For most of my life, one of my greatest talents was running away from the bottomless pit of sadness in my heart.
My father and sister died when I was an early teen, and my mother retreated into depression. I felt desperately alone. Discussing emotions had never been my family's strong suit. Emotions were considered irrational and scary. So I hid mine, determined to prove to the world that nothing could move me. Appearing strong was my highest aspiration.
This worked pretty well until, at 27, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Treatment and surgeries left me with a ball of rage inside that I could no longer hide. I was forced to face my emotions, and with them a lifetime of sadness I had done everything to pretend didn't exist.
Cancer could have killed me, and in a way it did. It killed the old me. I now have the greatest opportunity to live a life of feeling, love, and beauty. While walking through the fire of rage and darkness of sadness, I was guided to a powerful meditation technique for healing.
It's a simple technique called "feeling awareness" meditation, and it transforms emotional wounds into peace and wisdom. It also allows you to explore the depths of your heart because emotions are intuitive signs from the soul.
When you change your relationship with your emotions — especially the painful ones — it transforms your life. You no longer have to fear the dark parts of you. In fact, facing darkness becomes the very path toward the light.
This technique is so simple. Give it a try. Your whole life could change.
Here's how to do it:
1. Find a comfortable seat.
This might mean you're seated traditionally — cross-legged, with your hips on a pillow for comfort, or you could sit up in bed or on a chair. Wherever you feel safe but alert enough to focus.
2. Bring your attention to your heart center.
Many types of meditation start with the breath, but turning your attention to your heart center is essential for this technique. It invites subtle energy that's easy to ignore to rise for healing.
Give yourself time to sink into the present moment and become aware of how you feel. If you're not used to doing this, it can take a few minutes or even multiple sessions to truly connect to your heart.
3. Notice the energy.
Emotions are technically energy in motion. That's why allowing them to move through you brings healing. Feelings only cause lingering pain when resistance prevents them from passing through.
Then, notice how you feel. You might identify anger or sadness, or you may simply feel areas of dense or heavy energy that aren't identifiable as emotions.
It's possible that this heaviness is pre-emotional energy, similar to water vapor in the sky that hasn't yet formed into a cloud. It's also possible that the heaviness or density is simply a nameless emotion. Think of how the Inuit have 50 names for snow, yet our language has relatively few names for the vastness of the human emotional experience.
Feel whatever energy arises. Inhale it as if it was a fine mist. Allow every exhale to bring you deeper into your heart.
4. Follow the energy sensations wherever they go.
Some people feel knots or tightness in their belly. Maybe you feel a sensation someplace else. Set the intention to experience your shifting energy, which, at its core, is the shifting of your soul and true self.
This is the process of healing. As your energy shifts, it's healing. Your mind will follow.
5. Separate thought from feeling.
For many people, this is the most difficult part. While meditating, various thoughts will rise reflecting your emotional state. For example, sadness will produce sad thoughts.
Over time, you'll develop the ability to notice emotion-drunk thoughts and recognize them for what they are. As you connect more deeply to a still center, you'll realize thoughts shift as much as feelings. You'll attach more to the stillness and develop the ability to view thoughts and feelings with more curiosity and less judgment.
As thoughts develop in meditation, stay connected to your heart center or breath while allowing thoughts to flow past you without analyzing them as best you can.
Stay connected to how you feel and allow your body to release.
When I first began this process, I would literally sweat for no reason. I believe that was anger leaving my body. Other times, I would feel the need to scream or cry. Don't judge yourself, but simply understand this is the process of healing.
6. Repeat daily.
This technique is akin to sweeping the floors of your house. Many days, I've felt fabulous only to sit down and find lingering sadness or pain in my heart. It's amazing what we learn just by taking the time to tune in.
Connect daily and keep your inner house clean.