When pleasant or unpleasant (and even neutral) thoughts, emotions, and sensations arise in our field of awareness, we often assign them labels, such as good or bad, wanted or unwanted. Classifying our likes and our dislikes is not inherently wrong, but when we habitually react to these labels, it bring suffering upon ourselves or others.
What if instead, we brought mindfulness to the feeling tones of pleasant, unpleasant and neutral? Observing in this manner can transform reactivity into a skillful, healthy response, setting the foundation for resilience and a balanced, stable mind.
In this guided meditation, Mindfulness Exercises founder Sean Fargo invites us to become aware of sensation in the body. Whether we feel that sensation as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, we practice holding all of it with tenderness and care.
Please listen in a safe, quiet place where you can be relatively free from distraction. Find a posture that balances comfort with alertness, whether standing, seated, or lying down. May this meditation be of benefit to you in your mindfulness journey.
Please remember that mindfulness practice is not a replacement for therapy. Listen with care and self-compassion and practice within your window of tolerance. If this, or any other episode, triggers overwhelming, uncomfortable feelings, contact your healthcare provider.
‘Feeling tone,’ in the context of this classic mindfulness meditation, does not refer to emotions but is a translation of the Pali word, vedanā. Vedanā refers to the general hedonic tone of sensation. As sensation is experienced by the body, mental factors label this sensation as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. This process is not bad or wrong, but rather, it is a part of being human.
Bringing mindfulness to feeling tones deepens our awareness of how we tend to react when something has received a label. Often, we grasp onto what we label as pleasant, while we resist or try to push away the unpleasant. It’s this reactivity that leads to our suffering, for nothing pleasant lasts forever and the unpleasant will always be a part of life.
Mindfulness of feeling tones is the first step in overcoming our reactivity. As we practice awareness of the process of labeling, we also practice remaining present, despite the label given to any particular sensation. Meditating on feeling tones invites us to apply curiosity, care and tenderness to pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral experiences - equally.
The goal is not to arrive at a point where all becomes neutral, but to become increasingly capable of holding space for both wanted and unwanted thoughts, emotions and sensations.
As you practice this meditation, you may find you struggle most with allowing for pain or discomfort. Sometimes, we find that joy is challenging to sit with. Note which sensations you tend to recognize most easily, note the presence of grasping or aversion, and do your best to address all of it with gentleness and compassion.
Strengthen resilience and presence by bringing greater mindfulness to feeling tones with the following free mindfulness resources:
About Sean Fargo:
Sean Fargo is a former Buddhist monk and the founder of Mindfulness Exercises. The online platform, which has shared free and premium mindfulness resources with over 3 million people worldwide, has now certified over 500 Mindfulness Teachers.
Sean is the lead instructor for the teacher training program, a unique self-paced approach which invites world-renowned mindfulness teachers to share their insights and experiences. Sean has taught mindfulness and meditation for corporations including Facebook, Google and Tesla and for health and government organizations, prisons and hospitals around the world.