Have you noticed that getting to know another person appears easier than getting to know yourself?
One of the many reasons we practice mindfulness meditation is to familiarize ourselves with the nature of our thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. We believe what we feel must be real because we feel it so deeply. When we pause to look directly at the story or emotion that is arising we discover the emotion itself is constantly changing.
Fueled by the intention to do less harm to oneself practicing greater kindness for self and others, we begin observing, becoming both the watcher and the watched, two people sharing one experience. It’s pretty amazing actually.
As I prepare to go into a silent thirty- day solo retreat, I’m noticing a variety of negative emotions arising on and off the cushion, including my all time favorite, Doubt.
One type of negative thought begets another. So suddenly snagged by anxiety, greed, anger, or doubt we believe we’re justified to take action because the thoughts themselves feel so overwhelmingly real.
Thoughts and emotions work together to wreak havoc when we believe they are/feel real. By the time I realize I’m snagged by Doubt, my chest has dropped, my skin has tightened everywhere. My whole body and mind set droops.
Notice what happens when you experience a strong emotion. Pay attention to what’s happening in your face, scalp, chest, legs, etc. The better you observe the body’s responses, the easier it becomes to gauge the nature of the emotionally laden story to which you are clinging.
Desire is an easy emotion to use since we are often so swept away by the story content we build around the emotion. By chasing our thoughts we’ve allowed a perfectly calm mind to erode. As my spiritual teachers assert, “There is what happens, and how we relate to what happens!”
With mindfulness, and other complementary practices, I have more spaciousness to actually look at a reactive, habituated pattern of thoughts and choose a response that best aligns with my vision of how I wish to be in the world.
Not only do I recognize that my happiness depends on what and how I think, I have the option to take full responsibility not simply for the thoughts themselves, but for any reaction I have as a result.
My happiness/peace of mind is now within my control. We can learn to change our reactions, and even the thoughts we have. Are my thoughts undermining me or moving me towards joy? As I devote more time to practice, I am more skillful disarming the thought/conduct triggers. Even better, there is a decrease in the intensity, frequency and duration of these triggers.
Even when I do fall down in the puddle of negative emotions, I have tools I can use to transform the view to which I believe I’m stuck. There is a way to stop stressing.
Getting To Know Your Emotions:
- Meditate daily for a minimum of 20 minutes.
- After each session make a note of the emotions you noticed connected to the many stories.
- After 1 week of noting these strong emotions identify the emotion you wish to get to know better.
- Once you select a particularly strong emotion, you want to spend some time on the couch with it, getting familiar with its history with you.
- Write a letter to the Emotion. E.g. If it’s desire or anxiety write a letter to it.
- Who or what is this emotion? How has it played a role in your life? How has its presence shaped your thoughts, speech and actions?
- You may want to identify specific outcomes you’ve had as a result of letting this emotion inform your conduct.
- Be kind to yourself while you write your letter. No judging of yourself or your actions.
- When you notice the desire to blame someone or something for the appearance of this emotion, take full responsibility for the emotion/results, instead.
- Each time this emotion appears in your meditation, mentally invite it to sit on your couch.
Notice what happens to the emotion when you invite it in to sit on the couch.
Although a spiritual practice is your own “work” to do, partnering with a guide/teacher makes the path so much easier to walk “day by day.”
If you’d like to incorporate mindfulness meditation to soften the intensity, frequency and duration of afflictive emotions in your life call me to set up a Healer Coaching Program.