Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On Emotional Release and more.... from my Yoga for Anxiety & Depression class

A few words on Meditation, Yoga and emotional release:

Mindfulness meditation is a form of meditation which will teach you to observe the present moment – emotional and mental states included, without judgment and with ease of knowing that “this too shall pass.” In this sense, we feel liberated from the grip of emotion and the states we are in tend to pass through more rapidly. It is so because the usual tension, pushing back, despair, agitation, etc, that normally accompany the realization of depression or anxiety (or anger, vulnerability, panic, jealousy, and any other human emotion) actually complicate and worsen the situation.

However, if you are already very depressed, or suffer from an anxiety based depression, it may be excruciatingly difficult to just sit and observe. Furthermore, if your state is the result of unresolved trauma, it is strongly recommended to sit and practice in the presence of an experienced teacher, as symptoms may worsen temporarily. You will need the guidance of someone to walk you through.

There are other forms of meditation that may be of good use to you:

Loving kindness meditation, or “Metta” is a form of meditation in which we sit and project loving kindness to others, or more importantly, to our selves.

“My you be well,” “May you be peaceful and ease with whatever comes.” “May you be free of suffering,” “May you be happy” These are some suggestions, but you can find your own words. Directing the Metta toward you can have a profound easing effect in moments of distress.
Even though it may feel unnatural at first, focus on being as sincere as possible and as genuine as possible, thinking of your being as something you love and care for.

Opening Heart Meditation is a form in which we use the breath and focus our attention on the area of the heart. As we inhale, we visualize the heart expanding in all directions and flooding with joy, love, ease and light. As we exhale, we focus on relaxing tension from wherever we are aware of tension. With every inhale the heart grows and fills with space and ease and we observe the feeling mindfully. It will feel like the heart expands past the boundaries of your body, and so be it. The bigger, the better. Again, we visualize and stay sincere and genuine. Using deep diaphragmatic breaths may help you as well. Otherwise, use normal breaths. 
Finally, you can slip from one form into the other as appropriate to you.

If you start with Metta and slip into Heart Opening meditation than you can transform it into Mindfulness and even practice Mindfulness while practicing one of the other two. The idea is to make the transition as seamless as possible.

Taking an Introduction to Meditation, and practicing with a teacher for a while may be helpful to you. If you are new at meditation and if you fear that your emotional state will get the best of you, then do seek private time with a teacher.

What to do when emotional release approaches while you are on your yoga mat, or during your meditation…..

1) Remember that whatever is happening is a good thing, even if it transports you into memories of trauma and discomfort. It is the body/mind system’s attempt to dump the baggage of that memory. Just like oil rises to the surface, the dislodged seeds of “samaskara” rise to the conscious mind from their storage place in the body and mind and are ready to be let go of….if you so chose.

2) Do not suppress what arises. Let it run its course naturally, while you mindfully observe everything about it. From the Witness Consciousness you will have a sense of safety observing the waves of emotion, memory and thoughts rising and subsiding. Acceptance and non-judgment are a key element here, so that whatever arises stays uninhibited by rejection, self-criticism, shame, or judgment. That which remains undigested will literally give you a belly ache. So, the more open and allowing you are to the moment to express its content, the faster you are digesting the experiences from which this emotional state is arising. (See it as it is, nor worse than it is and let it go.)

3) Practice gratitude. Remember to be grateful for this moment, as you are and as it is, with whatever is happening in it. The gratitude will give you strength to remain in the Witness and will inspire you to take care of yourself and follow through with any actions that may be necessary, after the emotional release is over.

4) Some things come at you like a freight train, and others drip in barely noticeable. Sometimes, you will be conscious of what this emotional release is connected to, and others, you won’t. It is important not to make stories, or attempt to look for reasons why this feeling is arising. The cognitive mind may, or may not, make a connection to a situation. It DOS NOT MATTER. Understanding is NOT required for letting go. Understanding is NOT required to be mindful. Anyone who tells you otherwise, is only helping you get stuck looking for a story rather than moving on and being free.

However, it is the nature of the mind to dig for worms, so be patient and stay focused on the present moment, and not on a story you are weaving through your head (even if the story happens to be true).  Sometimes, days later, you may get an insight of what the emotional release was all about. Sometimes, you will experience similar releases over a period of time, and then you may, or may not, get a clue of what it was about. Either way, you will feel much better letting the emotion run its course while you mindfully observe it. Some day you will find yourself responding differently to familiar situations, finding yourself more adventurous in your life, or ready to do something you never thought you can, or should. This is the result of the process, even if there is not cognitive, sequential understanding of the process. Trust that the body and mind can work things out without “understanding.”

You may have to seek the help of an experienced practitioner to guide you through the practice while things are arising. You may also, want to visit a therapist with your newly found insights. Whatever helps you with your digestion process, do it without delay and without hesitation. This is the process of cleaning up, of liberation.

Good Luck & call me if you need me. (805) 909-1401