As part of our #MeditationHacks series, author and psychoanalyst, Pilar Jennings, offers advice to a practitioner who continues to feel unworthy and unloved.
Deep down, I feel pretty bad about who I am as a person. When I meditate, all I connect with are my feelings of shame and guilt, and it’s pretty discouraging. What’s your advice for people like me who feel unworthy and unloved?
Pilar Jennings: Most people who begin a meditation practice understandably hope for relief. Images of a placid Buddha wearing a gentle smile can inspire us to unplug, quiet the mind, and notice our inner life without distraction. But often what we find is a mind filled with painful memories and feelings. For many, these feelings indicate struggles with losses of all sorts, low self-esteem, and a powerful sense of deprivation.
The historical Buddha encouraged his students to stay the course. This common sense of suffering or “disatisfactoriness,” he suggested, can be better understood when the mind is calm and nonreactive, and over time, even uprooted. But as a psychotherapist and long-term Buddhist practitioner, I have come to appreciate that meditation can shine a light on psychological pain and the ripple effects of trauma that can be too much to manage through meditation alone. The good news is there are healing methods that work well with and even support your spiritual path.
I encourage you to be patient and compassionate with yourself. With skillful and gentle care, the very things that now overwhelm you in your meditation will eventually become the gateway to genuine well-being and peace of mind.
I would encourage anyone who is noticing feelings of self-loathing, severe anxiety, or depression in their meditation to seek out a psychotherapist who respects and appreciates spirituality. A good therapist who has their own spiritual practice can help you explore and work through these feelings. They will understand that meditation is a powerful tool that unearths all sorts of memories and experiences that may have remained in our dreams, physical symptoms, and addictions. They will also understand that it’s not uncommon for people to walk away from meditation altogether when it feels too difficult. This is a great loss, because meditation can eventually become a way to hold in mind feelings and sensations that are challenging but need to be felt.
Most of all, I encourage you to be patient and compassionate with yourself. With skillful and gentle care, the very things that now overwhelm you in your meditation will eventually become the gateway to genuine well-being and peace of mind.
Read more from our #MeditationHacks series…
Your Partner Disapproves?
A new meditator’s spouse disapproves of their newfound practice. Susan Piver, founder of The Open Heart Project, answers.
Other Ways to Practice?
Vipassana teacher Konda Mason answers the question: “Is it OK if I find other ways to be meditative besides sitting on a cushion following my breath?”
Not Enlightened Yet?
Author and musician Miguel Chen comforts a practitioner who doesn’t seem to be getting any closer to enlightenment.
Buddhist Traditions: Which Way to Go?
Rev. angel Kyodo williams, founder of the Center for Transformative Change, advises on what to do when confronted with too many choices.
Author and psychoanalyst, Pilar Jennings, offers advice to a practitioner who continues to feel unworthy and unloved.
Sleepy Mind, Monkey Mind?
Anita Feng, teacher for the Blue Heron Zen Community in Seattle, helps a practitioner navigate the path between drowsiness and daydreaming.
Is Meditation Painful?
Buddhist teacher Mushim Patricia Ikeda suggest alternatives when meditation becomes too painful.
Don’t Like Meditating?
Lila Kate Wheeler, author and trainer at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, answers what to do if you don’t like to meditate.
Practicing for Myself?
A Mahayana Buddhist who is encouraged to practice for the benefit of all sentient being feels like they are only practicing for their own benefit. Venerable Thubten Chodron answers.
Meditation Leading to an Unstable Mind?
Josh Bartok, a Zen teacher, suggest what to do if meditating leads to an unstable mind.
Still a Schmuck?
A reader asks Sylvia Boorstein: “What’s the point of practice if it’s not making me a better person?”
Overwhelmed by Emotions?
Author and lay Zen teacher Susan Moon is asked: “Should I stop meditating when emotions begin to overwhelm me?”
Practicing on Your Own?
An isolated practitioner asks dharma teacher Mitchell Ratner where to look for community.