I have a couple other suggestions re. meditation technique - If you want to continue practicing being mindful of body sensations, another technique (other than focusing where sensations are most obvious) is to scan the body. You will become aware of sensations elsewhere - even if you bring your attention to parts of the body where there at first appears to be no sensation. Another idea is to let your awareness rest below your navel, in the dan tien area (often described as four finger-widths below the navel). This is used a lot in Taoist and some Buddhist meditation. This is helpful, because by letting the attention rest there, the body's energy naturally becomes regulated and mind is calmed. Following the breath can have a similar effect, as you have noticed. It depends on what type of meditation you are practicing, and what tradition you are following. May I ask, where are you learning meditation?


Thanks, I will try those techniques. I could see it being perhaps too hard of a focus. The tense focus itself could be generating the feeling. During meditation (on the breath) itself I don't get this feeling and it is generally blissful.

I am currently following instructions Mindfulness in Plain English. The specific technique of following the physical sensations of emotions I read in a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
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Re: Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully

Postby catmoon » Sat Dec 31, 2011 1:10 pm

Being mindful of your emotions is good. But suppose you have anger, and you steadily focus on it. If you mind wanders, you correct and return to focus. Well, you are now meditating on anger, anger has become the object of your meditation. Because anger feeds on itself, it is highly likely that this approach will strengthen and sustain your anger.

So what is this mindfulness of emotions that is good? It is first, being aware of the presence of anger, secondly, seeing the consequences of anger, and finally making a decision to either apply an antidote, let it be, or move on to the next thing. Of course it doesn't just apply to anger, it's just one example.

Things get subtly different if you focus on the nature of an emotion rather than the emotion itself. For instance greed and despair are impermanent, empty, and they are states of the mind rather than states of the self. They overpower rational thought and compassion and can even cause them to cease completely. Matthieu Ricard seems to think that such a meditation will deprive the emotion of its fuel, causing a fairly rapid extinction of the flames, and my personal experience supports this.
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