Guided Meditation

Practice: Working with Difficult Emotions

“All transformation comes after you come into contact with your body.”

Jonathan Foust

Emotions stay in our body if we don’t process and release them.  Yet if we can develop the capacity to be with them intimately, we can release them once we allow them the space to be fully experienced for a minute or two. 

When we work with difficult emotions, we want to listen to and respect our body’s intuitive intelligence, and let it be the guide to navigate the emotional territory.   Thich Haht Hahn said that we need to hold our emotions like a newborn baby – with the same kind of gentleness, tenderness, and care.

Usually we feel pain in particular areas of our body, not all of the body.  In this meditation, we will establish areas of body that are the pain zones, and areas of body that feel a sense of ease, which we call the non-pain zones.  And we will shift our attention between the pain zones and non-pain zones depending on our emotional capacity and where we are at a particular moment.  We want to keep meeting our edge and soften it. 

Buddhist teachings teach us that there is the wing of wisdom, which is to focus totally on what is true.  And then there is the wing of compassion, which is to hold our experience with care and tenderness.  And we learn to dance skillfully between the two in meditation.  

Begin the meditation:

First feel our body on the Earth, our feet, the weight of our body.  Feel the Earth’s effortless support for us.  Notice that this support is always there, whether we notice it or not. 

Sensing in your body if there is a sense of “okayness” in the body – warmth in the belly, a relaxed jaw, a pain-free elbow and so on.  Sense ease in those areas of the body.  Where in the body do we feel safe?

Notice if there are any areas in the body where there are tension and tightness.  Where are they located?  

Can we be intimately with whatever is arising? Does it feel safe to stay with this?  Listen to your body – if the answer is no, respect it.  Shift your attention back to the areas where you feel at ease and safe.  Perhaps this is not the time to investigate further, for this moment.  You can hold what you can’t hold as an inquiry to investigate in the future.  Hold it with curiosity rather than as a judgement. 

If the answer is “I can” or “I would like to explore,” then stay with your emotions and investigate how the emotions manifest in your body – what are the sensations? Is a tightness around the heart, is it tinkling around the neck, and is it heat in the lower back?  What does fear feel like in the body? What does sadness feel like?  Notice that we stay with our direct experience rather than the stories behind the emotions.

Can you allow the emotions to be fully expressed?  Can you allow them to get as big as they can? Let them fill up the room.  If you can, let them fill up as big as the sky.  Can they be released into the sky, onto the Earth, or to a tree, the sun, or the moon?  Hang out with it a little longer if you can.

If it feels right for you, you can put your hands on the body where you feel you need support and love.   Sometimes one hand on the heart, one hand on the belly helps. 

Once you feel the emotions are fully expressed, ask what does it need from you right now?  What can I best nourished myself right now?  See if there’s a sense of that or an answer that come to you. 

Notice if any of the sensations in your body have shifted during the meditation.  Perhaps the edges between the pain zones and non-pain zones have softened or bled into each other. 

Express gratitude for yourself for staying with the process and this meditation.  Thank the Earth for support.  Extend your well wishes for yourself and all beings on this land and beyond. 

This meditation is based on Jonathan Foust’s body-center inquiry techniques.