Sally Kempton

Doorways to the Infinite

Getting Past Sadness

Q: In meditation recently, I’ve discovered a bottomless well of sadness. At the same time, I’ve got bronchitis. It feels that the two things are connected. Are my respiratory problems linked to this sadness in my heart space? Is it really possible to go past it?

SALLY: The experiences you are having are part of the inner cleansing process that occurs when our meditation begins to go deep. The heart is filled with old griefs and accumulated sadness, not just from this lifetime but from many. These feelings have formed an energetic layer that functions like a wall. It blocks us from entering into deeper, subtler states of awareness, and ultimately from knowing the Self that lies beyond emotions and contains them. 

Getting Past Sadness

So the cleansing is extremely significant, and beneficial, and most of us will pass through it at some point.

The important thing to realize is that the sadness is NOT bottomless. It has an end, and when the meditation energy has purified it, the feelings will lift—and much of your layered sadness will be gone forever. Its helpful to keep reminding yourself of this when you are going through cleansing, because it allows you to open more to the process without being afraid of it.

Your respiratory problems and the sadness in the heart may well be related, because, as you know, there is often a physical cleansing that happens along with the emotional cleansing. You will help the process along if you take care of yourself in two ways: by nourishing yourself and by cultivating the inner witness.

Nourishing Practices:

Massage will help move the energy. Chanting will literally open the stuck places in the heart, and can give you a sense of the soft joy that lies behind sadness. Chanting also gives you a deeper sense of connection to your inner divinity. This might also be a good time for some short-term psychotherapy to help you process the roots of your sadness. Try simple physical self-nurturing–hot baths with Epsom salts, compresses for the chest.

Witnessing Practice

This is the most basic and effective way there is to get to the Self behind your passing (and even your deep-seated) feelings. Try working with a basic self-inquiry practice. Ask yourself, “Who knows I’m sad?” Then look for the witness/knower space that will arise. Understand that you aren’t looking for a verbal answer to the question, so each time a verbal answer arises, go beyond it by asking, “Who knows I think this/feel this?” and then pay attention to the space in your mind that arises. As you keep inquiring into the “knower”, you’ll become aware that there are layers of “knower” within you. Keep moving through the layers. Without expecting “answers,” keep looking for the space of the knower.

Let the Tears Come

Along with all this, do understand that your tears themselves are cleansing, and that not all of the tears are sad tears. Tears are a powerful sign of grace–the Sufis say that one tear is worth a thousand prayers–yet what often happens when we cry in meditation is that the tears trigger associations with sadness. We begin having sad thoughts, and then they become sad tears. So that might be something to notice!

Ask for Grace

When the sadness becomes too acute, if it feels appropriate, try praying to the Source of grace within you, asking for help and guidance. Know that the guidance and help are there, all around you and especially within you. No matter how alone we may feel at any moment, the truth is that we are completely connected to the universe. It’s the ego-mind that fears and feels isolated, and who you really are is much bigger than that. Often the real source of the fear is the ego-mind’s fear of the greatness that you are….

Dialogue with Yourself

Along with all this, it’s important to keep dialoguing with yourself. Remind yourself that you are great, that you are loved, that you are love. Tell your ego that it’s ok, that you’ll take care of it. Tell the child inside you that you’ll take care of her, and even more, that the universe is taking care of her!