Difficult Emotions

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A MEDITATION TO EASE THE ANXIETY OF CORONAVIRUS 
INSPIRED BY THE COVID-19 POEM
AND THE PEOPLE STAYED HOME BY KITTY O’MEARA

It’s April 2020 and coronavirus has shut down the world. People have lost their lives and livelihoods; and we find ourselves contained to the four walls of our homes in an effort to reduce the spread of a virus that as yet has no cure or vaccine.

I’ve felt a rollercoaster of emotions the past few weeks. A conflicting concoction of relief to have some breathing room from an overcrowded schedule and the panic of uncertainty around work, money, and – toilet paper!

Thankfully, my news feed has been filled with funny memes, inspiring stories, and poems of a higher purpose to the global pandemic.

This particular one was a source of comfort, so thanks, Kitty O’Meara, whoever you are.

INTRO

This is a meditation that might help ease the fear and anxiety of coronavirus; inspired by Kitty O’Meara’s poem And the People Stayed Home. 

First getting yourself nice and comfortable, in a relaxed position where you can be somewhat alert. 

And I’d just like to say; it’s really lovely to be connecting with you at this time; whoever you are.   

CHECKING IN 

This time that you’ve set aside for yourself right now is an opportunity to step away from the news, social media and phone calls with friends; and perhaps for the first time today, just be present with what’s happening. 

So I invite you to check in with yourself by asking the question:  

 In this moment, what is happening? 

What is happening in my mind? This is simple a noticing game. No judgement here. Is it busy, worried, relaxed or something else?   

What is happening in my body? Can you notice any tension, energy, pulsing or pain rising to the surface now that you’ve stopped and become still? 

What is happening in my environment? What sounds can you hear. Is there any interesting about those? What aromas can you smell, what temperatures can you feel in and around your body? 

BREATH 

Of course another way we can be present is to know that we’re breathing. So let’s remind ourselves what it feels like to breathe, by taking some deliberate, mindful breaths.   

And if it feels good for you, wherever you are, you may even like to make these breaths a quite audible sigh.  

Deep full in-breath and an even longer out-breath. 

A couple more times. 

Deep, full in-breath; even longer out-breath.  

And when it feels right, letting the breath return to its regular rhythm. 

MEDITATION 

And as we each grapple with this very new way of life; the uncertainty and how quickly things are changing, I just wanted to note that it’s going to be quite normal and necessary for some processing of your situation to occur within meditation.  

You may find that many of your meditations over the coming weeks and months are spent largely in thought and that those moments of sustained stillness or concentration are a little harder to come by. 

This is totally OK; it doesn’t make these meditations any less worthwhile and nor does it mean you should be forcing extra effort to attain some particular state of mind.   

I think now more than ever, an attitude of kindness and self-care is the intention of our practice. 

COVID-19 POEM

And so with this in mind, I’d like to share with you a poem written by Kitty O’Meara, in response to coronavirus, whose words you may find comforting and helpful.   

It’s called: And the People Stayed Home  

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being and were still. And listened more deeply.

Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows.

And the people began to think differently. And the people healed.

And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

I’ll leave you here with these words and if you wish you can take them into your own meditation. Going with whatever style practice is appropriate for you at this time, with whatever you’re going through. 

Take care.

Gratitude

Lean into Joy

A GRATITUDE MEDITATION TO BUILD UP YOUR HAPPINESS MUSCLES

If you’ve heard of the brain’s negativity bias you’ll know that humans evolved to favour bad news. That is, to be on the lookout for threats (as do antelope in the Serengeti) and commit negative events to memory to be able recall and avoid them next time.

A handy skill to have when it’s you or the lion. But in modern times? A nuisance for the most part! It means we worry about stuff that will likely never happen, we blow things out of proportion and we don’t actually see the amazing things that are happening before us each and every day.

Happiness is a skill. It’s something we should teach our kids they can choose, develop, practice, learn – as enthusiastically as we do about their sports, their manners and their times tables.

So this a meditation for playing ‘spotlight’ with joy. To seek it out, to recall it, to commit it to memory so that we recognise it in mindful moments and actually shift our happiness set point.

En-joy!

This meditation is one you can do to build up your happiness muscles. Muscles that just like the ones in your body, need to be strengthened and conditioned for a brighter mental landscape.

So getting yourself into a comfy position. Inviting an ease and loosening of the body, and of the mind, ahead of our meditation.  

ALERT RELAXATION

And if you’ve found yourself fighting sleep in meditation recently – that’s actually OK you can accept the sleepy state just as it is and if it means nodding off then so be it. 

But if you prefer, you can also try to encourage a more alert kind of relaxation by freeing your back to sit unsupported at various times throughout the meditation, as well as tilting your chin slightly upwards to shake off any dullness.  

But together we’ll start with the intention of a wakeful kind of relaxation and we’ll do this by first connecting with the breath.   

Connecting in with the breath where you can feel it best. Using the cooling in-breath and the warming out-breath to get things started.  

Breathing in energy and alertness. 

Breathing out relaxation into the body.  

·

Breathing in attention and vibrancy. 

Breathing out a deep restfulness into the body.

·

Breathing in wakefulness and clarity. 

Breathing out calm and stillness through the body.

RECALLING JOY

And what I’d like you to do now is cast your mind back on your day. And see if you can recall any moments of pleasure or joy. A conversation. Or a song you heard on the radio. Any moments outside in the sunshine, or the first sip of coffee for the day.  

Just sitting here and allowing any little moments of happiness from your day to present themselves to you in memory. 

And if not today then maybe yesterday or sometime in the past week. 

Something, or many things, that brought a smile to your face either inwardly or outwardly. 

PRESENT MOMENT JOY

And having recalled these little glimpses of joy or contentment from the recent past, now I’d like you to bring your awareness into the present moment. To the here and now. To all the things that you can hear – inside and outside. And all the things you can feel – either emotions or other sensations in the body. Just noticing whatever is arising moment to moment. 

Is there anything in there you can appreciate? Anything you can you feel happy about? 

There may be pain in the body, there may be fatigue, there may be feelings of sadness or anxiety or anger. You can accept all of these things just as they are…. But you can also ask yourself – in every moment that arises – can I feel grateful for this? 

This breath. 

This time you’ve carved out for yourself. 

This body. 

These sounds that are all around.

Memories that return from the past, or thoughts that arise about the future. 

Any people in your midst either known or unknown.  

What about any of your experiences, both here in meditation, and out in the world, can you appreciate? Find the joy in? See beauty within? 

I’ll leave you now to continue on in silent meditation. You can keep going with this cultivation of a positive, thankful state of mind… or move on to whatever style of meditation presents itself to you in the first few quiet moments. 

Enjoy.

Difficult Emotions, Open Awareness

The Circle

A MEDITATION THAT MAKES FRIENDS WITH THOUGHTS AND EMOTIONS

One of the tricky parts of meditation is being able to accept all experiences as valid – to allow them, welcome them and, even, make friends with them.

It’s easy to be with the sound of birds chatting in the evening or the steady fall of rain on a roof. But not so easy to accept the rumble of a chainsaw or, the gentle, innocuous drip of a tap!

And what of perturbing thoughts, body aches and pains, and gut-wrenching emotions?

Whilst focused-based meditations (such as breath counting, body scan and mantras) will see you “letting go” of any experience that isn’t that one point of attention; the open awareness (or open monitoring) meditation instead helps you to welcome all aspects of your experience, non-judgementally.

Each style of practice has their benefits, but perhaps the one that helps us most with thoughts and emotions is that bare attention, non-directive style. It allows us to sit back, like this one, be curious, and let the meditation unfold naturally on its own.

Here’s a quick one you can try for yourself.

Welcome. This is a mediation that helps to grow acceptance and kindness for all that we experience, both during practice and out in the world.

BODY

First getting yourself into whatever position feels natural and comfortable for you. Perhaps one where you feel most at home in your body.

And just while you’re here resting with the body, spend the next couple of moments noticing and feeling what your body is doing all on its own. Heart beating. Blood pumping. Twitches, temperature, tension. Are there any parts that are trying to communicate something with you?

BREATH

Whether your week’s been horribly hectic or cruisey and relaxed, now’s the time to give yourself that permission. It is OK to push pause on your regular life just for now.

And we can celebrate the commencement of this time with a few lovely deep breaths.

Lovely deep breaths where the out-breath is slightly longer than the in-breath… and if you can just wait for the little gap at the bottom… you can encourage the chest and tummy to soften before taking the next in-breath.

When you’re ready just let the breath fall back into its own natural rhythm.

THE CIRCLE

And what I’d like you do to now, if you can, is imagine, or get a sense for a circle.

And take this idea of a circle as being your container for all your meditation experiences. A safe and welcoming space where all experiences are valid.

Sounds, body sensations and the breath.
Thoughts, emotions and sleepiness.

All sorts of visitors for which there’s plenty of room.

You may notice that some visitors don’t need much from you. They’re like nomads passing on through.

Others want to be the centre of attention. But it’s ok for them to wait their turn.

And perhaps there are visitors that need some of your tenderness. An ear, your patience. To be wrapped up in your kindness.

So, I’ll give you some space now to practice this on your own… let your attention be guided by the visitors to your circle… remembering that you can widen it at any time if things start to feel crowded.

Enjoy.