“Suffering is one of the many possible responses to pain.”

                                                                        ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

The practice of mindfulness allows, even encourages,  the acceptance of feelings of sorrow. In the practice of mindfulness acceptance of negative feelings, whether physical or emotional, is actually a way of preventing ongoing suffering.

I started my meditation this morning with my mind inevitably flitting from one thing to the next. As is human nature, I was in my cognitive brain and thinking about one thing and another:  The post I just put out on social media with my cat enjoying his mindful moment in the flower pot to a recent conversation I was having with a friend about being let down by other people.

And that’s when it happened – the rapid descent into sorrow and frustration. 

At first, I fought the negative feelings. I used my breath to invoke the relaxation response in my body. I started thinking about things I am grateful for (my cat in the flower pot). And I stayed in my cognitive brain giving myself coaching about how to make the scary, negative feelings go away.

But, whenever I allowed my brain to rest into a meditative state, the sorrow and frustration came up again.  Damn!

Isn’t allowing the brain to slow down and coming into a meditative state supposed to get rid of the sorrow?

Isn’t it supposed to bring me into a place of happiness and contentment?

ISN’T HAPPINESS IN THE VERY MOMENT WHAT MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION ARE ALL ABOUT????

Hmmm…

The answer to that is both, “yes” and “no.”

Yes, meditation and mindfulness CAN and WILL bring us into a state of happiness and contentment.

But no, that is not necessarily the first response or the first place it takes us.

Mindfulness teaches us to be in the very moment of what we are doing. It also teaches us to be in the very moment of what we are feeling.  Allowing our feelings to be and accepting them for what they are is the essence of mindfulness.

Mindfulness takes us in a direction of moving beyond (or through) those feelings. I believe that this happens because we can choose to suffer or not to suffer. Pain is an inevitable part of the human condition. And yes, so is suffering as defined as ongoing pain.

Accepting and then detaching from the pain allows us to move beyond the pain and to avoid ongoing suffering.

The mindfulness practice is two-fold: Acceptance and then detachment. If we do not first accept the negative emotions, sorrow and frustration in my case, then we cannot move beyond them into a state of detachment.

When I stopped trying to coach myself out of feeling the sorrow and frustration that came up in me this morning, when I let them well up, when I let the tears flow, only then could I let the emotions process through me. I gave them my full attention. And then they just started to dissolve. Bringing my attention back to my breath, and allowing the feelings to flow out of me, allowed me to avoid being attached to them and to continue in suffering beyond my meditation.

As Jon Kabat-Zinn counsels, “suffering is one of many possible responses to pain.”

And that is the key to mindfulness… it is only ONE of MANY possibilities…

Go ahead and allow yourself to feel…

And then, if it is not serving you in a positive way, let it go…

 

With Love & Light,

Jen

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