I wanted to share two types of meditations I shared on someone else’s blog. I didn’t think to do it then, but I’m sharing it here now. I’ll be talking about the types of meditation that exist. I think there is no one right way to meditate, and I like exploring the different kinds there are.
There are two types of meditation practice that I think are useful for dealing with tough emotions – anger, frustration, pain, and sorrow.
I don’t think just opening up to the pain and internal struggle is really something that is, by itself, fruitful and can be very painful for people who have deep trauma.
Opening is the first part, right? And feeling intense feelings comes with that. In our culture of shame, we tend to want to get rid of those feelings.
But people tend to close immediately because they don’t know what to DO with those intense feelings and any shame it may bring up. And often we feel we shouldn’t even HAVE those feelings in the first place. The culture of shame teaches us it’s bad to be angry or feel sorry for ourselves.
So…what happens and why do people get stuck and say “Oh, I can’t possibly meditate, I’m too distracted” or “I get bored” or “Nothing happens” or “ohmygodican’tbearthis”?
Well, here’s what I experienced the first time I tried to meditate without really knowing how to.
I’m turning down my mind, not running for my usual avoidance tactics and I truly am feeling my feelings. I can even describe the place in my body where I feel tension, perhaps I can feel the texture, the weight of it, the enormity of it. I can possibly even determine what got me hooked. And I feel really bad. The pain is SO unbearable.
[at which point I just bawl…which can actually be a good thing]
But now what to do I do? All that is good information, but doesn’t actually work with my suffering or transform it. How do I STAY open? How do I stay engaged?
I think there are some helpful things one can try.
Metta Practice (also known as Lovingkindess):
There’s many kinds of ways you can do lovingkindess, but I like the simplicity of this one by Amy Saltzman, M.D. I’ve heard other types of lovingkindness meditation, but I like the lyrical cadence of this one.
You start with yourself. Nourish yourself first:
May I be happy
May I be peaceful and at ease
May I be filled with JOY
May I experience Love
Then you can think of someone you love (your spouse, your children, your parents, etc) and you can share lovingkindness with them:
May you be happy
May you be peaceful and at ease
May you be filled with JOY
May you experience Love
You can extend this to people who you aren’t so fond of, and even (probably most especially) your enemies. You can even extend this to emotions (anger, sorrow, frustration), just substitute “my anger” or “my frustration” etc for the subject – even if it is quite awkward to do so. I’ve done it with “my Inner Child” too, and well, burst into tears because it felt good to take care of that part of me that was so long neglected and in pain.
and here is a great Tonglen practice by Pema Chodron for deeper suffering:
“This is the core of the practice: breathing in other’s pain so they can be well and have more space to relax and open, and breathing out, sending them relaxation or whatever you feel would bring them relief and happiness. However, we often cannot do this practice because we come face to face with our own fear, our own resistance, anger, or whatever our personal pain, our personal stuckness happens to be at that moment.
At that point you can change the focus and begin to do tonglen for what you are feeling and for millions of others just like you who at that very moment of time are feeling exactly the same stuckness and misery. Maybe you are able to name your pain. You recognize it clearly as terror or revulsion or anger or wanting to get revenge. So you breathe in for all the people who are caught with that same emotion and you send out relief or whatever opens up the space for yourself and all those countless others. Maybe you can’t name what you’re feeling. But you can feel it —a tightness in the stomach, a heavy darkness or whatever. Just contact what you are feeling and breathe in, take it in —for all of us and send out relief to all of us. ”
These are just two types of meditation one can do.
Holding the resultant emotional experience with tenderness and compassion can be a lot more active than just emptying our minds, breathing or wallowing in sensation and emotion.
These meditations direct our intentions into something that is useful and quite transformative of what we are feeling.
This is something that we intense thinkers and problem-solvers will find quite relieving. It gives our often-grasping minds something constructive to do, you know?
And that’s it for now, I can’t wait to get into some other types of meditation practices, but I wanted to share my thoughts on these for now.
Give them a try and tell me how you like them.