Once you are able to relax a bit, you can try to gain more perspective on this emotional experience. At this point, it helps to investigate or analyze it. We try to do this analysis without too much thought.
Contemplative analysis involves some thoughts, but they are disciplined thoughts. You start by analyzing the cause or what set off the emotion, and also the conditions––where you were, what you were doing when this strong feeling came up, and how that emotion is arising. You stick to the basic information.
Then when you see your mind going beyond tha--when it starts to go into some kind of story line about the past or something––you must stop there. We just try to find the basic information: “When he says this, then it triggers my irritation.” Or “When this person does this, I think of that,” and so forth. You examine just this one point of your emotional experience, and stop there for now.
When you work with a strong emotion in this way, you can see the whole situation much more clearly. That moment of clarity can be your mindfulness reminder for the next time a similar feeling, such as anger or irritation, arises. It can help you avoid reacting and making things worse. That’s one method.
The other method we use is analytical meditation. With this method you sit in shamatha, or basic calmness, for a while. And within that, you investigate one trigger point or one emotion for a few minutes. Then when you see your mind getting too involved in grasping, or developing a lot of commentary as opposed to simply investigating this moment of your experience, you return to your breathing.
We want to let go of our painful emotions. But what is letting go, actually? To find that out, you have to do it. It’s not a theory, it’s a practice. Letting go is essentially a practice of releasing our stressful physical and emotional energy. We do this by working with physical and mental exercises––primarily through relaxation and awareness.