Beginning Meditation Class
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Beginning Meditation Class
Beginning Meditation Class

Feelings are an important part of our lives. They are like the weather--they come in, change the tone of our world while they are present, and then they pass. They can be positive, enjoyable, delightful and even rapturous. Or, they can be negative and painful and can lead us to destructive and harming behavior. Developing a healthy relationship with our feelings is one of life's most important tasks.

It is important to really feel our feelings. In life. And in meditation. What do we do when a strong feeling arises during meditation? First of all we recognize that we are having a strong feeling. We can gently label our feeling, just like we labeled the breath (in and out) and bodily sensations (burning, itching, etc.). And then we stay with the feeling. We can explore it with interest and curiousity. What does the feeling of anger really feel like?

Feelings are not only emotional. They also have a physical component. A feeling resides in a particular place in the body. We may feel fear in the pit of our stomach. We may feel anxiety in the chest. We may feel passion or kindness or caring in the area of the heart. So when a feeling arises in meditation, we try to locate and experience it physically as well as allowing ourselves to experience it both emotionally.

What are some pleasant emotions? Happiness. Love, kindness, joy, rapture, empathy, caring, ease, lightness of being, equanimity. These emotions are part of our greatest human potential. They arise naturally when we are in the present and in harmony with what is happening in our world.

But all too often, we are visited by negative emotions: greed, hatred, desire, anger, jealousy, envy, boredom, anxiety, impatience, rushing, road rage, annoyance, pride, vanity, self righteousness, depression. Many people's lives are ruled by negative emotions. And some lives are ruined by them. There is great suffering in these emotions. Meditation can help us to come to terms with and deal with these powerful, often destructive feelings.

It doesn't work to skip over difficult feelings or to push them away. Suppressed feelings come back in less conscious forms. When we are not aware of the feelings that are driving our actions, our potential for destructive behavior is much greater. If we face our feelings and let them in, we have a chance to work with them, to understand them and process them so we can consciously respond to life with our actions rather than mindlessly reacting to life through unconsicous feelings. So mindfulness of feelings is very important. So what do we do?

We are mindful. We feel the feelings. We experience them deeply. We understand there is no way around them, that they arise from the conditions of our life and that they are what is actually going on now. They are right where we need to be.

We understand that we are more than our just the bad feeling. A part of us is watching that feeling, and that part is not HAVING the feeling. This can be a powerful realization. We understand that feelings come and go, like clouds in the sky. A feeling may seem like it is going to last forever, but in fact, that is not so. It is going to pass. This realization can be very helpful when we work to endure painful feelings. Feelings are impermanent. We work to stop ourselves from indulging in destructive behavior when having difficult feelings. We respond to a situation rather than react. Meditation gives us extra time and extra awareness, so that we can bring mindfulness to our behavior and do less harm to ourselves and others.

Our feelings are the doorway into heaven and into hell. We want to cultivate and develop our capacity for positive feelings, especially loving kindness and generosity. And we need to fully experience our negative feelings so that they don't run our lives.

 

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