The Emotional Vipassana is a type of meditation that allows you to focus on your feelings and emotions. This practice has been the MOST beneficial for my healing progress.
Here are the fast and short steps of the meditation process:
- When the feeling of rage, sadness, depression, or any other trigger appears, go into a safe quiet place and assume a meditation position.
- Sit with that feeling. Calmly stay there in meditation with your focus completely on that feeling, be present with it, no matter what it is (even if it’s a feeling of futility). Take this feeling seriously, it’s important, validate it and give it all your attention.
- Sensations may arise. You may feel a pressure on a part of your body, you may see an image with your mind’s eye, you may even hear something in your mind or a memory from your childhood may surface. When this happens, give IT your full attention.
- Revelations and better understanding will happen. Sometimes just doing these 3 steps are enough for healing/integrating a part of your consciousness.
The process is simple in concept but profound in nature. Below is a detailed explanation (taken and slightly modified from a book called “The Completion Process” by Teal Swan) of the DOs and DON’Ts you need to look out for:
Whenever you experience a strong or uncomfortable emotion or feeling, find a quiet place, close your eyes and sink into the feeling. Familiarize yourself with the unique sensation of that uncomfortable feeling. Ensure that you are unconditionally with that feeling, truly experiencing and observing it without needing it to change. See if you can name that feeling. If thoughts arise, just observe them in a detached way and allow them to be there. Though you can do this meditation at any time, it’s much easier and more impactful when a strong emotion is present.
Here’s how the meditation works:
When we feel pain, we are usually compelled to try and get away from it. Unfortunately, we can’t escape our emotional pain because it is always within us. We carry it around at all times and the more we try to push it away the more it will hurt and damage us.
It’s helpful to think of this pain as a part of your conscious that is trying to let you know they are in some amount of discomfort. In the majority of cases, they just want to be noticed, heard and understood.
By allowing the feeling, listening to it, experiencing it and being completely with it, that part of our consciousness feels understood and is allowed to merge back with us. This usually accompanied by a feeling of bliss, effortless realization and insight.
This is an important practice because when we have a strong emotional feeling or reaction, it allows us to consider that there must be a good reason to feel that way. In essence, your (negative) emotions are your compass, your guideline for awareness of a broken or rejected part of your consciousness. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to find and reintegrate the sides of us that got hurt or split off.
We tend to try and escape our negative emotions (sometimes the positive ones too) through many coping mechanisms like: substance addictions, all manner of internet related dependencies, distractions like TV, books, movies, work related or even some friend hangout activities & sports.
“By giving yourself your unconditional attention and presence in the face of uncomfortable emotion, without being in a hurry to get over it, you are giving yourself the unconditional love that you did not get enough of when you were young. This is what is really doing the healing. Nothing on this Earth is more healing than unconditional, focused presence.“
During the meditation, you might experience sensations in your head or body. These may include: feeling a chest pressure, tingling or mild pain in a part of your body, small audio or tactile hallucinations, a short glimpse of a visual representation in your head, etc. Be on the lookout for when these sensations arise, they are important.
This is in fact a very positive sign. It means you are doing it correctly. When this happens, the main emotion you were sitting with tends to fade away in favour of the sensation in the body and you need to set your focused attention on the sensation now. Sit with it for no matter how long it takes. Focusing on the feeling might intensify it sometimes, this is also not a bad sign. Eventually, either a memory will arise or you will feel bliss as a result of healing and integrating that part of yourself.
This hasn’t happened to me but some people may feel a more extreme version of these sensations. Example: your whole body is expanding or shrinking, your skin is on fire, Lilliputian hallucinations (you might feel minuscule or gigantic and you may see things around you in distorted sizes). Teal recommends that you “breath through these strong sensations and surrender to them with the intention of allowing them to run their course. Just let whatever surfaces surface and whatever changes change”.
When feelings of futility, numbness, hollowness or even the need to fall asleep arise, be sure to focus on them too. They are no less important. These types of feelings are what I personally like to call ‘barrier’ or ‘wall’ feelings. They represent a layer of ‘coping’ feelings that were put there (by you) to protect you from the much more painful feeling underneath.
Do not attempt to push through, hit, destroy or any types of brutal reactions against this wall because it will only make it thicker. The only way to get through is to ‘sit with the wall’. Focus your attention and unconditional presence on the ‘wall’ feeling itself for however long it takes and eventually the wall will fade and the real emotion will make itself felt. And if the feeling is the need to fall asleep, let yourself fall asleep.
Even if you weren’t able to get through with the wall that day, you’re still chipping at it and next time (or the hundredth time) you might not need to fall asleep anymore. I have personally post-phoned this process on many occasions and whenever the time came to concentrate on that specific feeling again, it was there, exactly the way I left it.
Sometimes we miss the mark by adding a self-made story to the feeling. This happens when we recognize the emotion and our mind plays out a separate scenery/movie. It’s like an artificial layer that obscures the real feeling. Here’s what Teal has to say about finding the real feeling:
“We want to stay with the sensation of the feeling, not the mental story about it. For example ‘I feel unwanted’ is a story about a sensation. ‘I feel heaviness or buzzing’ is a feeling. In order to truly get out of the mental story and into the feeling, try to describe, recognize or notice anything you can about the unique quality of the sensation that belongs to the emotion or the feeling. […] Familiarize yourself with it. The stronger the emotion is, the easier this will be.”
That’s why it’s recommended that you do this practice as soon as a trigger happens.
There are cases when intense physical reactions appear. You might want to cry or your body might start shaking. Don’t try to suppress these reactions, allow them to happen and run their course while still concentrating on the feeling/sensation. This is just a physical response of our body to the energies that are moving around in it.
You might find yourself going from one emotion to another during the meditation. That’s because of something called ‘Cover Emotions’. Examples: Anger is a cover for fear; Hatred is a cover for hurt; Desperation is a cover for despair; Numbness is a cover for shock or confusion, etc.
These are different from the ‘wall/barrier feelings’ I mentioned above. These emotions are there to try and keep you higher above the much more painful feelings. Whereas the ‘wall/barrier’ feelings are there to completely prohibit you from accessing the feeling underneath/behind them.
The goal here is actually to find out what’s underneath these types of emotions. You can always sit with it until it plays out (or as I endearingly call it ‘until it’s done ranting’) or you can ask yourself ‘What’s underneath this feeling?’; ‘What’s below this?’; ‘Is there something deeper or more painful there?’ and in some cases, you might want to start with ‘Am I ready to find out what’s behind this?’. The ‘cover emotion‘ doesn’t hold the actual truth of your trauma so it’s necessary to find what’s actually underneath it.
“Validate the present feeling, […] give the emotion or feeling the message that we are completely with it, that we see it as valid, that we care about it, that we are ready to listen, that we want to know what it has to say and that we are fully open and fully receiving it. This is the validation and unconditional love that we didn’t get growing up. […] This is what we have been wanting all our lives, and to give the gift of validation to ourselves is life changing.”
The validation step is actually the follow-up after the ‘Emotional Vipassana’ step in Teal’s ‘Completion Process’. But I have decided to add it here because I personally use the two together in almost every occasion.
Don’t rush it! This will invalidate the emotion and the part of your consciousness. It won’t want to even try to integrate with you if you’re not giving it the proper attention.
Don’t judge it! We are sometimes taught we shouldn’t feel one way or another. Or perhaps it’s a truly shameful emotion for you. If you want to succeed at this process, it’s important not to ‘tell it what it should be feeling’. Because it’s not interested in changing for you, it’ interested in being heard and understood.
Don’t force it! I did this mistake where I wanted to get rid of all my problems in a short time. So I sat down to meditate when I didn’t feel like it and I tried to meditate on extra things when I didn’t actually want to anymore. Your feelings deserve love and care, not efficiency.
Do it when you feel good too! I usually focus my attention on doing trauma healing (shadow work) but it’s important to balance with practices that raise your vibration too. The ‘Emotional Vipassana’ will help you anchor a good feeling into your psyche and after done enough times, you’ll find yourself floating in bliss and gratitude for the most part of your waking hours.
That is it for the ‘Emotional Vipassana’ meditation. If you find that you have trouble feeling your emotions then you’ll need to take the precursor step to this practice which is ‘Feel your own emotions”. It sounds simple but for people & cultures who have spent their lives hiding and running away from their emotions, this is a very difficult practice. If you find yourself in this scenario, the quick tip I have to give you is:
Ask yourself “How do I feel?”. Do it every day, many times throughout the day. If you start validating and placing importance on your emotions they will slowly emerge and eventually, they’ll be quite obvious.
I have been practicing the Emotional Vipassana meditation for about a year and it has opened the door for me into my connection with my emotions, sharpened intuition, recognizing emotion patterns in other people, a better relationship with my partner, finding my calling and to be a healthy, functional & mature adult.