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I read the question/answers on mindfulness of feelings and emotions. When I am meditating on the breath unpleasant body feelings arise and they are noted. (Example: A wave of fear permeating the body. Not long after the fact, I realize that those unpleasant body feelings were a result of a thought. So, I get caught up in trying to label it correctly. I.e. Is it a body unpleasant feeling or a mind unpleasant feeling? This creates more anxiety and doubt. Do you have any suggestions on how to proceed. Thank you

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Even though I cannot help explain the first part of your question, for sure I can help you reduce the anxiety and doubt that arises in meditation. What I give below is only one small part of the many things that you can do to overcome this feeling. Please try the following and see…. Impermanence of Breath

Anapanasati is something that should be developed and pursued mindfully and discerningly. Now, he trains himself to breathe in focusing on impermanence, and to breathe out focusing on impermanence. Purity of mind has been achieved through the elimination of the hindrances (nivarana). His effort, mindfulness and concentration are now being directed towards focusing on impermanence. He is contemplating on impermanence within anapanasati. He can see the impermanent nature of his own breath in its rise and fall; the impermanence of his body; and the impermanent nature of the pleasant feeling and perception that he experienced.

Impermanence of Body

What has he seen in the body? What does this body consist of? This physical body contains and comprises the four great elements, which are known as: solidity/earth (pathavi), fluidity/water (apo), heat or temperature (tejo) and air (vayo). We generally use the word rupa (material form) to denote the body. When he is breathing in and out, he is focusing on impermanence of material form which is derived from the four great elements.

Impermanence of Feeling

Thereafter, he is focusing on feelings. Dependent on contact, feeling arises. What is contact? Contact is the coming together of three things. For example, eye, form and eye-consciousness come together, and it is their convergence, that is called contact. Similarly, with ear and sounds, nose and smells, and so on, through to mind and mental-objects.

In this instance, when body, tangible object and consciousness come together, there arises contact. With the arising of contact, simultaneously, there arises feeling (vedana) – feeling born of body contact. Since feeling is conditioned by contact, feeling differs in accordance with the change of contact. This way, he contemplates on the impermanence of feeling.

Impermanence of Perception

Then, there is the recognition of perception. This is called sañña (perception) which is also subject to change as it is conditioned by contact. Perception changes due to impermanence of contact.

Impermanence of Formations

Perception is followed by sankhara (mental formations). If the mental factor was directed to a certain matter, on that occasion there is volitional activity, and this is called sankhara. Here, he observes the impermanence of the mental formation with the change of contact. All these are based on the activities of the mind.

Now he understands every aspect in this life process which was considered as self (form, feeling, perception and formation); or anything pertaining to a self. He has real wisdom to see things as they really are. One may contemplate on impermanence saying “anicca, anicca” continuously, but still be holding onto the notion of “I am” or “mine”. To avoid this, it is important to realize the impermanent, no-self nature in inhalation-exhalation and in any other external object.

Impermanence of Consciousness

Finally, he sees the impermanent nature of all that has been cognized (the rise and fall of breath, rapture, joy, feelings, and perceptions). It is through this insight that the true nature of the five aggregates of clinging is understood and seen in the light of impermanence:

material form (rupa) derived from the four great elements, feeling (vedana) that is conditioned by contact, perception (sañña) that is conditioned by contact, mental formations (sankhara) that is conditioned by contact, and consciousness (viññana) that is conditioned by mentality-materiality (nama-rupa)

Being fully concentrated on anapanasati, he now dwells ardent, with full awareness, and clear comprehension of impermanence. With the base of this awareness, established in anicca (impermanence), he develops an understanding of his own life, the impermanent nature of others who breathe and live, and the impermanent nature of material form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness (the five aggregates of clinging).

Thus, he observes the impermanent characteristic of phenomenal existence, internally and externally. He does not see a difference in him and the outer world. He sees the characteristic of phenomenal existence as subject to cause and effect. Now he is gaining knowledge, and his comprehension is increasing. He sees things as they really are, in whatever material form: whether past, present or future, far or near, external or internal. He sees the impermanence even of the rapture and pleasure that he is experiencing in breathing mindfully. Now, based on the impermanent breath, he understands the impermanent nature of the five aggregates of clinging.

He realizes that whatever is impermanent and subject to change, is suffering (dukkha). And, whatever is impermanent is without self (anatta). It is through this insight that the true nature of the aggregates is clearly seen; in the light of three signs (ti-lakkhana): impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha) and without self (anatta).

He sees the impermanent, suffering and no-self nature of all conditioned and component things. As a result, he knows there is no “I”, no self, or anything pertaining to a self. When he trains himself to breathe in and out focusing on impermanence, he understands that anything taken as ‘mine’ is impermanent; anything taken as ‘I am’ is impermanent; and anything that is taken as ‘my self’ is impermanent. He realizes that whatever is impermanent, is without self. That which is without self, is not ‘mine’, not ‘I am’, and is not ‘my self’. Thus he sees everything as it really is – with wisdom.

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Painful bodily feeling is, for example, a pain in the knee or a mosquito biting.

Fear is not a 'feeling'. Fear is a mental defilement, mood or emotion.

You should label using a descriptor (label) that is most natural.

An empathetic label that resonates the feeling or emotion is also useful (such as 'sensation' or 'trembling') because this helps the mind harmonize with the sensation or mood.

A pain in the knee you should label as 'pain' or 'painful sensation'.

Fear you should label as 'fear' or 'trembling' (in the clear knowledge it is a passing temporary mood).

Fear is a normal & ordinary arising in new practise. Even the Buddha-To-Be experienced it.

  • Thank you both for your prompt and helpful responses. I have a follow up question. What is the difference between a mental feeling and an emotion? Can you provide some common examples or something to help me differentiate between the two? – Griffin Jun 2 '16 at 3:11
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Feelings/sensations ('vedana') are pleasure & pain (or unpleasantness). For example, the taste of ice-cream, being sweet, is a pleasurable sensation. The smell & sight of a rotting dead animal is an unpleasant feeling. Or a mosquito biting is a painful sensation.

Emotions/cravings/desires/defilements ('kilesa') in Buddhism are categorized into three types: (1) greed/lust/love; (2) anger/hatred; & (3) confusion (including fear)/ delusion/self-obsession.

(When there is a lack of mindfulness) pleasant feelings give rise to greed or desire towards that pleasant feeling & experience. Unpleasant feelings give rise to hatred, anger, aversion or desire against that unpleasant feeling & experience. 'Vague' feelings give rise to confusion, fear, etc, circling around that 'vague' feeling (which Buddhism calls 'neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant feeling').

The practise of Buddhism is that of having mindfulness & wisdom when feelings occur. For example, you may feel pleasure towards the sight of expensive food but have the wisdom to realise you cannot afford that food. Such wisdom will eliminate the desire/craving towards that pleasant food. Or you may feel pleasure towards the sight of your friend's beautiful wife but have the care, good-will & wisdom to know lust for your friend's wife is wrong, inappropriate & harmful. Or you may feel displeasure in your work against a difficult client but know if you exhibit anger in your voice you may lose the client or have a complaint lodged against you.

In Buddhism, it is taught pleasant & unpleasant feelings will always occur. Even Buddhas have pleasant & unpleasant feelings. But Buddhas, because of their mindfulness & wisdom, do not have the arising of unwise emotions/desires that lead to harm & suffering.

How suffering arises: On seeing a form with the eye, he is passionate (sàrajjati) for it if it is pleasing; he is angry (byàpajjati) with it if it is displeasing. He lives with attention to body (kàya-sati) unestablished, with a limited mind, and he does not understand realistically (yàthabhåtaü nappajànàti) the deliverance of mind (cetovimutti) and deliverance by wisdom (pannà vimutti) wherein those evil unwholesome states (dhammas) cease without remainder. Engaged as he is in favouring and opposing, whatever feeling he feels - whether pleasant or painful or neither-pleasant-nor-painful - he delights (abhinandati) in that feeling, welcomes it, and remains holding on to it. As he does so, delight (nandi) arises in him. Now, delight in feelings (vedanàsu nandi) is clinging (upàdàna). Becoming is conditioned by his clinging; becoming conditions (egoism) birth; (egoism) birth conditions (egoism) ageing-&-death; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair come to be. Thus is the arising of this entire mass of suffering.

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How suffering ends: On seeing a form with the eye, he is not passionate for it if it is pleasing; he is not angry at it if it is displeasing. He lives with attention to body established, with an immeasurable mind, and he understands realistically the deliverance of mind and deliverance by wisdom wherein those evil unwholesome states cease without remainder. Having abandoned favouring and opposing, whatever feeling he feels - whether pleasant or painful or neither-pleasant-nor-painful - he does not delight in that feeling, welcome it, or remain holding to it. As he does not do so, delight in feelings ceases in him. From the cessation of his delight comes cessation of clinging; from the cessation of clinging, the cessation of (egoism) becoming; from the cessation of (egoism) becoming, the cessation of (egoism) birth; from the cessation of (egoism) birth, (egoism) ageing-&-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair cease. Thus is the cessation of this entire mass of suffering.

Mahàtanhàsankhaya Sutta

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