Recently in meditation it seems like the experience of arising emotion has deepened and expanded. This is true of both painful and pleasurable mental and emotional experiences and this recent deepening and expanding calls to mind something that has been occuring, in stages, ever since beginning to meditate.
What I've found is that there a process of unfolding that takes place in the form of openning more deeply to inner or psychophysical experiences, especially emotional ones, that is challenging in terms of a capacity to encompass the experience mindfully, of being able to 'be with' the experience with increasing witnessing detachment, and therefore being able to in a sense liberate from the body and the mind not only the painful and pleasurable aspects of it, but also associated attachment to these experiences. There is initially feelings of contraction in reaction to the increased pain and pleasure, wanting to push away the pain and hold onto the pleasure, insuring an ongoing story line of identity in terms of 'what I am' and 'what I am not.'
Gradually the tendency to 'react' by pushing away or holding on (causes of suffering in terms of greed/attraction, hatred/aversion, and delusion/ignorance) is replaced by the ability to 'respond' through mindfulness. It's like adding weight to a barbell so that the mindfulness muscles stronger through the exercise, the repetitions. And it's also like stretching the mindfulness muscles, the muscles of being, with the benefit of also becoming more flexible, open, and vulnerable. Due to this psychospiritual strengthening and stretching, 'I' become more able to available to subsequent arising psychoemotional states, both painful and pleasurable. Then I go through the same process again of reaction and then responding.
The movement from reaction to response provides an integration where latent tendencies, or, in Western terms, unconscious or subconscious materials, are allowed to become assimilated into consciousness. Awareness. Encompassing. Insight.
The process tends to be very gradual, like the mill grinding away until the bran becomes a very, very fine flour. This graduality is a good thing, natural a kind in a way. The challenge is one that can be met, that is within my abilities.
So, there is a period of a deepening and expanding relationship with inner experience; leading to a sense of challenge in terms of meeting a stronger force of painful and pleasurable emotion; followed by a gradual shift from reacting through holding onto any pleasurable experience and pushing away anyunpleasant experience toward responding to these experiences through enhanced mindful and encompassing detachment; which invites the meditator into a greater openness to experience; which again fosters a sense of challenge, etc. etc.
It might not be easy but it's worth it. Kind of like hiking up to a mountain peak. There is some grind as one climbs up the path. It is sometimes steep, sometime inhabited by gnats and flies, sometime rocky or slippery or sweaty, but then you find a waterfall or see how the light filters through the trees or come across a deer or feel a cool refreshing breeze that calms the spirit. Then it gets kind of steep, or rocky, or fly infested. But it is all worth it when you get to that expansive vista.
It's pretty cool, really.