A “feeling crap” meditation

16 Comments

woman with her hands crossed over her heart

I’m sure that sometimes you feel crap.

The other week I was feeling particularly crappy. I have an idea what was causing me to feel that way, but that’s not particularly important. The thing is that I was feeling crap, by which I mean I felt sad, tired, and sometimes despairing.

The last thing I wanted to do, really, was to sit in meditation and experience how crap I was feeling. But I know from past experience that that’s the most helpful thing I can do. And so I sat on my meditation bench so that I could find a better way to relate to feeling crap.

Also see:

I settled in to meditate, I noticed the dark, heavy feeling around my heart. I noticed that there was an attitude of resistance around this feeling, since I didn’t particularly want to experience it. But it’s best if these things are allowed into experience. So I let go of the resistance as much as possible, and turned to face the darkness.

My meditation practice kind of has a life of its own. Sometimes I really have no idea what’s going to happen. I just have to see what my subconscious comes up with. This particular day, as I let go of my resistance and turned my attention toward the discomfort, a mantra of sorts appeared.

The mantra: “It’s OK. This is just how you’re feeling right now.”

I said to myself, “It’s OK. This is just how you’re feeling right now.”

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

I said to myself, “It’s OK. This is just how you’re feeling right now.”

And so on.

As these words appeared, I recognized what they were doing.

“It’s OK…”

This is offering reassurance. It’s as if these words encode the message, “It’s OK to feel this way. It’s OK to turn toward the feeling. You’re on the right track. You got this. Deep down there’s really nothing to fear. Keep going.”

“…This is just how you’re feeling…”

This is saying that in a way, feelings are sensations like any other. If you touch something warm, you’ll feel warmth. Touch the point of a thorn, you’ll feel pain. If you’ve wanted something and you didn’t get it you’ll feel disappointed and sad. And if you’ve been criticized you’ll feel hurt. It’s just how things are. You’re not failing for feeling these things.

This is also a reminder that resistance, as they say, is futile. Resisting your pain—that sense of wanting desperately to not be experiencing it—doesn’t help. In fact it’s worse than unhelpful. It actually creates more pain. Resisting pain is like responding to having a stone in your shoe by pounding your foot with a hammer.

Sometimes you find that 50% of your pain is coming from the resistance, and sometimes you discover it’s more like 95%. The way to find out is to let go of the resistance.

So in saying “this is just how you’re feeling,” you’re facing how you feel as a fact, rather than as something to be resisted. And so you can start to drop the resistance and experience whatever discomfort remains, which becomes more bearable the more you are able to face it without trying to run away from it or make it go away.

“…Right now”

Feelings change. Everything changes. Remember that time many years ago when you felt awful because you got dumped? And that time you were really worried about money? Those feelings are gone now. Even if they’ve been replaced by similar feelings, those new feelings won’t last. “No feeling is final,” as Rilke said.

So that was my meditation the other day. I sat with “feeling crap,” and as I repeated the mantra the feeling lifted. It didn’t go away entirely, but that was OK. I’d realized that it was all manageable. I didn’t need to resist anything. I could experience it fully, without being overwhelmed.

And then just yesterday I guided a couple of friends through this same meditation, because one of them was feeling really crap.

And we went a bit further

We put our hands on our hearts, where the crap feeling was strongest, and we talked to our suffering: “I just want you to know I care about you, and I’m here for you. I love you and I want you to be happy. It’s OK. We’ll get through this. You’re doing OK. I know you’re feeling bad, but I’m going to take care of you.”

My friend who was feeling crap said she felt less crap after doing this. And that made me feel happier. The other friend suggested I should call this my “feeling crap meditation,” and so here we are…

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16 Comments. Leave new

  • I occasionally have a meditation along these lines. As you suggest Bodhi, turning towards the pain and sadness is the best option and once one has done it a few times and experienced the dissipation of the sadness, despair or whatever it is, it becomes a goto way of handling the blues. I also don’t pile on additional woe about feeling this way because I feel I have the tools to handle it.

    Reply
  • Hi Bodi, thanks for posting this. I needed to hear this, it’s amazing how my busyness can stop me getting on my mat to meditate & my resistance to facing my Stuff throws up even more crap! piling one layer on another. a gentle reminder from you to sit and breathe and face the resistance and know I got this :) thank you

    Reply
  • Your meditation for exploring crap is simply perfect, especially this time of year when the blues have a sneaky way of obstructing your happiness path. With shorter and darker days on the horizon, the blues seem to show up with up without an invite.
    Thank you

    Reply
  • ELIZABETH WOODSMALL
    September 26, 2018 6:59 am

    Thank you, Bodhipaksa. I respect and admire your ability to simplify practice – and provide solutions. So easy for us to add an extra layer of suffering by beating up on ourselves. Funnily enough, I developed a slogan a while ago” “It’s all going to be okay – and it can still feel like crap sometimes.. Now, you’ve provided a solution to that! :)

    Reply
  • Thank you. Just what I need today.

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  • Thank you for this sweet and honest view. Really appreciate your taking the time to write it and put it out there.

    Reply
  • Thank you Bodhipaksa. Well timed and so very relevant and useful.

    Reply
  • Bodhivata Dharmashanti
    September 27, 2018 6:43 am

    As always is with you dear Bodhi, not only you nail the issue but you offer a practice that is effective and wrapped with words that are borne of love and a true fesire to help. You leave us with heaps of gratitude which, on its own terms, is a great medecine to the difficulties of “doing this job of being human”. Only two words spring out of this.
    THANK YOU !

    Reply
  • I thought this was sort of “insane” but I once tried something similar and I was sort of fearful right in the middle when I started to feel other sensations but after a while, as a beginner in the practice of meditation, I was able to “handle” it and today I can fully support your words. Thanks for sharing. Love your blog!

    Reply
  • Sometimes when you are “feeling crap” it is so hard to just sit with that feeling, but as you say above, just giving it space and reminding yourself that it is okay and it will pass is all you need. Next time I am “feeling crap” I will come back to this as a reminder during my meditation. Thank you so much for sharing your insights, what a refreshing, honest and relatable post :)

    Reply
  • This is helpful to me right now. Thank you for posting this Bodhipaksa.

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  • Thanks for this just what I needed for myself & to share with someone I love very much…

    With Metta

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  • Thank you for a much needed reminder. Namu amida butsu.

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  • I love this post. It may even be one of my favorites. I am learning it is important to acknowledge our feelings and let them work through. Fighting them or suppressing them is a bad idea and can make them last longer. Thanks for the great post.

    Reply
  • This:

    “Sometimes you find that 50% of your pain is coming from the resistance, and sometimes you discover it’s more like 95%. The way to find out is to let go of the resistance.”

    It’s funny because we’ll go to great lengths to try and disguise the pain when sometimes you just have to pay attention to them. It doesn’t even have to be a lot, sometimes it’s a matter of minutes. This week I was feeling very crappy and instead of going through the usual resistance routine which includes a lot of distractions at some point I stopped and said “I don’t want this anymore!” I stopped everything I was doing, I didn’t even sit in meditation, I didn’t even turn off the computer screen, I just stopped. After a few minutes with an unfocused version, totally wrong posture, I started crying. I was finally feeling what I was supposed to be feeling instead of trying to hide this. These tears lasted no more than 2 minutes, but after this improvised “meditation” session I was another person. It felt like an spiritual awakening somehow. I’m still having a lot of highs and lows but somehow is from another perspective.

    I really like your texts. Thank you.

    Reply

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