By Lisa Meuser

...When it comes to discomfort, or pleasure, our minds are even more trained to focus on just one, or the other. When we focus in such a binary way, we have to exclude everything else. An effect of that is that our world gets smaller – as we become reduced to just that which is being focused upon.

Have you ever felt afraid, and in that state felt very small? This presents a similar dynamic. Parts of our brain are being utilized, and parts of brain are being excluded. Parts of our experiences are being included, and parts of our experience are being excluded. We often feel small because we’re experiencing life as our child-self did – our child-self who was indeed small, and who was often un-resourced, overwhelmed, and without agency...

Now, let’s imagine being afraid, and, as we’re aware of the discomfort of the fear, we’re also aware of other things. Imagine being able to acknowledge the discomfort and/or fear, AND also being able to notice that there are sensations in the body that are actually quite fine...


Buddhist philosophy argues that when people ignore their neutral feelings, they are more likely to experience boredom and ignorance because all feelings, including neutral feelings, should to be attended to (Bodhi, 2000; Kudesia and Nyima, 2015). Dhammadinna, a nun, stated that when people have neutral feelings, ignoring them and not knowing can be painful and unpleasurable, whereas knowing the neutral feeling is pleasant (Anālayo, 2017). Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, went even further saying the following about the practice of mindfulness with regard to neutral feelings:

"In the process of practicing we discover that the neutral feelings are very interesting. As when we sit, there is a sensation that is neutral. When we bring mindfulness to the neutral feeling, you find that it is quite nice. You see that you already have enough conditions for happiness with a neutral feeling. If you look deeply at the neutral feeling you see that it is wonderful. When you see your feelings passing by like a river, you see that 80% of your neutral feelings are quite pleasant. With mindfulness, our neutral feeling is transformed into happiness" (Thich, 2011).


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