I find that after I have a get-together with other people, I tend to ruminate on what was said. Whether I or someone else said something that was revealing or didn’t land quite how the speaker intended or provocative in some way, rehashing conversations is a big part of my experience of life. The rehashing is, unfortunately, rarely a positive recollection. Usually rumination brings up uncomfortable feelings. I reveal this because in talking with others about this experience, many report that they do the same thing after social encounters-particularly if they are introverts. This discomfort can be very disruptive, especially if your thoughts tend to rally when you are getting into bed for sleep.
We might think that in our search for peace and a general sense of well being that we can ignore or push away feelings of discomfort. We might use food, drugs, alcohol and plenty of other activities to distract ourselves from the uncomfortable experiences. We try to somehow remove the thoughts from our head. That doesn’t work. Sitting with the discomfort is much better than pushing it away. When you sit with the feelings and sensations that come up you realize that they can’t kill you even if at moments you think these thoughts can kill you. If you quietly listen to what your head is saying and try not to judge yourself or your thought, you are one step closer to letting the thought dissipate. I know that isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Meditation practice can be very helpful for lessening the discomfort of your experience of rumination. There are many different techniques for doing meditation so do not assume that you must stop your thoughts in order for it to be considered “real” meditation. I like to think of many of the meditation approaches as ways to soften your focus on thoughts. Eyes closed or softly gazing down, sitting still and balanced on a chair or cushion is half of the gift of meditation even before you start attending to your breath or whatever anchors you use. I encourage you to take a class or two with different meditation instructors to find what styles work for you. If you for some reason assume that you can’t meditate, you might be surprised to learn that meditation practice is not what you expected.
Meditation is just one way to be with feelings of discomfort. If you are fortunate to have someone in your life that you deeply trust, sharing what you are going through can be very helpful. You will find that you are not alone in your reaction to life. Although we might feel like we are different and no one can imagine what we are facing, we are all humans and generally have a lot of practice experiencing similar discomforts. Talking openly with a close friend or loved one often reveals that they feel just the same way. When you tell your friend about your feelings of discomfort and they show that they understand and even have similar experiences, it can be very normalizing. Sitting with your discomfort and feeling heard and not judged (by you or others) just might be the best way to experience humanity and loving kindness.