Letting go...a meditation
This week we complete our exploration of the use of Noting as a meditation tool. These meditations are a series so if you are just tuning in you might want to go back to the start. Each meditation builds on the last. https://www.thenomadyogi.com/post/building-resilience-through-noting We flow through our grounding practices to become settled and then bring our attention to the breath. As we ride the breath wave we become aware of thoughts drifting by and as we detect a thought we investigate it by noting:
Is it set in the past, present or future?
Is there a feeling attached to it?
Today we add 2 new layers of noting:
3. Is the feeling pleasant, unpleasant or neutral?
4. Does the feeling show up as a sensation in my body?
Instead of ignoring our challenging thoughts and emotions or becoming swallowed up by their story we put on our detective hat and examine them a little more objectively. Get curious and notice what kind of thought we are having. Identify the attached feelings. Detect how that feeling shows up in our body and see if we can breathe into the effected area, release it or perhaps modify it or if this is not possible for us today - work at accepting it.
We often view different feelings as part of who we are rather than as passing phenomena in the mind. This tendency makes us feel like we are standing in the middle of a violent storm, getting tossed around and buffeted. Using a meditation practice helps us take a step back, more like an onlooker viewing the raging storm through the safety of a window.
It is helpful to identify where in the body our feelings show up. This practice is particularly helpful for habitual muscular tensing that with time can cause bio-mechanical problems or illness. Taksubo Cardiomyopathy, nicknamed Broken Heart Syndrome, is a kind of heart failure caused by severe grief. It is a grim reminder that emotions do impact our bodies in very real ways. When we become aware of how our thoughts and feelings are playing out in our physical bodies we can start to heal. This may be as simple as letting go, breathing into a tight body part and coaxing it to relax and soften - again and again - until our body learns a new way of being. It may involve changing ingrained posture or movement patterns. It may involve reaching out to someone we trust to share our story. It might even involve professional help such as some kind of body worker like a massage therapist, physiotherapist or counselor.
At some points I will choose to reflect on a thought or feeling or sensation more deeply to discern a course of action. I may consider what triggered the feeling? Examine what story grew out of that trigger and decide if that story is accurate? I may discover something I can work on or a problem I can solve. I may decide that I can just chill and let a particular experience blow over? The choice of what I focus on is mine. I am not tossed and buffeted by every emotional gale that blows through my mind. I often journal these "stream of consciousness" sessions to watch for trends and become more aware of how my inner and outer world changes over time.
Journaling in tandem with meditation is useful. Expressive writing studies (there are over 1000) show that journaling deep emotions aids physical health. It can help those who suffer from chronic health conditions. It can reduce days in hospital after surgery! Studies show people who journal tend to talk, laugh, socialise more and sleep better. Those who journal are more likely to acknowledge when something bad happens and they use journaling to process their difficult experiences. It turns out that putting stuff into words changes the way it is organised in our minds. Constructing a story from our ups and downs helps us recover from hard times and savour enjoyable times. And it’s free.
We learn to tell our story better and this helps us connect and be known. We may feel more confident to share our struggles with a close friend or therapist whom we trust and whom we know wants the best for us.
Personally, I think of noting in meditation as a bit like tidying up my own mental desk. Thoughts, feelings or sensations are like different papers that litter the desktop. I file each away in my mental filing cabinet. You might find something different works for you. Again, why not get creative?
Are you a Harry Potter fan?
We could imagine ourselves in Dumbledore’s office plucking thoughts, feelings, and sensations out of our body with a magic wand and placing them in “The Pensieve of Hogwarts” to watch them slowly swirl away.
We could imagine viewing our thoughts through a magic, crystal ball. See them emerge out of the mist and then dissolve away again.
We could go to our happy place. A beautiful forest. Sit on soft, bright green moss beside a trickling stream. Place each thought, feeling or sensation on a broad leaf, set it afloat, and watch it drift away.
Many have a sense of something more at play in the world and practice what yogis call Ishvarapranidhana - taking shelter in and accepting the support of something greater than ourselves. This may simply be an awareness of the interconnectedness of all things and the commonality of suffering. It may a little mental ritual of sharing your cares and concerns with universal consciousness or a divine being - whatever reflects our own personal, deepest truth.
These creative responses to working with difficult emotions are personal, proactive, embodied ways of letting go. If you would like to learn more about the meditation skill of "noting" go to https://www.headspace.com.
If you have been following these meditations I would love to hear about your experience. Feel free to comment below or email me at email@example.com.
Next blog I will be practicing a simple self compassion meditation that I have found helpful for dealing with difficult emotions.