We tend to want to run away from our difficult emotions, such as anger, fear, and jealousy. We may distract ourselves with food, smartphones, computers, television, or even work to avoid the uncomfortable feelings these emotions evoke.
Experience emotions without the story
Meditation offers a better way, neither running away from our negative emotions nor acting them out, but instead experiencing them without getting caught up in the story.
You can do this with a simple meditation that focuses on how emotions affect your body. First center yourself by observing your breath. Then allow yourself to feel any difficult emotions that arise. Be curious about your own emotions. Feel the sensations in your body. Do you feel tightness? Aching sensations? Where? Observe the sensations and how they may change from moment to moment.
Keep your focus on the sensations in your body. If your mind starts to wander, getting caught up in replaying the situation where the emotions first arose, or planning revenge, or blaming yourself or others, gently bring your attention back to the breath and then back to the physical sensations of the emotions.
Appreciate the energy that emotions create. In negative emotions such as anger, that energy will be destructive if you use it to impulsively lash out at others or to attack yourself. By being mindful of how the emotion feels, instead of acting out, you can transform the emotion without losing the energy, and you can use that energy for a more wholesome purpose.
Wisdom in negative emotions
Processing emotions by meditating can make a huge difference in your life. But that’s not all you can do. There’s another step, which is to find the wisdom in your negative emotions.
Emotions are signals from the oldest parts of our brains that something in your life needs attention. They are like warning lights on a car dashboard. After you have sat with your difficult emotions in meditation, take some time to think about what your emotions are trying to tell you. Negative emotions are usually rooted in conflict between what you want and what other people or the environment are willing or able to give you.
By paying attention to the emotions and their messages, you become aware of problems you may otherwise have dealt with rashly or tried to suppress. That awareness is the first step towards dealing wisely with the difficulties of life.