Escaping the Meditation Trap

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Escaping the Meditation Trap

Despite of the glorification of meditation in the media in the recent years, research suggests that often, we use meditation or mindfulness as an escape from our painful emotions or avoiding uncomfortable situations in our lives. By striving to achieving peace, silence or joy within, we end up avoiding those emotions that are bubbling under the surface.

A review of 75 articles by psychologists Perez-De-Abeniz and Holmes revealed that 62.9% of people admitted negative effects during or after meditation.

They describe paradoxical panic and anxiety, tension, boredom, loss of motivation in life, disorientation, increased judgment and negativity, and feeling addicted to their practice.

By the same token, a well known American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield pointed out that meditation is not enough and claims that half of the students at the annual retreat practising insight meditation have great difficulties to even begin because masses of unresolved issues from past.

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So I wonder, what have we been avoiding?

According to Michael Brown, the author of The Presence Process, we all carry many unresolved emotional hurts from the past which keeps coming up when facing various situations. We keep distracting ourselves from feeling those subtle feelings and may have even become completely numb to them. However, they stay with us and if suppressed they manifest as addictions, suffering, emotional drama or even chronic diseases. Even recent research shows that although the teachings of positive psychology may relieve some immediate symptoms of our emotional distress, it is ineffective in a long term.

Numerous psychologists, mindfulness teachers as well as some renowned spiritual leaders today agree that to integrate our emotional issues from the past, we need to stay present to the uncomfortable and even painful sensations we experience in the moment. Buddhist meditation master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche calls this ‘leaning into the sharp points’ and it is the same concept as ‘making friends with our own demons’ or ‘integrating our shadow’ in Carl Jung’s terms. In other words, we have to feel it to heal it. Otherwise our demons will keep coming up in our lives, sabotaging us from responding to life authentically and living happily in the long term.

As an analogy to how we unconsciously create all the emotional suffering and drama around us in our lives, think of a person who compulsively cuts her hands. Self-mutilators cause themselves pain as to avoid the emotional pain inside. In other words, we may create a variety of dysfunctional relationships and situations in our lives as a surviving mechanism to our inner unattended suffering. By blaming others, we avoid the responsibility we have for our emotional lives, so we can keep our surviving mechanisms in place. Emotions such as anger, disappointment or jealousy are just messengers pointing out what needs to be healed.

A miraculous healing takes place when we can relax in discomfort and pain without any need to protect ourselves.

An author and Buddhist nun Pema Chodron reminds us that being with fear and looking it in the eye does not serve us as a way of fixing a problem but as a way of undoing our conditioned ways of seeing the world.

So next time, when you notice some uncomfortable sensations or emotions, take a few moments to label them and turn your attention inwards (normally our thoughts keep us preoccupied with the outside events and people). Then take a few moments to just sit with those emotions, without judging them, relaxing into the present moment. By just observing those emotions, little by little we are reclaiming the freedom from our past emotional issues and train ourselves to be resilient and in control. It can be the hardest thing to do. But the most rewarding.

ASMR meditations are especially designed for Western busy people living in cities surrounded be technology. They not only provide the guidance on how to meditate but also how to best utilise each session for their growth and practical outcomes via their uncomfortable emotional states.