June 16, 2008
I am responding to a question from a listener who experienced emotional pain while using the Chakra Meditation. Here is his email:
I was today listening to the Chakra meditation podcast, but felt it was necesarry to turn it off at the Heart Chakra. I found that I became overwhelmed by a feeling of great emotional pain in my heart… I thought I would e-mail you to see if you knew what might be causing this, and how to find the solution.
It’s not unusual to become more aware of our emotions during meditation, and even to have strong emotions or emotional pain come up. I will write about that in general in another post (or talk about it in another podcast), but for now I’ll talk specifically about having this happen during the Chakra Meditation.
During the chakra meditation, we put our attention on the various chakras. The chakras, or energy centers of the body, are like doorways to different aspects of ourselves. They process the energy for our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual functioning. When we put our attention on a chakra, we become more aware of what is going on in the part of our life that the chakra represents. Not only do we become more aware, but the energy in the chakra is enlivened by our attention.
Our attention is a beam of energy and intelligence and, like a laser beam, it affects whatever it is directed toward. With your awareness on your heart chakra, you may get in touch with something going on in your heart area. It’s like shining a light into a dark room — what has been hidden becomes revealed.
In this case, you felt great emotional pain. This could be pain associated with something going on in your life now that you’ve been ignoring, or it could be some pain “releasing” from the past. The heart chakra has to do with our relationships and connections with others. If there has been some loss or hurt in relationships, it is felt in the heart area. The loss or hurt could even be associated with things and events, such as moving or losing a job. If the feeling of hurt (or perhaps grief) isn’t fully “processed”, the energy of the feeling gets “stuck” in the heart chakra. When we put our attention on the heart chakra, we may feel what is waiting there to be processed. It’s the job of the heart chakra to process certain emotions, and when we relax in meditation and allow our attention to go there, the heart chakra gains the energy to do its job. While no one likes to experience emotional pain, it is a part of healing and recovering from an emotional trauma.
Very often we have grief that hasn’t been fully resolved in our lives. Some cultures are better than others in supporting people through grief. In many of our Western cultures, we’ve learned to suppress grief. But our mind and body will always move toward greater balance and emotional well-being given the opportunity. While meditating, things that have been under the surface can come up to be felt.
When something comes up that makes you feel too uncomfortable, you can always do what you did and stop the meditation. It would be good if that happens to lie down and rest a bit to let things settle down. There are some other ways of dealing with strong emotions as well, and for something like this an experienced meditation guide could help. The advice the guide would give would depend on some one-on-one exchange with you.
After responding to the person who asked this question, he emailed back that indeed he had recently experienced a sort of emotional trauma and had been feeling quite numb until listening to the meditation. Based on that, I also want to add that it is quite normal to feel numb after a traumatic event like the death of a loved one, breakup of a relationship and any other intense loss or change. It’s a healthy response of the body and psyche to protect itself from overload and allow us to continue functioning. Usually that phase passes and we begin to feel our emotional reactions. Sometimes, however, those reactions are buried and may surface again after a long period of time. It’s not always possible to know where a strong emotion in meditation is coming from — it could be an emotion from a recent event or left over from something long ago. In any case, part of healing is experiencing that emotion and meditation can sometimes facilitate that.
Usually an emotional release will in meditation will not take too long to resolve and won’t cause undue discomfort. Occasionally, however, meditation can open us up to some feelings that are so difficult for us that we would benefit from help from a trained counselor or therapist. Be kind to yourself and get support if needed.