Before starting the work described here it is important that you can sit in the sensational field of your body for a reasonable period of time, say ten minutes or more, without getting too restless.
You will remember that we mentioned here that you might well find that emotions accumulate around the general area of the solar plexus, about a hand or an open hand’s measure above your belly button.
Strong emotion seems to start out from around here, and when it gets aroused fully, it rises up to the chest, causing tightness there. If further energised it rises to the throat, causing tightness there and often causing shouting in men, or silence in women (or the reverse, of course — all of this can happen in different ways).
Observing the movement of emotion can be very informative. It always moves when energised. After all, that’s what the word means: it derives originally from the Latin emovere “move out, remove, agitate,” from the assimilated form of ex “out” (see ex-) + movere “to move”…
If you are just starting out doing this exercise, it will prove rather hard — too hard — to observe this movement when emotion is strong, as you will very likely be caught up in the emotion and unable to watch it.
So the thing to do is to learn to inspect it when it is not very aroused, just hovering around not causing much trouble, and get to know it. Then you can see what to do when it is stronger.
Inspecting, sinking in
Here’s how to do that. Choose a time when you are not emotionally exercised, but maybe have some minor disturbance, something that bothers you a little.
Get seated into your body sensation, go around and familiarise yourself with the sensations.
When you are well seated, feeling the buzz as it were, then put your attention on the area just around your solar plexus, and feel for any emotion.
What are you looking for? It will probably appear to be some sort of hardish lump, almost confusable with an indigestion, a dullness or a coldness or a hotness or a sensitivity… look for yourself and see what you sense there.
When you sense something, put your attention on the sensation. You’ll know you are in the right place when there is some sort of reaction. This can any one, or several, of many different responses. Some of those that may happen:
- Sudden need to think
- Extreme boredom and indifference
- A pain somewhere else in the body
- A burst of irritation
- The sudden thought that this is ridiculous
- Feeling sick
There’s many other possibilities. What they all have in common is this, all of it is trying to stop you doing what you are doing! In this way you know you are doing it right and you are in the correct place.
Bring your attention back to the lump, hardness, whatever you characterise it as.
Now imagine that it is a lump filled with some sort of emotional pus. See your attention as a lance. You are going to lance the thing with your attention; hold it steadily with your attention (because it will wriggle and move, rotate, spin, try and break free) and then continue on to pierce it to drain the pus from it. Yes, yuck. But – persist.
Try that. What happens?
You may well fail the first few times.
But at some point, at the point of your attention, you will sink into the thing.
It will release something nasty. You will feel — odd. Uneasy. Sad, Dirty perhaps. It is old fermented pain being released from where it has been stored ever since it was first felt, and ignored, so painful that it was buried. But it went on to live a secret existence in the unconscious.
Keep the attention on it, feel it, hold it but don’t let it move you or push you away. If you need to make some sort of sound, a releasing sound, then that’s OK.
What happens if you do this and keep on doing this?
Well try it and you will see.
But I’ll tell you — the nasty contents, once experienced, after some persistence, eventually dissolve, dissipate and disappear. They have been made conscious. They are no longer an unconscious source of pain.
You will actually sense the sensation of the lump, or whatever you feel, shrinking. Losing definition. Becoming hard to discern. Being missing.
In a very real sense this pain never previously consciously faced up to has been exorcised, removed, it is gone. Once dealt with consciously like this, it won’t be back.
Of course there’s usually plenty more to work with.
But if you do this whenever you can with minor upsets and difficulties, then eventually you will be able to face bigger emotional upsets and do the same with them.
By then that will not be much harder than this first attempt, because by then you will know what you are doing by having done it. The difficulty will be keeping the attention where you need it to be, on the emotion.
And this exercise does not go on forever. Instead of suppressing the old pains while adding a bit more to them, which is what we usually do when they pop up when some parallel circumstance or feeling re-energises them, we are addressing them, piercing them, attending on them, making them conscious by sensing the sensation of them, and clearing them out.
After a time doing this — possibly many years, depending on when you start, so be prepared for that — you will find that you eventually run out of opportunities.
You’ll be cleared out.
This does not yet mean you will never again experience emotions. It means the history of them has gone. There’s no longer anything for them to add on to, to attach to, to supplement. Emotion can arise but it passes right through and is gone.
Grateful acknowledgement: All of this was taught to me by Barry Long. I’d send you to him but he died. If you want more you can try his books on meditation, but the whole essence of the thing is right here.