Author Topic: Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully  (Read 4339 times)

powerhawk

Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully
« on: December 31, 2011, 05:13:52 PM »
Hello,

I am a rather new meditator and have been trying to mindfully follow emotions in my body. (i.e. I pay attention to the physical sensations of the emotion in the present moment)

The center of my negative emotions tends to be my head and throat. I feel a sort of pushing and tension inside my head and near my throat. I try to pay attention nonjudgementally in the moment to these feelings as they play out. However, as I have done this, it seems as though these dull sensations of tension stick around for as long as I continue to pay attention. In some cases, I have remained mindful of this dull pushing sensation in my head for up to 30 minutes before changing activities.

Now, if I were to go and do something else instead of remaining mindful of the sensations, they subside much quicker! They also seem to go away more quickly if I change the focus of my attention to the breath.

I'm not sure how to proceed. From what I've read, many teachers advise becoming mindful of the body sensations associated with negative emotions until they subside, but this doesn't seem to be working so well. Could it perhaps have something to do with the quality of the attention that I am giving? I'm thinking perhaps my focus on the sensations was too forceful which is why they were amplified.

Thanks

Morning Dew

Re: Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2012, 08:38:31 AM »
Hi powerhawk and thank you for sharing my friend.

Before i say anything else can you please explain how you practice meditation, please?

Thank you.

Quardamon

  • Member
    • Teachers were: P.K.K. Mettavihari, Frits Koster, Nel Kliphuis. (In the line of Mahasi Sayadaw)
Re: Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2012, 08:15:02 PM »
Hello powerhawk,

Welcome to the forum.
The sequence in which I learned to meditate was: relaxation - concentration - meditation.
I still like the idea: first comes learning to relax - then comes learning to concentrate. When someone can relax and can concentrate, then he has the basis on which to do meditation.
From what you write, it seems you can keep your concentration for at least 30 minutes.
That is quite long for a beginner.
You say, that the emotions subside much quicker if you focus the attention on the breath. Sounds like you got the insight, that with the way you concentrate on the emotions, you also keep them in place.  ;)
It also sounds like you give a good reason to focus on the breath and not on negative (or positive) emotions: the breath is neutral.
Emotions might invite you to fight or stand up for yourself, or they might seduce you.

Well - that is a short reaction. You have the reaction of Che already.

See you around.

powerhawk

Re: Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully
« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2012, 10:16:11 PM »
Hi powerhawk and thank you for sharing my friend.

Before i say anything else can you please explain how you practice meditation, please?

Thank you.

My traditional practice is based on what is straight out of Mindfulness in Plain English... focusing on the sensations of the breath in the nostrils, until I have been distracted and then bringing my focus back to the breath. (Though I am now considering changing to the bodily sensations practice that I read in the sticky)

This technique I was just trying out was just sitting and following the physical tension in the body when I was feeling a tense emotion. I will say since writing this post I have been giving a more gentle, less focused, detached attention to emotions when I experience them and it seems to not produce the same response.


Morning Dew

Re: Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2012, 09:09:05 AM »
Quote
Now, if I were to go and do something else instead of remaining mindful of the sensations, they subside much quicker! They also seem to go away more quickly if I change the focus of my attention to the breath.

You answered your own question right here my friend :)
But lets elaborate a little;

What the Buddha instructs in Anapanasati (Mindfulness of breathing practice) is very simple:
Quote
"There is the case where a monk — having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building — sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect and setting mindfulness to the fore [lit: the front of the chest]. Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.
"Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.' Just as a skilled turner or his apprentice, when making a long turn, discerns, 'I am making a long turn,' or when making a short turn discerns, 'I am making a short turn'; in the same way the monk, when breathing in long, discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long' ... He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'

1st step is establishing the posture with erect spine and erect neck. No slouching :)

2nd step is setting Mindfulness to the fore. Lit. in front of the chest. Some have their eyes slightly open and gaze infront of the chest, not at  the chest but in the empty space. I close my eye lids and I set the Mindfulness in the eyeballs, stilling the eyeballs (as part of the whole body, relaxing the eyballs as part of the whole body, calming the eye ablls as part of the whole body).
Since you have tension in the head you can experiment to set Mindfulness on the lower abdomen just under the bellybutton or gaze infront of the chest.

The next step is a proactive sequence made of few steps but becomes one as a practice for overcoming suffering:
Quote
Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.'
Clearly Comprehanding I breath in, Clearly Comprehanding I breath out. No following breath, no focusing, no concentrating JUST Clarly Comprehanding :) OK. The same way you hear a car on the street, you dont need to concentrate you simply comprehand that you heard it, NO BIG DEAL :)

Next sequence;
Quote
He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.'
"He trains" indicates a proactivity, so there is nothing passive about this practice. Sensing the entire body, means we do not focus, concentrate or follow, simply clearly comprehanding the arising and passing sensations.

Next sequence;
Quote
He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'
An arisen sensation can be anything from pleasing to very annoying or neutral. In any way one calms this sensation  into the body with each in and out breath. The sensation is not outside the breath as a separate object but rather inwithin the breath which again is inwithin the whole body.

So, the sequence looks like this: Always Mindful of the breathing - Clearly Comprehanding - Sensitive to the entire body - Calming the fabrications.

Forced Concentration, Focusing, Following will create tension and therefore conflict with the mind. This is of no benefit. We rather try to develop wholesome feelings of Joy, Happiness, Gladness, Goodwill, Bliss which will propel us on the Path.


Hopefully you might find this being of benefit to your practice.

May you be happy
« Last Edit: January 02, 2012, 09:14:54 AM by Che Guebuddha »

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • Buddhism is a practical psychology and philosophy, not a religion.
    • If you cling to view, you must know this limits your potential.
Re: Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2012, 04:18:33 PM »
...
My traditional practice is based on what is straight out of Mindfulness in Plain English... focusing on the sensations of the breath in the nostrils,
...


...
What the Buddha instructs in Anapanasati (Mindfulness of breathing practice) is very simple:
Quote
"There is the case where a monk — having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building — sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect and setting mindfulness to the fore [lit: the front of the chest]. Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.
"Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.' Just as a skilled turner or his apprentice, when making a long turn, discerns, 'I am making a long turn,' or when making a short turn discerns, 'I am making a short turn'; in the same way the monk, when breathing in long, discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long' ... He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'

1st step is establishing the posture with erect spine and erect neck. No slouching :)

2nd step is setting Mindfulness to the fore. Lit. in front of the chest. Some have their eyes slightly open and gaze infront of the chest, not at  the chest but in the empty space. I close my eye lids and I set the Mindfulness in the eyeballs, stilling the eyeballs (as part of the whole body, relaxing the eyballs as part of the whole body, calming the eye ablls as part of the whole body).
Since you have tension in the head you can experiment to set Mindfulness on the lower abdomen just under the bellybutton or gaze infront of the chest.

...

powerhawk,

Both the sections highlighted bold and underlined are based on longstanding mistranslations.

"Bringing mindfulness to the fore" is not about where the physical focus is in any way whatsoever. It is the volitional act of making mindfulness the primary focus of minds' activity, simply that. "Mindfulness to the fore" = entering the states of meditation: As soon as you place mindfulness at the centre of mental activity you are in meditation.

Dusko's deconstruction of the instructions is, other than this slight confusion, a useful guide to practice. Further on in the text the Buddha is describing where the mindfulness is to be placed (which is proof positive of the mistranslations). When it comes to the body it is "sensitive to the entire body". Not nose, not chest - in fact there is not one place in the entire Sutta's where "nose meditation" or "chest meditation" is taught.

Many have wasted years and lives due to these mistranslations. Best you don't.

Matthew
« Last Edit: January 02, 2012, 04:20:51 PM by Matthew »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

powerhawk

Re: Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully
« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2012, 06:09:04 PM »
Thanks a lot for all the advice. It definitely seems that attempting too intense of a focus was causing the issue. I have began to transition to the recommended practice. It seems to produce a very different mental and physical state.

A few questions,

While doing it, it seems that I can attempt to stay mindful of the most prominent sensations in the whole body, a subset of which is the sensations of breathing. Or, I can just attempt to stay mindful of the parts of my body where I am breathing, i.e. my abdomen and chest. Which is the proper?

Also, should I try to be aware of every moment by moment change in the bodily sensations of breathing, or just a more relaxed awareness that breathing is occurring? There seems to be some contradiction about this from the different sources I've read. It also seems that as the meditation progresses, I seem to lose distinct sensation in many parts of my body.

Also, when mindful, do you think there should be a soft mental note of what is going on? i.e. thinking "rising rising rising falling falling falling" while breathing in, breathing out?
« Last Edit: January 03, 2012, 01:59:38 AM by powerhawk »

Quardamon

  • Member
    • Teachers were: P.K.K. Mettavihari, Frits Koster, Nel Kliphuis. (In the line of Mahasi Sayadaw)
Re: Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully
« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2012, 07:42:38 PM »
Hello powerhawk,

If you would fill in the word 'noting' in the box at the top right of the forum window and click on the magnifying glass at the right hand side of the box, you will find useful clues. The top one I see in the list is
http://www.vipassanaforum.net/forum/index.php/topic,1505.msg17377.html#msg17377

I am glad we have this search function.

powerhawk

Re: Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully
« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2012, 10:33:37 PM »
Thanks, that thread was helpful.

I also found the answer to my first question in another thread
« Last Edit: January 03, 2012, 01:26:02 AM by powerhawk »

Morning Dew

Re: Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully
« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2012, 09:41:44 AM »
Quote
A few questions,

... should I try to be aware of every moment by moment change in the bodily sensations of breathing, or just a more relaxed awareness that breathing is occurring? 

Hi powerhawk,
these questions are of great benefit and I salute you for asking them, good man.

I will try to answer with my limited wisdom on not answer at all;

What pops out from your question to me is 1) SHOULD I TRY TO BE, 2) aware of every moment by moment change in the bodily sensations of breathing and 3) a more relaxed awareness that breathing is occurring.

I would dare to say that all 3 are to be put under the magnifying glass of inner investigation (aware and awake comprehantion).

The question is not to be looked at judgementaly as a moral issue but just as a MIND FORMATION leading to Wholsome or Unwholsome states of mind, The Dhamma teaches us to see how phenomena become suffering, throuhg clinging to it, becoming a mental proliferation "to be or not to be the question is now, should I shouldnt I, I want I dont want etc ...).

So, no reason to get into the trap of looking at it from the moral aspect which can lead to feeling guilt (we have lots of it already) but as a scientist dissecting a rat examines "this is liver, this is one kidney this the other kidney, these are the intestines, this is the heart ... " so does the practitioner of Dhamma inspect the arising and passing of phenomena, how they come to be, what sensations, feelings, thoughts, emotions stay behind as a residue, etc ...
If one is to look at it from the moral aspect of right and wrong to think like that, even this is to be gently investigated, clearly comprehanded and calmed into the body, returning back to the mindfulness of breathing. As mentioned before, it is all part of a calm, gentle sequence which is returning to a state of gladness and goodwill.

When it comes to 2) and 3) I would suggect to "feel"  both of them. I see both taking place in my prctice :)

Quote
It also seems that as the meditation progresses, I seem to lose distinct sensation in many parts of my body.

Yes, I hear you :)
The more one meditates the more one becomes sensitive to the Arising phenomena and as you mention it :) the Passing Away of the same.
You are gaining Insight into the core teaching of the Buddha called The 3 Characteristics: All phenomena are Impermanent, Unsatisfactory and Not Self :)

I feel you are doing great.

May you be full of gladness and goodwil

powerhawk

Re: Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2012, 05:04:42 PM »
Everything has been going well, however I just got a zafu and have found that when I sit for a while I get intense pain in my tailbone area. Is this abnormal? I'm thinking it might have to do with a medical condition I have (pilonidal cyst).

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • Buddhism is a practical psychology and philosophy, not a religion.
    • If you cling to view, you must know this limits your potential.
Re: Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully
« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2012, 10:35:32 PM »
powerhawk - sounds like it is not giving you enough support - you could try lifting it by placing one or two tightly folded blankets underneath the zafu to lift it a little. This will straighten your lumbar spine and hopefully resolve the other issues.

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Alexanderjohn

Re: Problem with experiencing emotions mindfully
« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2012, 01:58:47 PM »
Quote
Now, if I were to go and do something else instead of remaining mindful of the sensations, they subside much quicker! They also seem to go aoway more quickly if I change the focus of my attention to the breath

There, you've observed that, good job! Thats mindfulness

 

Related Topics

  Subject / Started by Replies Last post
11 Replies
6474 Views
Last post January 18, 2013, 11:15:27 PM
by Mindfullness
10 Replies
4653 Views
Last post December 07, 2010, 09:56:21 AM
by westhead
2 Replies
2511 Views
Last post March 06, 2011, 06:41:57 PM
by Morning Dew
7 Replies
3753 Views
Last post March 28, 2012, 12:21:25 AM
by yshemesh
19 Replies
7867 Views
Last post March 05, 2013, 01:05:12 AM
by redalert
4 Replies
2019 Views
Last post May 19, 2014, 06:34:53 PM
by sinewaves
4 Replies
814 Views
Last post January 17, 2021, 02:07:19 PM
by Diogenes