Zen Meditation: Emotional Availability and Emotional Reactivity

Firefly damage my calm

“I am not going to read facebook anymore. It’s crazy making. I read the news. I limit myself to two or three articles a day. I am selfish. I enact triage of emotional availability. I privilege my own sanity over knowing the exact body count of everyone in the world today. I am no use to anyone if I am a mess. Three articles a day is enough.”

Gesshin Greenwood, That’s So Zen



“Yet, the sad fact is that too much looking can be a form of overconsumption. Saturated with images, there’s a point at which any meaningful window onto tragedy is crowded out. We grow weary and numb. The paradox is that our need to be forever connected may disconnect us in the end.

We need some stillness. It takes space and time to meaningfully imagine the suffering of others, to truly lay us bare to what is happening in Tohoku, Japan.

If Zen offers me, or us, anything it is the reminder to question the swiftness and automaticity of our responses. As the Zen master Eihei Dogen said, the path to liberation is not a matter of learning but unlearning. By calming the body and mind, through the deliberate practice of meditation, for example, we may begin to replace unconscious patterns of emotional reactivity. This is significant because it is not just boredom that can shift us into autopilot. Terror can do this as well. My compulsion to gather information, for instance, may be a dodge to avoid facing the sorrow I am actually feeling. (It is only when my mind slows that I am susceptible to grief.)”

Shambhala Sun, article

Meditation Assignment:

  1. Grab pillow.
  2. Sit or lay.
  3. Relax.
  4. Regulate breathing.
  5. Focus:  The above quotes are specifically about media over-consumption.  I would broaden your pondering…  What do you over-consume?  It is a first-world problem of being able to over-consume so many things at once:  things, experiences, news, people, TV, music, social media, technologies, tragedy, etc.  In what ways are you over-consuming?  What could you reduce, eliminate, or even set time and place guidelines for?  What would your mental space look like if you did?  Do you even want to?  Was the human brain even made for this kind of continual over-stimulation?  If we did less of “everything” would our emotional reactivity to and need for “everything” go down?

Post by Monica Gaylor


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