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Unpleasant emotions - Sam Harris Daily Meditations 2022.10.09

Sam Harris

Do this practice in the midst of unpleasant emotions

Today´s meditation is dedicated to making meditation a useful tool for liberation (or freeing) from the state of being captured by unpleasant emotions. Or, simpler: from feeling bad.

In this meditation, Sam Harris focuses on one particular type of negative emotions: he talks unpleasant feelings about oneself that arise when one recalls some situation such as a personal failure, a difficult conversation etc.

Harris concludes the meditation with one central insight: if you just observe an emotion, you will notice that it decays pretty fast. So he sais:

The half-life of any negative mental state is remarkably short and just noticing that beyond any other insight you might have into the nature of consciousness, can be incredibly freeing.

Anger management - Tibetan style

Using unpleasant emotions to develop and strengthen meditative skills has an old tradition.

Rather than suppressing or ignoring them, the meditator is asked to vividly recall anger, hate, greed, jealousy etc, to experience these feelings to the maximum while staying aware of them. This way, they will automatically self-liberate.

In the book "Self-Arising Three-fold Embodiment of Enlightenment", an entire chapter is dedicated to this practice.

Here is an excerpt on what today we would call "anger management". This extract starts from the task of dealing with thoughts and concepts. But then the author uses anger (an emotion) as an example of thoughts and concepts. They didn´t always make razorsharp distinctions!

It is a meditation on impermanence (anicca)

What kind of meditation is this? One could also see it as a meditation on impermanence: nothing stays. A thought, a life...

As such, the meditation is the first of the three "liberating ways of looking" identified by Rob Burbea in "Seeing that Frees".

  • Anicca (impermanence)

  • Dukkha (unsatisfactoriness of everything)

  • Anatta (seeing everything as not-self)


Burbea, R. (2015). Seeing That Frees: Meditations on Emptiness and Dependent Arising (English Edition). Hermes Amāra.

This book is praised by Michael Taft, one of the best contemporary teachers, in is "Best meditation books of 2020"

Gebel, Till. (2022j, August 29). Sam Harris’ Daily Meditations: Self arising / Self liberation. Till Gebel.

Gyaltsen, S. T., Gurung, G. S., & Brown, D. P. (2022, April 29). Self-Arising Three-fold Embodiment of Enlightenment: [of Bon Dzogchen Meditation] (English Edition) (2nd ed.). Mustang Bon Foundation.

A thought on...

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