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"When uncomfortable emotions come to visit, leave all the doors open" - Meditation Teachings

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

Feeling oppressed or consumed almost by negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger, shame, regret, or depression is very common. The society we have grown in doesn't teach us from a young age how to regulate our emotions or be responsible for our wellbeing as a whole. It teaches us to outsource and look for comfort outside of ourselves, it invites us to become victims of 'fate' we project outwards instead of looking inwards and become lost in the mind. If this rings true for you, if you experience any of the above, you can benefit from learning how to release negative emotions from the body and mind through meditation.

When we live unconsciously, it is normal that a certain level of negative emotions gets built up in us. They remain bottled up in our unconscious along with outdated, unchallenged belief systems, that are quietly but intensely impacting and influencing our life and quality of experience. Without the right tools, it can be difficult or near on impossible to recognise and release these trapped emotions and limiting beliefs. Unable to navigate triggers and seeing them for what they really are. Alarms to pause.

Meditation teaches us how to recognise emotions in us for what they are, study them, be present with them, learn from them and release them.


For thousands of years, ancient wisdom traditions of the East (such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Daoism) have put a lot of study into the human body and mind, with the goal of transcending human suffering. With centuries of devoted experiments, revelations, and insight, they discovered that all of these negative emotions are not natural nor do they originate from or even touch our true being – they belong to the realm of the ego; our ‘mistaken identity’ .... the idea of who we are. They thrive in the Maya - The illusion on the screen but have no weight behind the camera.

Following a certain set of contemplative practices and some lifestyle tweaks, these masters discovered their true being and saw that seeing from THIS place the negative emotions do not survive. Out of their compassion and sense of oneness with all beings, they then spent their life teaching us how to find this space of freedom, of peace and of bliss. Which is always there, like a buried treasure until we discover it.

The following insights and techniques come from the Buddhist traditions and the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi.


Every single thought, feeling or sensation that we have is, by its very nature, impermanent. It comes and goes. It comes from emptiness, exists for a small period of time inside our system and then subsides again into emptiness.

The thing is, if you can simply perceive everything that happens to you (and within you) as a temporary phenomena arising inside your consciousness AND if you can see it for what it is and let it go when it goes, you would not have any problems. Basically, all suffering would disappear.

But, of course, that is not how our mind usually operates. We normally react – on a very personal level – to everything that we perceive. We create stories, interpretations, concepts, achievements, failures and turn every little happening into a ‘stitch’ in the fabric of our personality. We then meet the world and suffer through the lenses of this limited identity, living in the realms of the mind either in past or future. Too much or not enough... longing and chasing the dream "When I get there or achieve that I'll be happy" an awful trick of the mind and one to overcome. We are already here, we never, never reach "there" we are here, now.

Without questioning who we truly are – and without understanding the nature of thoughts and mind – we feel oppressed by our own ideas, feelings, and build walls of separation and limitation with our beliefs and attachments.


This is not a mistake this has happened to most people in the western world. It is how we are programmed from birth into societies and a system that doesn't serve us. Detached from our nature and mother nature Pachamama.

From the enlightened point of view, however, we are simply pure consciousness.


All emotions (energy in motion) is just a movement of energy inside of us, all thoughts like images projected on the cinema screen. The cinema screen is never burned by images of a fire, never disturbed by the story, nor is it ever cut by images of a sword! Therefore, the way to dissolve any suffering or negative emotion back into emptiness, is to realise who we truly are. To use self enquiry to realise again and again our true nature.

To remember and experience that we are the cinema screen and not the images projected on it.

Let’s take fear as an example. The ultimate cause for your fear is our identification with the ego and our attachment to our ideas, beliefs and desires. If we can become aware of this, experience this, then fear will loose its grip.

We know fear has effects on our body, emotions and energy. It is often helpful to have some kind of body movement practice and treat it on this level with various bodywork, look at consumption, opt for therapies i,e full body alignment, massage, cupping and myofascial release.


Also worth mentioning that sometimes we are so distracted by the symptoms of fear, the feelings in the body overwhelm the mind body connection and we can struggle to zoom out to make space for a greater perspective and the feeling to pass. Lessons come from this, it's ok to experience big waves of emotion. Even the most experienced surfer will come across a wave that will be greater than them.


So how can you work on your negative emotions at the root?


It’s a good question. If we continue with the example of fear and imagine that you are having a conversation with a friend, or with your life partner, or with a colleague. Suddenly the fear of rejection comes up inside you. This is an ideal opportunity to practice.

Depending on your needs and level of self-awareness, you could use one of these two approaches below.


1. See clearly with the 'LIER method'


The first technique is also known as the LIER method;

Label Introspect Examine Release

Easily remembered, the LIER technique deals directly with the negative feeling and the lie it carries.


Label

Observe, notice and recognise that fear has arisen and label it in your mind. The words you use are important. Avoid saying “I’m afraid” or “I have fear”. Instead say “fear has arisen”, or “fear is here”.

Do you see how just changing the words already creates a different perspective and more space?


Introspect

Take 1 – 3 deep breaths. Turn your attention inside, within yourself. This means don’t pay attention to the object, person or circumstance that triggered the emotion, but rather attend to the emotion itself. Accept that the feeling is there.

Examine

Study the feeling deeply; observe the causes, effects and nature of the feeling. To assist you and guide your contemplation, ask yourself the following questions:

Causes: What exactly triggered this feeling in this moment? There is no need to go to the remote causes of it in your childhood or whatever. For now just stay with what’s happening right here.

Once you find the core assumptions or mindsets that are at the root of the feeling, challenge them: Is this the only way to see this situation? Is this an empowering way of looking at things?

Effects: How does it feel in my body? Where does the feeling reside in my body? What memories and thoughts swim around this feeling in my mind? What are my thoughts and feelings about this feeling?

Nature: Look inside and ask yourself “What is this feeling?” Don’t use words to explain, just keep the question alive. Does this feeling have a substance, a colour, a size? What is it made of? What’s the vibration of it?

Contemplate how this feeling is impermanent. It was not here a few minutes ago – where did it come from?

It will not be here after a few minutes – where will it disappear into?

Spend as much time as you need contemplating the above. Learn as much as possible about the negative feeling. We are slaves of what we don’t understand. See if this emotion is the real problem, or if it is something else, something buried underneath it.


Release

Let it be whatever it is – but don’t create stories and interpretations around it. Then let it pass, let it go. We can say "it is seen" and just being aware of whatever it is and allow it to pass. I cannot tell you exactly HOW to let go, but intuitively every human being can.

The outcome of this process includes clarity (about what the emotion is), composure (to be with the feeling without being overwhelmed), self-knowledge (understanding the nature of the emotion, the triggers and the effects in your body) and liberation (a sense of separation between the emotion and yourself).

When approaching ‘nature’ you may encounter certain concepts or assumptions that are at the root of the negative feeling. Or perhaps certain subconscious ‘decisions’ of looking at things a certain way.

In this example (fear of rejection), it may be self-judgement about your feeling of worth, or perhaps an attachment to an idea that you need the approval of certain person to ‘confirm’ that you are worthy of love and value.

It may be useful, here, to spend some more time and thoroughly challenge these assumptions and choices.

In some cases, the emotion may also be pointing to something that needs attention in your life. If this is the case, then you may need to take some external action or to change something.

Engaging in this process, does not require any external passivity.

After going through this you may find that the negative emotion has already disappeared, lost power, or transformed into something else. And if is hasn’t, continue reading on.


2. Return to emptiness with the LIFE method


The second technique is known as the LIFE method;

Label Introspect Find Experience

The LIFE technique does not deal directly with the negative energy, nor try to learn from it. You simply return to the ‘inner life’ of pure consciousness, as naturally detached and untouched.


Label

As mentioned previously, recognise that fear has arisen and label it in your mind. Accept it for what it is.


Introspect

Turn your attention inward and ask yourself… Who is afraid? Who is the one that is affected by the fear? Who are you that perceives the fear?

Take your time to consider and answer this question. Don’t assume – actually do the looking. Use these questions to bring all your attention inside, towards yourself; you are the subject and experiencer of the fear.

This subject is the ego, your identity, or who you think you are. Spend time keeping the attention here, in this space.

If your focus is intense and persistent, at this point you have already forgotten about the fear. But keep on.


Find

Ground, find your centre. Ask yourself the question, “Who am I?” (I will be adding a guided “I am” meditation soon, where we can practice this more) Reject any answer that your mind gives you, because you are aware of your mind, therefore you cannot be your mind. You are aware of your body, so you are not your body. You are aware of your fear, so you are not your fear. You are aware even of this mental process, so it’s not you. Who you are isn't what you think, it's more of a quiet realisation. Everything that is seen cannot be who you are.

Who are you? Who is aware of all these things?


Experience

Experience yourself beyond the fear. Is this space of awareness afraid?

Can it be sick? Is it male or female? Does it have a shape or form? A substance? A nationality?

Does it care what others think?

Is it a son or daughter?

Can it be hurt or harmed? You may use these techniques one after another, or individually. In any case, clear understanding is very important.

You cannot overcome what you are not aware of, what you don’t recognise. As your self-awareness becomes more sharp and self enquiry becomes more habitual, you will be able to move your attention back from the realms of mind and maya (the illusion) and settle back into peace.


If you follow this through as a life practice, at some point you will discover your true origin as the witness of everything, fearless, peaceful, awareness itself. There is no suffering in here. Home.





3. Contemplate the opposite quality



Another practice is to contemplate the opposite quality. Our mind is unable to hold on to two thoughts


at the same time – especially opposite thoughts. At most it can quickly switch between them, but at any given moment it’s only busy with one thing.

So, if you are feeling fear, and you make an effort to contemplate fearlessness and courage (both the thought of it and the feeling of it), fear will subside. If you are feeling sad, contemplate gratitude. If you are angry, contemplate compassion and love.

That is why practicing a Loving-Kindness meditation technique stops us from having negative feelings towards ourselves (unworthiness, self-criticism, lack of self-esteem, etc) and others (hostility, hatred, anger). Because we are cultivating love for ourselves and others.



4. Quick emotional release meditation


Often all we need in order to heal negative emotions is to recognise and accept them for what they are. To let them communicate their message to us, without judgement and without interpretation.

That is why the concept of labelling is so important. It is an essential element in many of these techniques. Labelling our thoughts and emotions is an


exercise in self-awareness that is proven to help us process our feelings.

Every emotion is teaching you something about yourself, and your values. Meditation invites us to live more consciously, to learn from all of our negative thoughts and emotions, and to let them go when they are no longer needed.

By simply looking at your thought and remembering your true position, you will get the ability to simply dissolve any troublesome thought or negative emotion in a couple of seconds. What a powerful freedom this is.

Don’t expect to achieve this level of mastery in a couple of weeks, though. It may take time and this is why it is necessary to maintain a daily seated meditation practice. There are many types of meditation that you can try; but in my experience, ‘I Am’ is


an extremely helpful technique to develop space and clarity.

This process works not only when dealing with fear, but also with most other negative emotions. This is because all of them come from a single cause: the forgetfulness of


our true being and identification with the ego and mind. It’s more effective when you use it whenever the negative feeling comes up, right there and then, or immediately after – and not in retrospective.

So, you can choose to break free from the shackles you have made for yourself. Go beyond the ego with all its limitations and suffering. You are the space of Being; you are pure consciousness. Suffering is not natural to you


– peace and freedom is. Discover that, be that. This is the teaching of the ancient sages.


A final reminder...

Practicing meditation is a good way to strengthen your ability to use these tools. But it is also key that you remember to apply them in your daily life. Meditation is essential, but not enough alone and without commitment and consistency. If we can commit to living consciously using these practices and a holistic approach as we navigate through life we can navigate with more ease, more comfort and from our innate peaceful nature.


Post inspired by various Meditation Teachings and Course Work for Meditation Teacher 25 hours (Loka Yoga)




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