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.

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.

Difficult Emotions

F.A.I.L

A MEDITATION ON THE SUCKINESS OF FAILING

A good friend of mine is studying and messaged me recently to say she was devastated to have received her latest assignment result – 74%.

Seventy-four percent! I know what you’re thinking, it’s hardly cause for devastation, is it?

But compared to the string of high-distinctions she’d already received, the work she put into it, and the expectation that her efforts would equate to something better, the emotional response was no less challenging (or preventable). Anger. Indignation. Embarrassment. Self-doubt.

She said, can you prescribe me a meditation?

Turns out, I’ve felt like a big failure on more than one occasion recently, too. At my workplace I was told, after a year of gearing up for it, that I was no longer on the speaking list at our inaugural national conference.

And in a speech competition at my Toastmasters club, despite being more prepared and confident and proud to share the content of my presentation than ever before, when I only placed third, it was my turn for some involuntary anger, indignation, embarrassment and self-doubt.

So, what can we do when we fail, either in our own eyes, or the eyes of others?

It occurred to me (because I’m a nerd and love acronyms) that to F.A.I.L is to receive Feedback that Allows us to go Inside and Learn.

Is that helpful? Certainly, when the storm is over we can review our failings as feedback to learn from. But when we’re still bathing in a very fresh and real dose of sucky emotions, perhaps what we need more in that moment, is a different variation of F.A.I.L:

Feel – feel the very emotions that are engulfing us – where they present themselves, how they manifest as physical sensations.

Accept – accept that they’re there rather than pushing them away or trying to bury them. Allow them space to arise, move on through, and eventually vanish.

Introspection – turn inward to gently examine this failure and these feelings. Not just the cause or the circumstances, but also, pragmatically what it really would have meant to experience its opposite – success.

Love – and finally some self-love. Tempering all the negative thoughts and icky emotions with some intentional and compassionate self-talk.

So, here’s a meditation on failure that I’ve prescribed for myself, and you, too, if you ever need it.

This is a meditation on failure. On what to do with those feelings of disappointment. Hurt. Anger or foolishness. A safe place to sit and be with these feelings, but also explore what it really means to have failed.

Before we begin, let’s get you settled. If it’s appropriate, close your eyes. And take a deep breath. Really feel that in-breath sweep in past the nostrils into the throat. Feel the chest rise and fall. Feel the belly expand and contract.

And pay special attention to the calming out-breath. Let it leave your body out into the atmosphere, at its own pace. Like a sea turtle floating along in the current. And when the last of the out-breath has departed the lungs, just sit with that emptiness for the brief moment before the knowing voice inside says, it’s time for another breath now.

Breathing in. And breathing out. Letting your breathing return to a relaxed, natural state. Letting your heartbeat slow down to a gentler rhythm.

Are you ready now to do this?

MEDITATION

In times of failure, whether we’ve judged ourselves as failed, or whether others have done the judging, you might find it useful to work with the acronym F.A.I.L.

It stands for:

Feel – Accept – Introspection – Love

FEEL

We’ll begin with feel.

Sitting wherever you are at the moment, take your focus into your body. And really feel where this failure is presenting itself. How your emotions are expressing themselves as physical sensations.

Where does hurt and disappointment sit in the body? Perhaps as tightness in the chest.

Where does embarrassment or foolishness show up? Perhaps as nausea in the tummy.

How does anger or resentment translate physically? Maybe as tension in the temples or the jaw.

Which body part is feeling your inadequacy? Possibly as heaviness across the shoulders and upper back.

However it’s presenting for you, just use this time to notice; to be aware; and to really feel what you’re feeling.

ACCEPT

Now that you’ve felt this failure in the body, the next step is to accept. To say to yourself, it’s okay for these feelings to be here. Because they’ll find a way in whether you invite them or not.

Accepting these difficult emotions just as they are. Accepting this failure.

Allowing this emotional expression some room and some space to be what it needs to be in this moment.

INTROSPECTION

Through accepting these feelings; of what’s happened; of what is, use this time now for introspection. To go within. To examine with kindness to yourself and to any others involved, the truth of what has led to this failure.

And yes, it does seem like you’ve failed. But perhaps take a closer look. Who is judging you? And whose opinion matters? What can you learn from this failure? About yourself and about anyone else.

On the flipside, it might also be helpful to think about what it would have meant to succeed or win. What would you have felt then? A temporary high. A fleeting moment of pride. A transient kind of validation.

What’s interesting about that, is just like the anguish you’re experiencing now is temporary – an albeit unwanted visitor – so too would have been the thrill of elation and accomplishment.

So, perhaps you can be comforted by the fact that this too, shall pass.

LOVE

Most importantly now, the final step is to love.

And what I mean by love is to:

Love that you even had a go.

Love what you did achieve in all of the many other moments leading up to this one moment of disappointment.

Love that you can grow; become better, as a result of this experience.

Most of all, love yourself.

May you be well.

May you speak kindly to yourself.

May you bounce back with grace and dignity.

May you share yourself with the world once more.

Well done. A gold star to you.