Untangling emotions

Family in golf gear. Untangling emotions
Untangling emotions

The last year my father was alive coincided with my recovery from a major depressive episode during which I had nearly killed myself. He and I spent his final summer playing golf, and he and my mother lived with us in the four months before his death.

As he slowly died and I learned to live again, my meditation practice grew. The experience tested me on multiple levels, primarily emotional.

I wanted nothing more than to spend those days with him on what we fondly referred to as “goat pastures,” small courses in rural Licking County,  Ohio. But I struggled to keep my mind where my body was. There were so many questions, so many regrets. There was so much confusion about my  mental health, my job, my future. And so much sadness that he would soon be gone.

This emotional storm of my father’s impending death and my own anxiety and depression presented the most difficult meditation I’d had to date. Unlike the back spasms and sciatic pain that had originally brought me to meditation, I could not escape this.

I could not escape this.

Each treasured day on the course with him offered rich opportunities to untangle complex emotions. The pure pleasure of being near him intensified  as his health dwindled. The layers of these experiences included the agony of seeing this decline, as well as recognizing the up-and-down nature of our relationship through the years, my bad golf game turning good as I watched his award-winning golf game suffer, and the fight against my depression, which caused me to quit my job as a lawyer and kept me in bed nearly every day I wasn’t golfing with him.

Pleasant thoughts, unpleasant thoughts; pleasant body sensations, unpleasant body sensations. My new meditation skills were often no match for this tangled flood of emotions.

I didn’t yet know about the 5 Conditions, but I knew about creating a story.

Along with the grasping of pleasure and pushing away of pain, I noted my thoughts of how it shouldn’t be this way and did my best to let them go. I untangled the direct sensory, bodily experiences of emotion, separating them from my thoughts and stories. Pink threads turned to red and white. Untangling the web of emotions helped me to really be with my father.

And after Dad died, the same techniques helped when hurtling waves of grief pounded my heart. Practice. Practice. Practice. I’m so grateful I knew
what to do.

I have included more than twenty “Your Turn” exercises in the book Make Every Move a Meditation.

This excerpt is from Make Every Move a Meditation by Nita Sweeney. Buy the paperback, ebook, or audiobook now at Amazon or Mango Publishing Group.