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Emotion as energy - Sam Harris Daily Meditation 2022.09.09

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Sam Harris

If you feel any anxiety just notice that arise. Become interested in that emotion as a play of energy.

Today´s meditation has a very practical value. It is a practice to literally "sit with" anxiety , or in a wider sense to "be with" difficult sensations and emotions.

Being able to be with one´s so-called negative emotions, rather than avoiding them, acting them out externally, or turning them into something else (e.g. sadness into anger) is a key sign of emotional and more importantly, of relational intelligence.

Meditation helps to become a kind of witness to emotions, a mirror, rather than be swept away by them. Of course, this should not be misunderstood as not feeling, as spiritual bypassing. Spiritual bypassing is just another way to not feel.

For example, being with one´s emotions is an absolutely necessary pre-condition to manage couple conflict in a non-destructive way.

An area where this comes in handy is when dealing with triggers, that is, the emotion that is released through particular actions of one´s partner who has hit a sensitive spot.

Jayson Gaddis describes it humorously in "Getting to Zero" :

About once a week, I feel triggered by my wife. We’ve been together since 2003, so if I do the math, my wife has triggered me (by raising her voice, shutting down, being late, etc.) at least 886 times in the course of our relationship. I’m guessing I’ve triggered her in numbers way higher than that. Feeling triggered by other people is just part of being human, and like conflict, it’s part of any good relationship. There’s no way around this, so please let go of the fantasy that you can be like the famous spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle and never get triggered. Every person has buttons, and other people will push those buttons. Don’t believe me? Just move in with me for a few months or years. (Gaddis, 2021 p 72)

How if one could easily switch into a mode of experiencing the emotion released by the trigger as play?

What meditation does

Sam Harris´ meditation instruction combines a few moves.

1. Raising interest

When one raises interest, the object under consideration is perceived more clearly. Shinzen Young (Young, 2015) provides a very good meditative approach to how to do this.

Interest,detail, familiarity, Intimacy.. These are other terms used by meditation teachers to increase the energy used to direct attention, or to increase awareness.

"Notice what otherwise is overlooked".

2. Abstraction from content

Sam Harris asks the listener to abstract from the specific content of the emotion. Instead of feeling anxiety, the listener now feels abstract "energy".

3. Redefinition as play

The listener is now no longer only in a world of pain, but simultaneously in a world of "play". Obviously, as this instruction brings together in the listener´s brain the memory circuits for pain and those for play, the experience is now suffused with "playful" connotations, and these tend to be more pleasurable.


Gaddis, J. (2021). Getting to Zero: How to Work Through Conflict in Your High-Stakes Relationships. In No Title. Hachette Go.

Conscious spiritual bypassing. (2021, May 25). Till Gebel. Retrieved 9 September 2022, from

Young, S. (2015). Break Through Difficult Emotions: How to Transform Painful Feelings with Mindfulness Meditation (Audible Audio Edition): Shinzen Young, Shinzen Young, Sounds True: Audible Books & Originals.


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