How to Use Meditation to Process Sadness
Life has its ups and downs. Cliche but true. And inevitably, one day you will find yourself on the receiving end of one of those low points. It could be a feeling of being unhappy at work, the death of a loved one, a breakup, or a general dislike of humankind. Regardless of the cause, one of the worst things we can do is ignore the emotions we experience during these tough times. You’re not weak for recognizing what you’re going through. In fact, I’d argue it’s a pretty courageous thing to look that discomfort in the face and say “I’m gonna figure you out”.
Last year I went through a breakup and found myself wanting to process my feelings, instead of shoving them away and ignoring them in the way I had that led, in part, to the breakup in the first place. I resolved to let myself cry when I felt like it, to journal daily as openly as possible, and to speak about how I was feeling throughout the whole process (to my friends as well as my ex). I also resolved to have as easy and loving of a breakup as possible (I highly recommend you try this. Breakups don’t have to be nasty just because we’re told they are).
Intent on finding the best ways for us to end our relationship with the highest odds of still being friends, or at least on good terms, I read article upon article about “conscious uncoupling” methods, the top things to do during a breakup, the top things to not do during a breakup, relationship ending ceremonies, yadda yadda.
In the end, it all seemed like the best advice was to just listen to what my gut was telling me to do and then do that. And the only way I could do that is if I got out of my head and into my body. So, I meditated.
I read Pema Chodron’s book, When Things Fall Apart, where she stresses the benefits of Tonglen meditation. Tonglen is a type of meditation where the meditator takes in the suffering of self or others on the in-breath, and releases suffering by sending peace or love or joy on the out-breath.
During this practice, I located the area of my body that physically felt the most suffering. At first, it was in my stomach. I focused my attention on my stomach, allowed my attention to be there and accept the pain I was feeling, then I breathed out love and peace. It was truly the most beautiful practice. I gave myself as much time as I needed on the zafu each time I sat. Usually, within moments I would feel so much better and be able to get up and go on my way living the rest of my day.
For the next few weeks, any time I felt like turning on Netflix and shoving my face with chocolate or wrapping myself up in a giant blanket cocoon, I went to my zafu instead. I sat there and practiced Tonglen. That suffering eventually moved from my stomach to my heart, then up to my throat, then eventually it released itself entirely from my body.
“Through meditation, we’re able to see clearly what’s going on with our thoughts and emotions, and we can also let them go” -Pema Chodron
If you’re experiencing a period of sadness right now, I recommend getting in tune with yourself through meditation as one of your ways of healing. Be open to the pain and sadness, allow it to be there and give it your love and attention. Eventually, you may find that acceptance of your emotions and feelings isn’t indulgent, but just what you need to process and release them.