I want to share with you some thoughts around how we can change our relationship to negative feelings through meditation.
Our aim in meditation is to form a different relationship to things we are feeling or experiencing. Initially this is true for us while we are in practice, but over time our objective is to expand this relationship into our everyday lives. Take for example a feeling of irritation we have at somebody for something they have done or failed to do.
What is your relationship to that feeling?
Are you stuck with that feeling, is it replaying over and over in your mind? This constant replay is a form of reinforcement. Neuro-plasticity works both ways.
Can you step back from that feeling? Start by recognizing it, deconstructing the various elements of that feeling into its constituent parts.
Can you now start to change your thinking about that feeling? Hold back your initial, troubled reaction to it and replace that with a sense of calm, a sense of spaciousness.
Does this create a space between their act of doing or not doing and your feeling towards it?
Does it help you separate out the act and the emotion it initially gave rise to?
We want to get to the point where we are no longer reinforcing the negative and instead are linking a difficult feeling with the deep well of open, untroubled awareness that exists within us. This leads to a relaxation of the need to react to a negative feeling and immediately disempowers that feeling.
We find ourselves less controlled by such feelings; we find ourselves less in fear of being in situations that may give rise to them and therefore less likely to avoid such circumstances. This is at the heart of being fierce.
And when we are more relaxed overall we find ourselves being less fatigued, more productive, more emotionally intelligent and we make more strategic decisions: this is at the heart of being better leaders.
When we arrive at the understanding that we can change our brains through our minds, we empower ourselves to transform our lives.
By peering mindfully into our lives when we meditate we can start to establish patterns and see what is transpiring in our personal, societal and work relationships. This leads to us seeing, sometimes for the very first time, when we are thinking negatively and inviting chaos by reacting emotionally to similar situations that repeat themselves at regular intervals in our lives. For example, we may find that at around two years into a personal relationship our voice of doubt gets louder and we become jealous and react in a relationship-destroying way, or we may find that there is a time frame in a job when the honeymoon is over, we become bored and we start negative behaviors that are career-limiting.
A Guided Self-Awareness Meditation
I’d like to finish with a guided meditation that focuses on embodiment: a great way for us to quieten negativity. In this exercise I will ask you to connect to a mindful awareness of your feelings both at a mental and physical level. I will ask you to go deeper and deeper into this awareness and lower any barriers that exist. I want you to feel that you are in a safe place from which you can delve further into this awareness and lower any barriers that exist.
The aim of this practice is to increase your awareness of the full range of embodied feelings that may arise and to be comfortable with them even if some of them feel uncomfortable. The stretch goal of this practice is to open your heart to feeling the strong connection that exists between all of us and the universe.
I suggest having your computer read this out to you at a slow speed. Alternatively, you could record yourself reading it out slowly and then when you are ready to do the meditation play the recording back.
Find a pose that is both comfortable for you and that also feels uplifting and relaxed. If you can sit cross legged with ease that would be ideal. If not, try sitting on a cushion or bolster so that your body is slightly higher than your legs. Kneeling is also a good position.
If you prefer to remain active while meditating then go for a slow walk, preferably in a place that is relaxing to you. The aim is to come into some posture of stillness that doesn’t feel contrived. You are inviting your body to settle.
If you are stationary you can close your eyes to go more inward for this moment. Alternatively, and especially if you have chosen to walk, keep your eyes open, but shift your eyes downward to soften your gaze. There will be nothing visually important or interesting happening around you and by closing your eyes or dropping your gaze you will have more of an opportunity to connect to the imagery that may arise during this practice.
Gently start bringing your attention into one place.
Thoughts may continue to come from all over, they may continue to pull you in multiple directions, but start centering on your breath. Feel the passage of air entering your lungs and then leaving them.
When thoughts do pull you away, return gently to your breath and to the felt experience of being alive and present in your body. Feel your embodiment: in your legs, how you are sitting, the arch in your back, the angle of your head and through your hands.
Shift your mind from feeling your body conceptually to really feeling it at the physical level.
Gently allow yourself the pleasure of feeling your breath and your body as tactile physical sensations that are always in motion, rising and falling.
When your mind wanders, gently, yet fiercely, bring it back to your breath and your body, again and again.
Allow yourself to feel all the sensations that arise, both pleasant and unpleasant, familiar and unfamiliar; feel the movement of your breath; feel the rising and falling of your chest; feel the movement in the air around you and feel the air crossing the skin just below your nostrils; feel your skin and its contact with your clothing; feel the heat or cold; feel the dryness or humidity in the air; feel your contact with the ground.
Deepen your curiosity about your own experience and allow yourself, in this moment, in the now, to feel the full range of whatever arises: this may be pleasurable or it may be painful; this may be comfortable or it may be uncomfortable.
While you are allowing these sensate feelings to arise at an increasingly deeper level, keep bringing your attention back to centre.
The barrage of thoughts may start to slow, but they may also be sparked off in different directions by your physical feelings.
Continue deepening your felt presence, breath after breath, moment after moment.
Start to really feel your embodiment at a much more heightened level.
Allow other sensory perceptions to arise as you go deeper: feel your heart beating; notice your emotions; notice your overall mood – contentment, frustration, happiness, sadness – and if you are around others feel the overall mood and emotions that are present in your home, in the office, on a train, on a plane.
Purposefully exclude nothing; opening your mind further and further and dropping any barriers that were in place or that instinctively arise during this meditation.
You are alone with your thoughts yet you are at one with the universe, you are in a safe place.
Feel everything that arises; feel the innate beauty in everything; feel the innate beauty in our humanity: in every possible emotion, sensation and thought; feel our shared humanity.
Go deeper still and feel our greater connection to the universe. Stay at that level and feel the wholeness that exists all around us. Exclude nothing, allowing yourself the deepest permission to just be, as you are, in this moment.
And now, bring your attention slowly back to focus only on how it feels to breathe.
Notice what is present for you are we conclude this meditation. Make a conscious choice to reengage with this present moment and the rest of your day.