this belongs: opening to difficulty and the message of emotions
Whatever you feel is real, but our perception is not always true. As the emotions swirl with accompanying thoughts and sensations, how many of us have jumped into the vortex and identified with the narrative, the blame, the hurt only for the emotion to intensify? Or maybe we reach for distraction to avoid what is being experienced.
Emotions serve a purpose in bringing our awareness to an underlying need, which sounds quite straightforward, but the lens through which we view this need has the filter of our hitherto conditioning obscuring and warping the message. Take anger. In its raw form, anger tells to protect myself or others, yet my conditioning adds a sense of self-righteousness, blame, and in an extreme sense, revenge to the lens of my perception. Or jealousy. Jealousy tells me I am feeling displaced from my true being, but my previous experiences add a sense of grasping, ‘if only’ and comparison to what I am experiencing.
Every emotion carries a message, but so long as we keep our attention outwards and search for solutions before we turn inward, the essence of the message is obscured by the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and others. The painful emotions we experience are a signal from our intrinsic intelligence that we’ve become, or fear we’ll become, inner and outwardly separated, and we generate these feelings in attempt to stay connected yet the stories are disconnecting.
We know that in the throes of anger, jealously, shame, fear, and sadness there’s a felt sense of separation and disconnection from who we are beyond the ego (which serves a purpose but left unchecked creates a misidentification with who we actually are beyond our likes and dislikes), we are in a trance of a separate me and an ‘othering’ of you as we seek to have our needs met. The emotion’s core message is “I want to remain connected” yet the imposition of the ego’s immediate likes and dislikes creates a narrative that fosters less connection and more separation. It’s paradoxical.
In denying my emotions, I either project these on to the others in an attempt to not have to face up to what was happening or look for a short term distraction. Why? The story I told myself about who I was - “I’m kind” “I’m calm” “I’m good” - mean those emotions that aren’t congruent with this self-narrative are a threat to who I tell myself I should be. It took a slice of humble pie, many years of yoga and self-compassion meditation, as well as studying and having Gestalt Therapy to say to painful feelings “I see you and you belong. Let’s sit together.”
When I am with, I move beyond my small stories of likes, roles, and dislikes, and meet my experience with the expansive container of higher of loving awareness where judgment is replaced with inquiry, and condemnation is substituted with nurturing. Rather than turn towards blaming, I make a U-turn towards the raw message of the emotions and begin to peel away the years of conditioning.
The therapy helped to see the many roles I had constructed or taken on, it allowed me to shine a light on my blindspots, Yoga and mindfulness allowed me to keep the attentional quality, and self-compassion provided a sense of nurturing and non-judgment. I am intensely grateful to Tara Brach for her adapted RAIN (Recognise, Allow, Investigate, Nurture) meditation which has given my a distilled technique for the qualities I spent many years fostering yet she has provided a formula to. I’d like to take you through it now. This meditation is not intended for exploring trauma alone and is recommended this is done with a qualified psychotherapist or counsellor.
Opening to emotions
Take a few moments to find a comfortable seat and check in with your breathing. Take a few breaths, intentionally lengthening your exhale.
Recognise - bring into your awareness a difficult emotion you’re experiencing or you have in the last few days, sensing where you feel this in your body. Stay with the sensation without needing to go into the story around the emotion.
Allow - recalling how emotions are messengers, can you accept its presence and say to yourself ‘this belongs’. It’s OK to feel like this.
Investigate - with loving awareness, sense into your body where the emotion is strongest. If it helps, you can place a hand there. Now with open-hearted curiosity ask the emotion “What do you need?” Feel how your body responds as you ask. Once the answer is clarified ask “How do you want me to best be with you right now?” Feel how your body is responding.
Nurture - now turn your attention to a being that represents your higher self. This may be a deity, a relative who has your best interests at heart, a wise, inspirational figure, or it may be the future self you are becoming. What would they say to you right now as you sit here? How would their presence make you feel nurtured? Allow this feeling to embrace you.
After the RAIN - Take a few moments to rest in the cleansing experience of waking up, sensing how it is to be in loving presence to the here and now.
I would love to hear your experience of emotions and how this meditation has helped. To access an audio of this meditation, alongside other meditations and Yoga classes, sign-up to the Unlimited Access page for just £6.00 a month with no rolling contract. I also have 2 weekly live Yoga classes on Wednesdays 7:15-8:20am and Saturdays 10-11:15am.