There’s something that most meditation coaches know but few will tell you. I’m not sure what motivates them to keep it to themselves. Maybe they think it tarnishes the meditation brand. Perhaps they don’t know how to deal with it. I’m sure a few of them see it as “part of the experience.”
This problem is certainly not a beautiful part of the process. It’s easily manageable. And if you don’t handle it properly, it can undo all the benefits you gained from meditation.
And then some.
So, what’s the danger in meditating?
Most regular meditators reach a point where negative emotions bubble up. These could be anxiety, depression, anger or any other sensation that most people would label ‘bad.’
It goes against meditation’s brand. If you expect nothing but inner peace and euphoria, you will not see this coming.
And come it shall. Sooner or later, your brain vomits something that’s difficult to handle.
Now, this can be one of two things.
The first possibility is that it’s the mental equivalent of growing pains. I recently spent nine days with my mind constantly stretching, twisting and expanding.
For the first week, I loved it. I was happier and more excited than I’d been in a while.
At around the eighth day, I hit a wall. I felt frustrated at everyone and everything. Even though I knew what was happening and that it was irrational, there it was.
I wanted to tell everyone to go away… and not in such polite terms.
And yet, I was beaming at people. Not just smiling – beaming. My face was expressing genuine, heart-felt joy.
Part of me thought I was frustrated. The other part knew I was thrilled. Over a day or two, the frustration melted and the enthusiasm took over again.
This is what can happen when your mind expands. The walls in your mind move back and you can see a lot more than you’re used to. It takes a bit to adjust.
The second cause of negative emotions needs more than just time to process.
Your unconscious mind keeps a lot of things from you. What you consciously experience is only a fraction of a fraction of a percent of what goes on in your mind.
Meditation brings unconscious material into conscious awareness. Most of this will be pleasant, useful or just strange. Some of it will be buried negativity.
Now, the good news is that, if your unconscious mind unearths something, then you’re ready to process it and move on.
But if you’re not expecting this, it can catch you by surprise. And in surprise is when we often make our mistakes.
You should do whatever you need to process this emotion. Most people should continue meditating; others might need a different approach.
Either way, how you proceed is important. What happens next decides how well you transcend the experience.
There’s a saying in the hypnotist community: where attention goes, energy flows. In other words, if you fixate on something, more of your mental energy goes towards it.
So if you experienced anxiety last time, so you search your mind for anxiety, wondering if the anxiety is still there…
Well, that’s putting all of your attention on anxiety.
If your boat has a hole in it, that’s a problem. You need to pay attention to that. But your mind is not a boat and emotions aren’t problems.
You should focus on what you want, not what you don’t.
After what feels like a setback, use your next meditation session to focus on growth. Or serenity, or transcending your old limitations. Give your unconscious mind something to pursue.
Do this and you’ll find that meditation lives up to the hype.