As part of our #MeditationHacks series, author and lay Zen teacher Susan Moon is asked: “Should I stop meditating when emotions begin to overwhelm me?”
I’m afraid of the intense emotions that come up when I am meditating. Sometimes I feel deep sadness and other times I’m taken over by anger. Should I stop meditating when emotions begin to overwhelm me, or are there ways to work with them in meditation?
Susan Moon: The quiet space of meditation can be an open house for troubled thoughts and feelings, who enter uninvited and take advantage of the captive audience of my mind. When this happens to me, I find that it’s what I then say to myself—the judgments, the self-blame—that does the damage. I try to remember my bumper sticker that says, “Don’t believe everything you think.”
One thing you can do is turn from thoughts to the body that is always with you. What are the sensations of anger? Is your scalp burning? Feel the simple heat. When sadness overwhelms you, put your hand on your heart. Spread your fingers and feel the warmth of your chest. Keep your hand there as long as you want.
When sadness overwhelms you, put your hand on your heart. Spread your fingers and feel the warmth of your chest. Keep your hand there as long as you want.
One day, torturing myself with habitual regret, I tuned into my body and saw myself bent under the weight of the heavy chains I was dragging behind me. “Drop the chains of regret!” I roused myself. The weight fell away. When I stood up from meditation, I was taller and straighter.
Buddhist teaching urges us not to turn away from what’s difficult, but there are different ways to meditate. There could be times when it’s better to leave the cushion. Years ago, I went through such a rocky time that sitting in meditation only made matters worse. I had to move. Those days, I walked hard and fast in the hills behind Berkeley, calling to the trees for help, and they helped me.
I came back to the cushion, knowing that there’s no wrong way to meditate.
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.