I have one more question I’ve meant to ask in reaction to what you said about meditation and crying several sessions ago – and now that this course is drawing to an end, I better ask it sooner than later: I have heard a number of times that not only is it o.k. to cry during meditation but it is also important and a sign of something deeper happening. I cry a lot. Don’t have an issue with that. However, I never seem to cry in meditation (whether in a group or by myself), or in any group setting – and I am wondering if that means that I am not letting myself experience the full thing? As I am asking the question, the question seems silly to me, but I’ve been through so many meditation sessions with people crying, even or especially the “seasoned meditators” (seems to happen a lot in Shambhala), that I am wondering if I am missing the depth of meditation if I don’t? Not that I *want* to cry while meditating, but sometimes I am wondering if I am somewhat shallow not to… To me it is almost the contrary – when I am really on the breath I can’t cry at the same time. I can rather use meditation to stop my tears and gain composure – if I am remembering to meditate in such a moment. What is your take on this?
Basic Response- You are not missing out on anything necessarily. If you can cry as needed in your life, then you know how to let emotion flow out and through which is what it naturally wants to do. Sadness, Anger, Fear, (even Jealousy, in my training) are natural emotions- if we don’t know how to feel them through, in the right context, they distort us.
And regarding breath concentration- you say “when I am on the breath, I can’t cry at the same time”- that is essentially true. Concentration practices have a way of creating some transcendence. Your concentration on the breath may be too strong to allow emotion to flow?
In this mindfulness training, body and breath are anchors and the bigger practice is awareness- the ability to watch the arising, unfolding, and dissolving of mind phenomena from a place of bare awareness. The ultimate mindful state is non-interference.
So if you cry you cry, if you don’t you don’t. The most important part of the practice on the cushion is that you learning how to work with your direct experience- sensations, emotions, thoughts, impulses in a more conscious way. You are learning how to be with yourself, you are learning how to BE.
There is more to this is all but I think this speaks to your question
Natasha Korshak is a long-time teacher and trainer of yoga, meditation, mindfulness and MBSR, and has been working in the field of integrative health and wellness her entire professional career. She is a graduate of the Interfaith Theological Seminary and an ordained Interfaith Minister specializing in contemplative practice, grief processing, and spiritual direction. Her study and training of mind/body/spirit methods is extensive and she has learned from many of the pioneers in their discipline. As the founder and director of the Sol Center she is well regarded for her depth, warmth, authenticity, and the smile in her voice.