With great respect, I continue to read Ayya Khema. This time on how to work with strong emotions and thoughts during meditation:
A very important way to work with these is to label them, drop them, and then go back to the breath . . .
. . . We give the disturbance a name, identify it, so that we know what it is; then we drop it and get back to the breath. The thought or emotion dissolves by itself after having been labeled, because we have become an objective observer. We are no longer subjective. As an observer we watch the occurrence, but we do not go into it, and therefore there is space for the emotion to fold up and vanish.
If Ayya Khema was still alive, I would engage her in the following questioning:
What happens when one cannot clearly identify the emotion and the bodily sensations associated with it?
Even when one 'knows' the emotion that is experienced, doesn't labeling run the risk of tying one into thinking mind?
Instead of labeling, would it be more beneficial instead to engage in felt noting? - I just made up the expression felt noting, to describe the act of experiential noting, in felt, not verbalized sense. When I sit, I am aware of various states, in deeply felt sense.
Does putting words on experience run risk of reducing it? Even if I know I am experiencing anger, the word anger itself is loaded with connotations that may not do justice to the more complete, felt experience. Same with the breath. Rather than noting 'rising, falling, rising, falling . . .' as instructed by U Pandita, for instance, woudn't a more skillful way be to just be with the experience of each in and out breath?
What is your take?