Emotional awareness comes head-on against our deeply ingrained habit of evasion. In this excerpt from his unpublished manuscript, “How to Learn and Teach Everyday Buddhism,” the late Buddhist activist Ken Jones describes a meditation for cultivating dynamic acceptance.
As a steady round-the-clock practice, select some ongoing difficulty, affliction or pain in your life. It may range from some persistent irritation (like the domestic untidiness of your partner) to something much deeper (like a haunting sense of guilt). For the present moment, avoid taking on an affliction that may be too emotionally overwhelming.
As a preliminary exploration, think of a difficulty, affliction or pain in your life. As you sense this affliction, how does it feel and how does it affect your body? Holding the feeling carefully, begin to ask yourself these questions, listening inwardly for their answers:
- How have I emotionally responded to this affliction so far, and how have I suffered from my response and reaction to it?
- What does this problem ask me to let go of?
- What difficulties, if any, am I having with becoming deeply aware of my emotional response to this affliction?
The essence of emotional awareness practice is to become intimately aware of how the pain feels – and particularly how it feels in the body. This is a psycho-somatic practice. Bring your attention to where the feeling is seated, as in the flushed face, the increased heartbeat, the tightened belly, the clenched fists of anger. Breathe your awareness into that space (itself a healing practice).