Practice of the Week
Heal What You Feel: The Sensation Meditation
Heal What You Feel: The Sensation Meditation
Category: WORTH A TRY, or OCCASIONAL, or MIGHT BE YOUR THING: These practices are "worth a try" at least once, or, say, for one week. Beyond that, different people will relate in different ways to the practices in this category. Some of these practices you will find great for "every once in a while" -- either because they are responses to a particular need that may arise or because they are simply enriching occasional enhancements to the spiritual life. Among these practices you may find the one particular practice that becomes your main and central spiritual practice -- or a Key Supporting Practice.
adapted from Jonathan Robinson, Find Happiness Now
First, find a comfortable chair or couch. Take a couple of slow, deep breaths. Then, scan your body and notice the most uncomfortable feeling or sensation you feel. Focus on this area of your body, and feel exactly whatever is there. For example, if you're annoyed, you might notice a tightness in your chest and a warm feeling in your throat. If you're worried, you may notice a tension in your forehead muscles and shoulder blades.
Emotions are experienced in the body as specific sensations such as warmth or coolness, tightness or relaxation, sharp or blunt, etc. As you notice uncomfortable sensations in your body, try to be aware of the resistance you have to experiencing these uncomfortable feelings. Instead of avoiding or pushing away the discomfort you feel, allow the sensations to be there. Give yourself full permission to feel whatever is going on in the present moment.
As you tune into your present time sensations and let go of resisting whatever is there, you may notice that things start to change. Negative feeling arise and pass away if we don’t resist them. If we resist them, they stay stuck in our body. Let go of your resistance, focus on what you feel, and the dam of stuck feelings will become like a moving river once again.
To help you tune into the present sensations of your body, focus on the following questions:
1. Where in my body do I feel the most uncomfortable feelings or sensations?
2. How big of an area in my body does the core of these uncomfortable sensations cover?
3. Is this area warmer or cooler than the rest of my body? How exactly does it feel different?
4. What about this sensation do I resist or find uncomfortable?
5. Can I let go of my resistance and allow the sensations to flow through?
6. What is something I could feel grateful for or look forward to in my life?
As you go through each of these, focus on what the question points to. For example, if you're noticing how big an area the sensations occupy, compare it to the size of a baseball, a basketball, or whatever seems appropriate. Except for question number six, each of these inquiries will help you be present with your body. The more current you can be with the actual sensations in your body, the more quickly and easily stuck feelings will dissipate.
As you focus on these various questions, imagine you are a scientist objectively noticing the exact moment to moment sensations in your body. By the time you reach question number six, you'll probably feel relaxed. As you focus on what you feel grateful for or what you look forward to allow yourself to be filled with the feeling of gratitude or excitement. Once you feel relaxed and positive, you can slowly open your eyes and enjoy your day.
While the SM is great for cutting through stuck feelings, it's also an excellent tool for getting over minor upsets. If you feel a bit tense or annoyed, try taking three minutes to do this meditation. I think you'll notice you'll soon feel relaxed and at ease. With practice, you can even do a shorter version of this meditation. To do this, simply take a deep breath, notice the uncomfortable sensations in your body, and then relax and allow what you feel to fully be as it is. As you stay present with these sensations, you'll soon observe that they change, and like a river, flow through you. If you do this method enough, you may even be able to do the whole process in under a minute. It can be a great way to love yourself.
The SM helps your feelings through a natural, organic process. Instead of trying to distract yourself from your feelings—which simply allows them to stay stuck - your feelings naturally become unstuck as you fully feel them. Although it can be hard to believe, it is our resistance to our feelings that allows negativity to stick around in our body. Even for major upsets, like the ending of a relationship or a death in the family, the SM can help you move through your grief. Sometimes, the feelings will briefly become more intense before they subside. That's part of the healing process, and shouldn't be resisted either.
You might want to write out the six questions from the meditation on a little note card, or record the meditation on your Smartphone or MP3 player and then, when you need it, listen to it. To create your own guided Sensation Meditation, simply tell yourself to "focus on what feels uncomfortable in your body." Wait a minute to give yourself time to feel what is there and time to try to let go of any resistance. Then, read the six questions into whatever you use to record your voice, remembering to pause for about twenty seconds after each question. That's all that's needed.
Most people are secretly at war with their own feelings. This creates stress and has a tendency to keep bad feelings around. Fortunately, the SM can help you become friends with your feelings and your body once again.
* * *