Whether because of failures, deaths, ending relationships, or sometimes for no apparent reason, all of us at times have been in emotional places that are very hard to be in. We all tend to struggle to escape from places where we feel pain, regret, anxiety, fear, grief. Often our struggles are ineffective or make our situation worse in some way.
The good news is that emotionally painful times are when the “rubber hits the road” with our mindfulness practice. Mindfulness involves acceptance of what we cannot change: most of all, acceptance of painful feelings that are present in this moment.
When we accept painful feelings rather than struggling with them, they do not necessarily go away. However our situation is transformed: rather than being stuck in a place where we are in a life-or-death struggle with feelings we hate, we now are able to free up some energy to focus on things that really matter to us. It’s engaging with life that brings us out of hard times in the long run.
Practicing mindfulness with difficult feelings is not different from any other mindfulness practice, in that what we are doing is making contact with what is present right now. THIS feeling of choking, THIS stabbing sensation in my chest, THIS sobbing or hyperventilating breath. Nothing is added or subtracted. We stay with the feeling for several minutes, noticing our mind trying to get us to run away from it.
With consistent mindfulness practice, hard times can become a source of great inspiration for our lives. Our pain is transformed into compassion. Our loneliness is transformed into connections with others. Our hopelessness is transformed into insight: insight into the fact that everything is impermanent, and at the same time beautiful and joyful.