Meditation has been one of the most powerful healing techniques that I’ve ever encountered and I’ve used it extensively on my own path as well as regularly offering it to those I work with. The power behind it lies in its ability to help one touch the core of their being, their inner most nature which from my perspective is limitless in every way, this includes limitless joy, abundance, power, love, healing and compassion. Meditation and mindfulness practice also help to break through the mental stories that we overlay on so many of our experiences and bring us back in contact with raw feeling and experience.
When you realize that you are suffering in any moment a powerful practice is to pause and reconnect with the moment whether that is by focusing on the breath, grounding in the body or just putting your attention on how you are feeling. Sometimes there is built up tension, sometimes pent up emotion that needs to be felt and expressed and sometimes just a call to stop let go and nurture yourself in some way. If you think about it, life inevitably brings you unpleasant experiences yet we often do everything we possibly can to avoid discomfort. If discomfort is a natural part of life why is it that we don’t accept it and flow with it instead of resisting it? What makes the raw experience of an emotion we might call sadness or grief become suffering such as depression?
One answer to this is the story the mind projects onto the raw experience of emotion. For example you go to a party and see a friend you haven’t seen in some time. Your excited about talking to her and connecting but she’s talking to some other people. The night goes on and you can’t seem to get any time with her and you start to wonder if she is ignoring you. Later you pass her in the hallway and you say hi and she says a quick hello back but keeps walking past you and off down the hall. You feel hurt and rejected and the mind goes into its stories which might include “I guess she’s mad at me for something”, “why did I think she was my friend she doesn’t even acknowledge me” or “man is she rude, who needs a friend like that”. In this example you probably don’t know whats happening with her but you feel rejected. The raw feeling is what is important here and probably just needs to be felt and acknowledged and can be released, the mental story or commentary is extra and can have the effect of producing more emotion than was actually there in the first place. These mental stories are also very often not at all true and are instead biased by the unpleasant emotion that preceded them. She may have something going on that doesn’t involve you or she may have just really needed to go to the bathroom. They can be a distraction from feeling something unpleasant but they can also create a pattern of pain that persists because its continuously fed and recreated by the story being repeated again and again with more elements being added on each time. Have you ever obsessed about an unpleasant situation with someone like a boss or coworker to the point where you couldn’t stop thinking about it? There is an obsessive quality to these mental stories which tends to make them repeat again and again.
In my view this points to an addiction that most of us suffer from to some degree. The addiction is compulsive thinking. Over time these stories can become patterns and the patterns become habits and the habits become personality. Pretty soon it is very difficult to kick the addiction and the stories emerge almost immediately when there is an unpleasant situation. The stories and compulsive thought create a layer or filter between you and your experience and color it distorting your perception. They make it hard to free yourself of emotional trauma and transform unpleasant situations into full blown suffering or possibly even transform innocent or otherwise pleasant situations into suffering as well.
On a practical level, what I’ve distilled this down to is whenever I am experiencing emotional pain or discomfort I pause and drop any mental story that may be going on in my mind. I stop and just get into my body and feel. I may ask myself “how are you feeling right now?”. As I feel anything unpleasant that may be there I also ground myself in my breathing and bring my attention out of my mind and into the immediate experience of the present moment. This has the effect of moving and dispersing emotional energy that may be there and bringing groundedness and clarity. It is a simple practice but can be very powerful in allowing us to experience discomfort as it is without adding anything to it which usually results in it not persisting very long and not being as uncomfortable as it otherwise could be. At this point we may find that having gone through the discomfort we feel present empowered and alive, basically, free.
The greatest of all mental stories is our story of who we are. This consists of our past memories, beliefs, likes and dislikes and thought patterns. Identifying with this as being who we truly are is quite limiting because this small self consists mainly of our past and can narrow and limit our experience of the present and cut us off from the limitless possibilities of the now. My view of spiritual practice is that it exposes who we are at a deeper level and allows us to no longer need to take the small self or the ego as who we truly are. This results in a much more peaceful life because there is not so much to defend, there is no need to be right and no one to be wronged or treated badly whether by others or ourselves. The small self exists in the limitless field of the expanded self and we are able to hold both so we can truly be ourselves while allowing ourselves to grow and change and develop freely. The key to the direct experience of the expanded self lies in the present moment and with an unobstructed perception of life and our innermost nature. We are limitless beings, we just need to remember that and make the choice to live from our divine heart.