Difficult Emotions, Open Awareness

The Circle


One of the tricky parts of meditation is being able to accept all experiences as valid – to allow them, welcome them and, even, make friends with them.

It’s easy to be with the sound of birds chatting in the evening or the steady fall of rain on a roof. But not so easy to accept the rumble of a chainsaw or, the gentle, innocuous drip of a tap!

And what of perturbing thoughts, body aches and pains, and gut-wrenching emotions?

Whilst focused-based meditations (such as breath counting, body scan and mantras) will see you “letting go” of any experience that isn’t that one point of attention; the open awareness (or open monitoring) meditation instead helps you to welcome all aspects of your experience, non-judgementally.

Each style of practice has their benefits, but perhaps the one that helps us most with thoughts and emotions is that bare attention, non-directive style. It allows us to sit back, like this one, be curious, and let the meditation unfold naturally on its own.

Here’s a quick one you can try for yourself.

Welcome. This is a mediation that helps to grow acceptance and kindness for all that we experience, both during practice and out in the world.


First getting yourself into whatever position feels natural and comfortable for you. Perhaps one where you feel most at home in your body.

And just while you’re here resting with the body, spend the next couple of moments noticing and feeling what your body is doing all on its own. Heart beating. Blood pumping. Twitches, temperature, tension. Are there any parts that are trying to communicate something with you?


Whether your week’s been horribly hectic or cruisey and relaxed, now’s the time to give yourself that permission. It is OK to push pause on your regular life just for now.

And we can celebrate the commencement of this time with a few lovely deep breaths.

Lovely deep breaths where the out-breath is slightly longer than the in-breath… and if you can just wait for the little gap at the bottom… you can encourage the chest and tummy to soften before taking the next in-breath.

When you’re ready just let the breath fall back into its own natural rhythm.


And what I’d like you do to now, if you can, is imagine, or get a sense for a circle.

And take this idea of a circle as being your container for all your meditation experiences. A safe and welcoming space where all experiences are valid.

Sounds, body sensations and the breath.
Thoughts, emotions and sleepiness.

All sorts of visitors for which there’s plenty of room.

You may notice that some visitors don’t need much from you. They’re like nomads passing on through.

Others want to be the centre of attention. But it’s ok for them to wait their turn.

And perhaps there are visitors that need some of your tenderness. An ear, your patience. To be wrapped up in your kindness.

So, I’ll give you some space now to practice this on your own… let your attention be guided by the visitors to your circle… remembering that you can widen it at any time if things start to feel crowded.


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