Des (deskitty) wrote,

Meditation -- On the Nature of Feelings

Spent most of the session feeling ... "sullen". That's the only label I can assign it, anyway. My stomach felt as though it had a lead ball in its pit, my chest felt tight, and even my throat tensed and felt as though it were trying to close. Starting about halfway through, I also noticed soreness in a muscle (or trail of muscles) running from the base of my head down through my shoulder and into my right forearm.

I breathed, and thought about Google a bit, and darkone238 a bit. I thought a little bit about work, and briefly considered my family. I found myself weighing them against the Disneyland trip this weekend (which I'm sitting out), as though I could make some sort of economic cost-benefit comparison between the two.

I was startled by several "loud" sounds, caused by my neighbor leaving his apartment. When he closed the door, opened a door, or started his car ... each time, I could feel my entire body tense up immediately and start vibrating with adrenaline, even before my rational mind could react. Then, over the course of a few seconds, my body would relax again, my heart rate would drop, and my breathing would feel more open.

The temptation to listen to the stories my mind is telling seems very great, tonight. It seems to have no end of explanations as to why I'm feeling pain in my shoulder, or why I'm feeling as though I have a lead ball in the pit of my stomach. It somehow labels this last feeling as "sullen". What "sullen" has to do with tension in my stomach, I don't know.

It's interesting how we have "feelings", which our rational mind assigns labels. These "feelings" are mental states, but there is always a physical component to them too. In a few cases, that component is readily noticeable (e.g. when I get stressed, I get nauseous). But in most cases, the physical component is very subtle -- one can hardly tell it's there.

(On a side note, I find it telling that English uses the same word -- "feeling" -- to describe physical sensory input and emotional state.)

Which arises first, I wonder? I've been told by multiple sources I consider reliable that the physical feeling comes first, and then the mental formation. But I've never actually mindfully observed this, because when feelings arise I am usually in the midst of something else, not really paying attention to what my mind and body are doing.

I'm going to step back (or maybe forward?) and make a judgement here. I spent a lot of time in thought-space during my session, rather than paying attention to the breath. I used to believe, emotionally if not rationally, that this was somehow "bad meditation". I'm coming to find that's not the case. Paying attention to what goes on in thought-space can be just as fruitful as paying attention to the breath can be.

I don't remember who first said this, but it's true -- we are constantly telling ourselves little stories about what's going on. We anticipate, we cling, we reject. And if we compare what's actually happening to our mind's conception of what's happening, we see that they're different. It's the difference between a model, and the thing you're modelling.

-- Des
Tags: feelings, meditation, thoughts

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