Last week I finished a 5 week course at the meditation center Cambridge Insight called Working with Difficult Emotions. I gained so much wisdom and insight, and took copious notes that I want to share with you here!
This type of work is so important to me, because handling difficult emotions isn't something we're ever taught... and yet it has a huge impact on how our lives go.
Meditation and reflection are ways to handle our emotional inner landscape. And our emotional inner landscape can manifest in our physical body, so it's that much more important in making sure our emotions stay balanced.
I took this course because in the last two years of my life, I've made decisions that I've felt are necessary for my personal growth and healing. While these decisions have been necessary for me, they haven't been easy, especially because by finally putting myself first it's gone against what some people in my life would agree with or expect of me. There are so many areas of my life that are going through significant change, my personal, spiritual, and business life, and I needed ways to cope and move through these successfully.
This course was taught by one of the original teachers pf CIMC, Narayan Liebenson. I truly appreciated the way she was able to lead us from meditation, to stretching, to reflections, and use her experience and wisdom in this area to help us access our own. It was so empowering for me to realize that I truly am my own healer.
I used to look for the easy way out and the quick fix in healing: I tried hypnosis, sound healing, shamanic healing, psychic reading and more. Not to say that any of these modalities aren't helpful in their own right (because I did learn some deep truths from them), it was the way that I used them, I bounced from one to the other just trying to get rid of any pain that I had. In doing that I was actually getting more distracted, and running from the issue.
While these healings gave me insight, I still wasn't working directly with the pain until just recently. This was one of the greatest takeaways from this course: in order to move through pain, you must sit with it (for however long feels bearable, that's important too), really feel into it and ask what it's here for.
Here are the top insights and some exercises I learned to help move through difficult emotions. I hope they're as helpful to you as they were for me!
The emotion is not what obscures our experience, it's our relationship to that emotion (what we've been told to feel about it, etc.)
We must soften to the resistance of pain, and love the resistance instead of judging it
Emotions are mental loops, and can confuse us. It's a matter of seeing things clearly without suffering because of our own difficulty with emotions
Moving away from conditioned response, frees us from the grip that painful emotion has on us. Wisdom comes from this
Recognize repeated themes or patterns for yourself as they occur: such as despair
Exercise: Label and recognize difficult emotion and where it is in your body
Self-knowledge brings you closer to emotional maturity
Seeing the emotion makes it such that it doesn't pick up past stories and repeat itself: awareness breaks up pain and conditioned reactions
Relate to difficult thoughts/feelings as trains of thought, instead of relating to them as truth
Meditation is non-abandonment of ourselves - addiction is abandonment of ourselves
Give more energy to the awareness, than the emotions
Find a neutral place in your body, when turning towards a difficult emotion, and focus on that
Take refuge in the breath
Look at your non-peace later, if you're overwhelmed
When we repress emotions, they get stronger
Make it comfortable for the emotions to be felt, make space for this. Emotions then have less of a grip on us
THIS blew my mind because it goes against everything we're ever taught: Hope can be an unstable way to live our life, expecting things that aren't guaranteed to be there and being disappointed when they aren't. Trust and faith are more powerful
Emotions aren't personal, permanent, or part of us
Thoughts feed emotions. Aversion feeds emotions
Meditation is strength of heart, courage, and confidence
Converting fear of emotion to mystery and curiosity, is the action. This is not a passive practice
Meditation allows us to relax and let in the feeling, otherwise we'll have too much resistance to it and want to turn away from it.
If you're going through difficult emotions and transitions, I highly recommend a meditation practice. Learning from a center would be ideal at first, then you can meditate on your own and move on to take courses and go on retreats.
That's how it's been for me, I've been meditating for four years now and I truly feel this practice has helped me get closer to myself and understand myself better, by moving through difficult emotion.