So, you are aware of the pain, you allow the pain, now what? As I mentioned in Part I, I met with a dharma teacher to discuss how I could work with anger that was surfacing courtesy of a challenging roommate. He asked me where I felt the anger, and I immediately said I could feel it in my chest. As I began to talk, frantic and prickly energy began coursing through my body like a wildfire consuming dry bush. That honest description helped both of us realize I was becoming flooded. He asked me to open my eyes and look around the room to ground myself in the here-and-now. Then, with my eyes open, he asked me if I could find a place in my body that was neutral and place my attention there. The sensation of my feet resting against the taut carpet was neutral so I placed my attention there, and I hung out there for a minute or two. I was then asked if there was a pleasant sensation in my body and, if not, then that was okay. There was actually a warm tingling in my hands that I found pleasant, so I shifted my attention to the fizzing sensation in my hands. After some time, we began to titrate by moving back and forth between the tension in my chest, the neutral sensations in my feet and the pleasant tingling in my hands. At first, I could only spend a second or two observing the tension in my chest and then I'd move to my feet and linger there for a minute before moving to my hands for a few more minutes. Then, I'd move back to my chest and when I started to feel overwhelmed I shifted my attention back to my hands or my feet. This exercise helped me stretch my awareness to include other sensations besides that of anger. Here's one of my favorite story's from the Buddha's time to help me conceptualize that body-based meditation...
Imagine I have a cup of salt and I place it in a cup of water. The cup of water would be heavily saturated with salt and nearly impossible to drink. Now, imagine I have a cup of salt and I place it in a bathtub filled with water. The water would be salty but not as salty as the water in the cup. Next, imagine I have a cup of salt and I pour it into a lake. The salt in the lake would hardly be detectable. The amount of salt in each on the three scenarios didn't change but the container did.
The titrating body-based meditation helped me to expand from the size of a cup saturated with anger to a spacious lake with only traces of anger.
In Pain Part III, which I will post on Friday, I will provide a couple visual meditations you can also add to your first aid kit. Poem to be posted tomorrow!