How can I deal with hard emotions when I meditate?

There are a few ways to work with difficult feelings and emotions in meditation. Usually, the first instruction is to get familiar with what's happening in your body and the mind — bringing an attitude of kind curiosity to the anxiety, pain, or whatever emotion. You might think something like this, "Oh, anxiety is like this: fluttery feeling in the belly, clammy hands, thoughts getting more speedy," or whatever the actual qualities are for you. Sometimes just having that degree of receptivity and openness helps the emotion to change but it's important not to do this with an agenda of trying to make it go away because wishing something to change or go away can actually reinforce and feed the hard emotion.

If the feeling or emotion gets more intense to the point where it's difficult to stay mindful of it then another strategy is to deliberately move the attention away from it and go to where there's some ease. For example, try feeling your feet in contact with the ground, or the softening of your shoulders as you breathe out, or maybe notice the sounds in your environment. Check in with yourself and see if there's any settling that happens when you direct the attention to areas of the body that are more at ease, or as you attend to the sounds you are hearing.

Lastly, you might also ask, "What is it that I need right now?" Check this out with self-compassion and curiosity. Just asking yourself this question can help you remember than you can care for yourself and take steps to get through the moment.

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