Healing Meditations for Destructive Emotions
Based on the mountain of research supporting the use of regular meditation practices and yoga, it is safe to say that Buddhism and its practices have merged with modern scientific investigation. From the early days of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (the MBSR of Jon Kabat-Zinn) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (the DBT of Marsha Linehan), clinical and scientific mindfulness/meditation practices have advanced into successful interventions for a plethora of psychological and physical conditions. Among the thousands of studies, most are of “good enough” quality regarding designs and controls. Buddhism and science recommend that we evaluate by direct observation of outcomes and not solely by traditions in both research opinion and the sutras. According to The Dalai Lama in his Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics, the primary purposes for both Buddhism and science is the improvement of cherished human life and the experience of personal happiness. Since our mood, happiness and perhaps long-term health may depend on how we react to emotions, strong mind training is required. When we experience pleasant feelings (sukkah vedana), we are happy. When we experience unpleasant feelings (dukkah vedana), we are unhappy. We chase happiness, but we find endless cycles of ups and downs, the samsaric cycles. The goals of better health and emotional happiness can only be met by deeper understanding of how the human mind works and how to work with our destructive human emotions. The Buddha pointed out that reactions to our impermanent feelings cause us harm.
According to Josh Korda’s Unsubsribe: Opt Out of Delusion, Tune in to Truth, goals of improved human existence and enhanced happiness cannot occur when we use meditation for escaping our pain and suffering. This spiritual bypassing (simply a more sophisticated way to self-medicate pain) may bring us short-term relief, but it always brings long-term stuckness. No matter what form of meditation we practice (Anapansati, Vipassana, Samatha, Metta, or Mantra), the goal is NOT to escape suffering but to be one with it and understand its deeper meaning and possible benefits. Thus meditative bliss alone fails to bring true, deep relief from personal emotional suffering. We do not heal by way of avoiding difficult emotional realities in our lives. True liberation comes from not being impulsively reactive to emotional responses to objects and experiences in life. Best to be with all your feelings and emotions in meditation to “see” why they are there and what you can do to befriend them. The painful emotions in meditation have the potential to become our allies, but we need to stop spiritual bypassing and self-medication to get there. You need to make your own judgment here; if you feel that you are too fragile emotionally to be with your emotional experiences, DO NOT DO IT.
Now we will select a meditation form and become fully aware of emotions/feelings; we will simply be with them no matter if pleasant or unpleasant. We will be one with them to get to know them better. According to A. Brahm’s Bear Awareness: Questions and Answers on Taming Your Wild Mind, all meditation forms in regular practice ultimately lead to equanimous and happier experiences. The single binding force is to “let go” and be with whatever comes up. Letting go of conditioned reactions can be a struggle. Let us practice!
- Practice of Anapansati – Breath Meditation. Simply practice breath awareness deeply enough until your body awareness is reduced or eliminated. ALLOW full mindfulness attention to any difficult emotions that arise. Be with them to understand them. Work at befriending them. What could you learn here? How might your pain help you?
- Practice of Vipassana – Insight Meditation. Through the regular practice of Insight Meditation we become more aware of the ultimate truth about life. Strong attention points our awareness to impermanence, suffering as a fact, interdependent origination (nothing arises from nothing), and The Eight Fold Path to enlightenment. Once we are into this practice deeply, we experience insights, inner peace, and joy. What do your insights teach you about your suffering?
- Practice of Samatha – Equanimity Meditation. Here meditation brings on a state of inner calm and peace – sometimes perfect stillness. In this personal and private experience of quietude, we may be ready to discover arising insights about life and mind. In such a state of equanimity, allow yourself to be with your emotions as they arise.
- Practice of Metta – Loving Kindness Meditation. Wishing well to ourselves and all others as the root of this meditation practice brings peacefulness, inner quiet, and deep insights. We directly experience joy while we practice. Apply self-compassion to your suffering.
- Mantra Meditation – Six-Beat Mantra of Yig Drug. Say the following mantra to yourself as you meditate in any form you wish: OM, MANI, PADME, HUM. Continue! Now shift to a modern mantra, a modified Louise Hay mantra – “I now choose to love and accept myself.” Continue! Now as you say this to yourself in your meditation, slowly and firmly complete the Thymus Thump practice. See what happens.
For more information refer to The Dalai Lama (2017). Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics. Boston: Wisdom Publications. Korda, J (2017). Unsubscribe: Opt Out of Delusion, Tune in to Truth. Boston: Wisdom Publications. Brahm, A. (2017). Bear Awareness: Questions and Answers on Taming Your Wild Mind. Boston: Wisdom Publications. Hay, L. (1984). Heal Your Body: The Mental Causes of Physical Illness. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House -eventually.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont and the Home of The Monkton Sangha
Author of Mindful Happiness