Facing Horror

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Meditation — Reframing stressful situations

Our emotions are built on exaggerating the actual degree of others' goodness or badness. To overcome this, think of situations when you flew off the handle, got angry, or suffered in silence—each of us has different ways of reacting—and reflect that the person with whom you had difficulties also wants happiness and doesn't want suffering. This type of reflection can open up all sorts of other possible ways of reacting to problem situations.

In meditation, search your childhood for painful memories and re-enter the scene. Then imagine yourself having the presence of mind to think, "Just as I want happiness and don't want suffering, so Priscilla (or whoever) wants happiness and doesn't want suffering."

Think of a few more recent problem situations. Maybe you feel, "Ten years have passed, but I'd do the same thing today as I did then. It was such a difficult situation I'd still fly off the handle today." That would mean that you hadn't learned anything in ten years.

The practice of equanimity is one way to learn a new perspective and to cause those earlier difficult situations to cease having such a huge influence. Try this new tack. It might not succeed right away, but at least the possibility of doing something different enters the scenario. At that point, the situation's hold on you diminishes.

If you familiarize yourself for a considerable period with these meditations that use horrific situations in order to increase equanimity, gradually your sense of equanimity, an even-mindedness, will extend to anyone who appears.