You have to process emotional pain before it either dissipates or can be acted on, and this is done by mindfulness meditation. The next post will give instructions.
This post will warn you about the pitfalls that will, with certainty, keep you from doing mindfulness meditation right if you do not know about them.
The largest pitfall, is that most people can not sit still to meditate for long enough to work through all of their emotions. Which is what you are going to have to do if you want to eliminate internal disagreements and stress and not feel emotional pain anymore. For me personally, I got to this point with around 300 hours of mindfulness meditation in just under a year. I was cripplingly depressed when I started, and even more importantly, I didn’t have (or even know about) the skills in Part II and Part III of this blog, which made it take longer than it would have otherwise.
A caveat to this, is that you need to do your initial several hundred hours of meditation (or however long it takes you) in a relatively short period of time. It’s best to do at least an hour a day. You can do it as quickly as you like. The reason for this is that, you’ll acquire emotions that you need to process as you go through life, on top of your past emotions that also need to be processed. To make progress, you’ll need to work through incoming emotions faster than they come in.
This becomes less and less of a big deal the farther you are along. The more I’ve learned the skills in Parts I, II and III, the more I’ve been able to process new emotions very quickly. And thus, the less chance that I end up stagnating or sliding backwards.
When I originally wrote this post, I said,
You’ll also need to keep meditating a little bit even once you’ve worked through all your past emotions and achieved all the benefits I’ve promised from meditation. This is to keep up with incoming emotions.
That is not quite true. You only form emotional trauma, e.g. emotions that need to be processed via meditation, when you act against your own desires/values. Part II is about learning not to do this, so you’ll be able to stop meditating (probably ten minutes a day will be plenty) once you’ve mastered Part II. The reason I was wrong about the above, is that I hadn’t yet mastered Part II when I wrote this. Anyways.
If all this sounds like a lot, or like it’s too intense, you’re not alone, and there’s a solution. Most people can’t meditate an hour a day for long enough to work through all their emotions without some sort of guidance. If you’re comfortable doing it on your own that’s great, but if not, I’d recommend a very specific meditation retreat, which happens to be free and take ten days. The ones hosted by Dhamma.org are very good, minus the buddhist propaganda they throw at you, and it’s my experience that you can skip two but not three lectures before they throw you out. Just read the post on DRM first, and take a nap during the morning meditation if you need more sleep, and you’ll be fine.
The dhamma.org retreats will teach you both normal mindfulness meditation (anapana) and body scan-type mindfulness (vipassana). Which should you do more of? It’s easier to process emotions while doing anapana. Vipassana isn’t optimized for emotional processing, even though it can be used that way. So, ignore the instructors’ suggestions that you do body scans for most of the retreat. Do normal mindfulness meditation about 90% of the time, and do just enough body scan meditation to learn what you can get from it.
So, do the retreat pretty much as planned, except ignore the content of the lectures and do as much anapana as feels right for you. Retreats prevent you from stopping meditation (and thus, stopping emotional processing) before you’ve done enough to be self-sustaining. Even if I’m wrong about the reasons, people who do the dhamma.org retreats do tend to make lots of progress, whereas similarly determined beginners tend to fail if working by themselves.
Lastly: don’t worry that the pain in facing the full extent of your emotions as you are just beginning to sort through them, is coming from your true self, or is reflective of anything truly bad about who you are. Pain is from both unprocessed emotions, or from being confused about what your true self wants, typically because you believe socially acceptable things about yourself. Your true self is a solid block of willpower, so long as you do what it wants.
Next post: Mindfulness Meditation