I always say the most important thing I’ve learned through meditation is that I don’t need to do anything to get through difficult emotions. The second most important thing I learned is that clinging to pleasant emotions serves only to take away from the enjoyment of them.
Before meditation I had two ways of dealing with unpleasant emotions. I either distracted myself with avoidant behaviours by “keeping busy” or I sought out something that felt pleasurable. When I found something pleasurable I would do everything in my power to hold on to that feeling. The fear of losing that pleasant feeling would create anxiety which in turn lead me to either engage in avoidant behaviours or seak out more pleasant feelings. I am sure you can see the vicious cycle this creates.
As I learned to identify and sit with my unpleasant feelings (which for me were mostly fear and anxiety) I learned that if I recognized my patterns, stopped, took a breath, offered my self some loving kindness and allowed myself a moment to acknowledge that my anxiety was not rooted in anything present, but rather in either a past that no longer exists or a future that has not happened, I was able to sit with my fears and allow them to pass without getting caught up in my old unconscious cycles of avoidant and seeking behaviours
Learning not to cling to pleasant feelings is proving to be the more difficult task for me. It is ironic that I find the pleasant feeling the most difficult to move through but they are. When I am in a moment of happiness or joy I start to anticipate it ending and I start to miss it before it has even passed. This not only robs joy from the present moment it morphs it into something almost unpleasant. Clinging to happiness feels a bit like trying to hold onto water. You can hold more if you cup and cradle the water rather than squeeze and grip it.
In short meditation has taught me how to observe and allow and my unpleasant emotions and to cup and cradle my pleasant ones in a way that allows me to move through my life in a softer more present way. Mindfulness has given me the gift of being more present in my life. Each day I stay a little longer, see a little more, feel a little deeper and trust a little more fully.