You always see on Instagram serene pictures of people peacefully meditating, but what about those other kinds of meditations, the kind when you experience agitation or even rage in meditation? What’s happening in those meditations when it feels like you’re sitting on hot pokers and as soon as it’s done you want to walk up to the next living thing and punch it? I affectionately call these “rage-itations” with my students. Most everyone who practices regularly has experienced one from time to time and when they happen, it can raise questions: Why does this happen? Should you keep meditating if a rage-itation comes on? Do these kinds of meditations actually make you stressed?
All meditations are good meditations
It is a false assumption many people have that all meditations are supposed to be deep and relaxing. Some meditations have that lovely, cozy feeling which is indicative of "going deep," whereas some feel shallow, irritating or downright rage-inducing. These less-enjoyable kinds of meditations are caused by stress release. When we meditate, our bodies rest very deeply, even deeper than sleep. When this happens, the stress stored in our tissues stimulate the mind causing thoughts. These thoughts will have the flavor of whatever type of stress is being released be it heartbreak, fatigue or (in the case of a rage-itation) anger. A similar purification process happens when we sleep which is why we dream, or in the case of a great deal of unstressing, we have nightmares or wake up entirely. The interesting thing about meditations that have a lot of stress release is, while it can feel in the mind like you are stressing out, the body is at rest and absent of stress chemistry. So it is best not to judge how you feel during meditation but examine how different you feel outside of meditation.
Don't pay attention to negative thoughts in meditation
The mind doesn't like when it doesn't have a reason to attach to a body sensation, so if there's not a clear reason you're feeling something, it will make one up. For example, the body may be releasing some old anger from a break up that happened years ago during your meditation, but the mind experiences the unstressing without knowing the context so agitated thoughts come up about something else, something like how your husband put one of your wool sweaters in the wash again. This stress is on its way out, simply let it go. It's mental garbage, so don't go picking through the trash. These stress release thoughts don't need analyzing and putting more attention on them after meditation can put stress right back in your system.
What to do if this keeps happening?
Meditation works in waves. You will vacillate between going deeper and more shallow within a single meditation. Also, you will have a few meditations that are stress releasing which make way for having a few deep ones. The depth then stirs up new stress to release and the pattern happens again. However, if you are finding that you are having frequent uncomfortable, irritable or angry meditations, that is a sign of heavy stress release and can be mitigated by doing certain types of pranayama beforehand. Ask me if this is happening to you and I can give you instruction. Attending a group meditation can also help as the group all bending the field at once can pull you deeper. I find when I'm personally experiencing an agitated meditation, it try to laugh at myself a little. There's something funny about an angry meditator, and it helps keep me from taking myself and my meditation practice too seriously.
Adrian raging over being dressed like a unicorn princess hula dancer.