This is a short practice to help you tune into emotions and move through them with kindness for yourself.
One of the foundations of mindfulness is Mindfulness of Feelings. At the heart of this practice is the idea that emotions are part of the richness of human experience. Rather than trying to control or resist them, we can learn to have a wiser relationship with them.
As it turns out, we can’t selectively numb some emotions—the ones we don’t want to feel, that we think of as negative—and then still feel the fullness of the positive emotions. If we try to tamp down difficult emotions, we end up dulling our capacity for joy and love and happiness as well. As Jack Kornfield says, “Joy and sorrow are woven together. You can’t have one without the other.”
What we can do is learn to be present with emotions as they arise, and to meet them with curiosity and care—opening our hearts to the fullness of life.
It’s important to acknowledge that opening more fully to emotions can feel vulnerable. Many of us have cultural or family conditioning about which emotions are allowed or acceptable and which are shameful or wrong. Often gender is a factor in the rules we internalize about this—women learning we’re not allowed to be angry; men learning they’re not allowed to be sad or vulnerable, or to cry. Those are just a couple of common patterns.
But the truth is we all have the full range of emotions. It’s part of being human. Through mindfulness practice, we can cultivate our capacity for groundedness and balance, our own inner wisdom that helps us be with whatever emotions arise, with kindness. In other words, we can learn to stay more grounded and peaceful through the ups and downs of life. This is because as we practice, we’re actually strengthening pathways in our brain that help us stay connected to the wiser and more thoughtful parts of ourselves.
As with all of mindfulness practice, the intention in this meditation is to bring a sense of kind awareness to whatever arises—in this case, in particular to our emotions and the internal experiences that are connected with them. We can sense emotions in different ways: with the mind, the heart, the body. There are different ways to connect.
Some things to keep in mind are that emotions can feel very strong, but they also shift and change with time. And you might remind yourself that whatever the emotion is, it’s just a feeling. It’s human and normal.
During this meditation, if at any point the experience feels like too much, you can always open your eyes, if they’re closed, and ground yourself in the space around you.