How to deal with feelings and thoughts during meditation

Question

I am new at meditation. My question is while concentrating on the breath, and feelings of events of the day arises, should I watch the feelings to come up and let they run their course completely before I go back to the breath or should I should stop and go back to the breath? Isn't that what they mean by nonjudmentally acknowledge your feelings? However, If I do so, I feel like I am suppressing my feelings is that healthy?

—elt, usa

Answer

Certainly feelings come up in meditation, just as thoughts do. The question is, will you get involved with them, or will you let them pass (and get back to them later if needed)?

If you get involved, it stops being meditation. And if you develop a habit of pursuing your feelings during meditation, they’ll begin to dominate your meditation time. That’s not meditation at all, and it can be a tough habit to break.

Instead, treat feelings the same way you treat thoughts: Let them pass without pursuing them, as though saying, “Excuse me, but right now, I’m watching the breath.” You can pursue them later if you feel a need to do so. “Later” could be after your meditation period, or it could be after you’ve finished watching the breath but are still in the meditative state: Hold those feelings up to the inner light at the spiritual eye, and try to feel what they’re really about, and whether they have something to teach you, or can you simply let them go.

And if you really need to let your feelings run their course, right now while you’re watching the breath, or if you simply aren’t able to let them pass, then go ahead and do what you need to do with them. But don’t imagine that, when you do that, you’re still meditating. You’re not. You’re just thinking and feeling.

Suppression means denying that you have certain thoughts or feelings, or refusing to acknowledge that they exist. But it’s not suppression to “reschedule” further exploration to another time when you can devote your full attention to them. If you are able to reschedule, your current meditation will be deeper, and later you’ll be able to work with your feelings much more effectively – from a place of centeredness, nonattachment, peace, and above all, intuitive clarity.

Blessings on your practice,

Gyandev