It’s so important to remember how negative emotions provide inspiration for practice. There are so many counterproductive ways one can use negative emotions — dwelling on them, obsessing over them, getting angry or sad about them. Every once in a while, it occurs to me I can transform them into the desire to meditate, and it’s such a relief!

But how is that done? Sitting in a stew of negative emotions and just dealing with it seems rather unpleasant, which is bound to bring up some aversion. Meditation might not alleviate the feeling one is in right now, but it can transform associated feelings — like fear of a difficult or painful thing happening again — and realizing there’s a way forward can lift the spirits.

One of the negative emotions I’m working with right now is embarrassment. This feeling arises when I’ve done something inappropriate to a situation, and I either notice in the moment or reflect on it later. If I had been more mindful — more aware of my thoughts and feelings, more in control of my actions — in the fateful situation, perhaps I could have avoided the embarrassment. Perhaps I’d have a clearer, more objective memory of what happened that would give me some perspective now, so I wouldn’t feel so badly about it.

By tapping back into my practice, I can prepare for the next situation. No matter the cause or the particular difficult emotion, mindfulness offers readiness that can dull the blow or dodge it entirely. When dwelling on negative feelings, the key is to remember impermanence — this negative feeling will end, there will be a next time, I’ll get another chance. Wanting to be more ready next time, so it isn’t so difficult, is a fine motivation for practice.