More great clear instruction from Ken McLeod on how to work with uncomfortable thoughts and emotions when meditating (and in life).
When you sit in meditation and, say, an uncomfortable feeling arises, or an old issue, or a consistent pattern, try these four steps.

First, bring attention to the feeling. Open to it and be aware of how it arises physically as sensations, emotionally as feelings and mentally as stories and images. Don’t think about it or analyze it. That won’t be helpful. Just experience it.

Then let attention penetrate. You don’t have to do much here. Just keep your attention steady by resting in the breath and including the experience of the feeling. Whenever you are distracted, come back and start again. Attention penetrates the feeling naturally, just like the warmth of the sun naturally penetrates the crystal structure of ice.

Third, hold attention in the reactivity that arises. When you let attention penetrate experience, as in the previous step, sooner or later other reactions start to arise. Just include them in your field of attention. You don’t need to focus on them. Just include them. Again, whenever you are distracted, come back and start again. These secondary reactions are like molecules of water that, because of the energy of the sun, have broken out of the crystal structure.

Fourth, hold attention in what arises when the reactivity falls apart. At some point, all the reactivity just collapses. This is something that happens. It is not something that you make happen. All you do is keep returning to and holding the field of attention. When the reactivity collapses (after a few minutes, a few days, a few weeks or a few years), keep going. Open to what arises when the reactivity falls apart and rest there. Don’t start thinking about the pattern or what you just experienced. Don’t congratulate yourself on working through a pattern. Don’t feel you are finished.

A layer of reactivity is gone. But what is there now? Perhaps an open clarity, perhaps a powerful ecstatic joy, perhaps another layer of the same pattern, perhaps the core issue of a related pattern? There is no telling what will be there.

Keep going, mixing awareness with whatever arises in your experience.–Ken McLeod, Buddhist teacher and writer

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1 comment

  1. I have had a major problem with Maralyn’s divorcing me. I am trying to get back to a ore stable meditation, with fewer expectations as you indicate
    The past 6 months have been hell. I can very close to ending it all
    So thank you for writing me.
    Sometimes i just wish another life will show up.

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