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How To Meditate Part III: Mindfulness Of Feelings


In a previous post, I explored the first foundation of mindfulness, mindfulness of the body.

The second foundation of mindfulness is mindfulness of feelings.

Just as many of us learned as children to disconnect from our body, we also learned to disconnect from our feelings. Most of us weren’t taught healthy ways to relate with our feelings.

We’re conditioned to believe that feelings we judge as unpleasant are too difficult to manage, and we learn to turn away from them, usually by turning toward something else—such as food, alcohol, staying compulsively busy, or a number of other methods.

Unfortunately, we can’t selectively numb ourselves to feelings. When we numb ourselves to feelings that we judge as unpleasant or difficult—such as sadness, anger, or fear—we also numb to feelings that we judge as pleasant—such as joy, excitement and peace. Learning to open our hearts to feelings that we judge as unpleasant can facilitate our opening up to feelings that we perceive as pleasant.

Given that many of us have spent so many years numbing to our feelings, how do we begin to access them again? We can begin by making a regular time each day to begin to check in with ourselves and inquire, “What am I feeling?” Doing this at regular intervals, such as before we brush our teeth, when we sit down to eat, or before we go to sleep, can help us to remember to engage in this inquiry. Once we identify the feeling, simply naming the feeling, even silently to ourselves, activates an area of the brain that begins to calm us.

Once we have identified and named what we are feeling, we then inquire, “Where am I feeling this in my body?” and note where the feeling resides in the body—throat, stomach, chest, and shoulders are common areas of the body where many people notice sensations associated with feelings.

Once we note where we are experiencing the feeling in the body, we inquire, “What is the quality of these sensations?” and then name silently to ourselves the quality of the sensations that we notice—constriction, heat, coolness, relaxation, etc.

When we have completed this inquiry, the practice is to maintain the focus on the experience of the feeling in the present moment in the body. Continue to focus the attention on the sensations as the feeling manifests in the body in the present moment. If the attention wanders, bring it back to the experience of the sensations in the body and notice whether these sensations change in any way. Continue this practice if you can for two to three minutes and notice what happens.

Continuing this practice on a regular basis can assist us in learning to recognize feelings as they arise in the moment, and then we can utilize this same practice to stay grounded in the present moment experience of the feelings as they arise in the body. Engaging in this practice also builds confidence in our ability to successfully manage feelings that we perceive as difficult or overwhelming, which supports us in beginning to turn toward them instead of away from them. A feeling typically lasts approximately 90 seconds or less. It is our thoughts that perpetuate the feelings and cause us to experience increased suffering.

When a feeling arises, try to remain focused on the experience of the feeling in the present moment in the body, and when your mind wanders to evaluative thoughts about the feeling, simply bring the attention back to the body. As you continue this practice, see if you notice an expanding sense of peace and happiness as you begin to open your heart to the wholeness of your life!

Read more posts by Jen Johnson, JenningsWire blogger.


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