What To Do When Meditation Brings Up Discomfort

A step by step guide for what to do when paying attention brings up discomfort.

Disclaimer: These steps are simple, but don't be fooled. They're the real deal.

 

WHEN DIFFICULTIES ARISE

1. Recall that the thought, feeling, etc. will change. This is big. Spend some time mulling this over. Everything changes.
2. Explore how the feeling, thought, etc. exists.  Where do you feel it in your body? Did it arise suddenly or gradually? Does it change when you watch it? How? What circumstances contributed to it?  Go to town exploring it.
3. Non-judgmentally explore your own reaction to the feeling, thought, etc.  For more on this, check out by previous post How To Stop Living Like An Animal.


OK, BUT WHAT IF IT FEELS REALLY OVERWHELMING

1. Know that you can turn your attention away from the discomfort at any point. You're in charge. If it's too much, back off or take a break. My post Ok, Just Ignore That explains why backing off is sometimes a really smart move.


2. Slow down. Seriously, don't be in such a rush to plow ahead. Go slowly and sweetly. The aim is to gradually increase our capacity and to enjoy the process. Did you catch that? We want to enjoy the process. In order to enjoy it, we have to go slowly and sweetly.


3. Bolster yourself with your motivation and with gratitude practices. Here's how. When it gets uncomfortable, recall why you're meditating in the first place. Then, temporarily divert your attention away from the thought/feeling, etc., and make a mental list of things you’re grateful for. This can be an "in general" gratitude list, or you can think of things you're grateful for in the past three hours. Once you've buoyed your mind, return to the feeling and explore it with openness and kindness.

There's a lot of ways to address discomfort, and it's smart to have several tools on hand.  This is one go-to method (actually, these are two distinct methods). Keep these in your tool box, andsign up for the blog for more tips when things tough.