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Netflix or Meditate: Sitting with Emotional Pain

Some days, I just do not want to meditate.

There are many reasons why that might be the case. Maybe I'm tired or irritated, my mind is racing, my to-do list is a mile long... or maybe I'm feeling something even more difficult to work with, like anxiety, apathy, listlessness, frustration, or some sort of grief.

When I'm in one of these spaces, with oh-so-difficult-to-deal-with emotions not just knocking at the door, but inviting themselves in for a drink (or three), you can bet I have no interest in meditating. None.

Just the notion of sitting for meditation can seem impossible when I'm carrying an emotional weight, dragging me down and dominating my attention. I begin making excuses, "Being present? With how I'm feeling now? Nope. There's no point anyways if I'm just going to spend my whole time thinking about (fill in the blank)."

It's here that I might opt to engage in something that lets me "turn off."

That's right, I'm talking about Netflix (or other forms of "passive distraction"), and I'm just as guilty as the next person of opting to repeatedly inform the TV that I am, in fact, still watching. Yet anyone who has binged a season of TV when they're feeling in the dumps, knows that there's nothing waiting at the end but your reflection (and with it, and all those feelings that you'd rather not look at) staring back at you in a dark TV screen.

We try to turn away from these experiences. Like passing an ex on the opposite side of the street, we'll do anything we can to not make eye contact. Except the difference here is that when we continually ignore these difficult, painful emotions, they often begin to feel even heavier, and harder to shoulder as we go about our days. Eventually, these feelings we've pushed away find ways to break into our lives and seize the attention they deserve. One way or another, they FORCE us to be present with them on their terms, often at the most embarrassing, inopportune, or even dangerous moments (like, oh, sobbing uncontrollably while driving on the highway. What? I'm not crying you're crying.).

So what's my point? Sometimes, the fastest way out is through.

If I am able to be there with my pain, with my suffering, in a time and space that I choose, I can approach these feelings, make space for them, and give them the attention they demand, on MY terms. 'On my terms' means I'm in a space that I feel safe, and I can cultivate all the protection, warmth, and compassion that I need to safely, slowly, and gently face and "lean into" the suffering that's waiting for me. From this space, these thousand pound weights I've been carrying don't seem so heavy. They are uncomfortable, and painful, and I may very well cry, but I won't feel overwhelmed, and I will be in control.

Have you ever had a good, hard cry (or scream, for that matter), and afterward felt like a weight has been lifted? You gave your sorrow the attention it'd been asking for. The more we build the habit of moving towards these difficult emotions, rather than running away, the more manageable they become. The more light we shine in the darkness, the more familiar we become in navigating the maze of sadness and sorrow.

Take the opportunity to explore this with me on February 7th. More information on the meditation event can be found here.

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