Often times, emotions are seen as reactions to the world around us and not as things that can be consciously chosen or selected. There are a few meditations I work with which are about being able to choose the emotion we want (or even need) to feel. The inner sanctuary meditation is among them.
This meditation is designed to create a sense of calm, safety, and emotional warmth. It uses a method acting technique to bring up a past setting where all of those emotions already exist. You are still working with reactions on a certain level but you are choosing to what and how you react. By strengthening your mental image of your inner sanctuary and working with this meditation over time, the positive emotions associated with it become more easily recalled.
Visualize Your Sanctuary
Find your meditation posture and center yourself on your breath. Take a moment to home there before beginning this practice.
Now, bring to mind a place in your history where you felt the safest, where you felt cared for, or you felt genuinely happy. As you sit with your eyes closed, imagine you are actually there. Imagine that if you were to open your eyes, you would be sitting in the middle of that room, location, or place in time. When you open your eyes in your mind, build or recreate your chosen sanctuary space.
Some people imagine themselves in their childhood bedroom, their grandparent’s house, a classroom at school, doing an activity that brought them joy in the past, at a favorite vacation spot, and on and on. It varies from person to person. Bring your own individual place to mind. Feel your imagined inner sanctuary location around you.
Temperature. Notice the temperature. Is there a breeze or is the air still? Can you feel the heat of the sun?
Setting. What furniture or natural items are around you? See each piece clearly. Recreate it in your mind. How do they feel when you touch them?
Smells. What smells do you associate with this location? Is something cooking? If you’re outdoors, how do the grass, flowers, or water smell?
Sounds. Recreate the sounds in your mind. What can you hear immediately around you and further off in the distance? Is there a TV humming away? Do the lights make noise? Can you hear traffic in the distance?
People. Are there other people in the space with you? Who are they? What are they wearing, doing, or saying?
Feelings. Finally, recall how you felt in this space. Emphasize the emotions. Where do they live in your body? Sit with the emotions of calmness, safety, and warmth that this space evokes. Let those feelings naturally grow.
Once the feelings are strong enough, you can open your eyes and let the meditation go.
Using this Technique
When faced with situations where the feelings found in your newly created inner sanctuary are needed, this technique can be quite helpful. The more you do this visualization, the faster you will be able to recall it clearly in your mind and the more readily the emotions it evokes will return.
Don’t worry if your visualization is initially poor. Visualizing is a skill that gets better the more you do it. If you really struggle, you can try “feeling” the sanctuary space around you as if you were there and still had your eyes closed. This can be helpful if you struggle with the sight piece of your visualizations.
As you work with this meditation more regularly, you will find that the feelings of safety, emotional warmth, and calm are more present outside of the practice. You are what you think and that includes the emotions you bring most to mind.
Learn to create and strengthen helpful emotions.
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