Taking Care of Our Feelings
In us, there is a river of feelings, in which every drop of water is a different feeling. To observe it, we just sit on the bank of the river and identify each feeling as it surfaces, flows by, and disappears.
When we have an unpleasant feeling we may want to chase it away. But it is more effective to return to our conscious breathing and just observe it, identifying it silently to ourselves.
Our attitude of not clinging to or rejecting our feelings is the attitude of letting go, an important part of meditation practice.
If we face our unpleasant feelings with care, affection and non-violence, we can transform them. By the work of mindful observation, our unpleasant feelings can illuminate so much for us, offering us insight and understanding into ourselves and society.
Let's look at how to take care of anger. Imagine our anger as a small child, crying out to their mother. When the child cries the mother takes her or him gently in her arms and listens and observes carefully to find out what is wrong. The loving action of holding her child with her tenderness, already soothes the baby’s suffering. Likewise, we can take our anger in our loving arms and right away we will feel a relief. We don’t need to reject our anger. It is a part of us that needs our love and deep listening just as a baby does.
After the baby has calmed down, the mother can feel if the baby has a fever or needs a change of diaper. When we feel calm and cool, we too can look deeply at our anger and see clearly the conditions allowing our anger to rise.
When we feel angry it is best to refrain from saying or doing anything. We may like to withdraw our attention from the person or situation, which is watering the seed of anger in us. We should take this time to come back to ourselves. We can practice conscious breathing and outdoor walking meditation to calm and refresh our mind and body. After we feel calmer and more relaxed we can begin to look deeply at ourselves and at the person and situation causing anger to arise in us. Often, when we have a difficulty with a particular person, he or she may have a characteristic that reflects a weakness of our own which is difficult to accept. As we grow to love and accept ourselves this will naturally spread to those around us.
The techniques to help us calm and look deeply at our body and mind can be summarized in five stages, using the example of anger:
1. Recognition. If we are angry, we say, "I know that anger is in me."
2. Acceptance. When we are angry, we do not deny it. We accept what is present.
3. Embracing. We hold our anger in our two arms like a mother holding her crying baby. Our mindfulness embraces our emotion, and this alone can calm our anger and ourselves.
4. Looking deeply. When we are calm enough, we can look deeply to understand what has brought this anger to be, what is causing our baby's discomfort.
5. Insight. The fruit of looking deeply is understanding the many causes and conditions, primary and secondary, that have brought about our anger, that are causing our baby to cry. Perhaps our baby is hungry. Perhaps their diaper pin is piercing their skin. Our anger was triggered when our friend spoke to us meanly, and suddenly we remember that they were not at their best today because their father is dying. We reflect like this until we have some insights into what has caused our suffering. With insight, we know what to do and what not to do to change the situation.