Mindfulness Activity #56
Leaning into Emotions
One of the goals of mindfulness is a balanced life. In nature, there are elements in opposition–cold and hot, wet and dry, light and dark. But, human nature is to avoid pain. We often go to great lengths to avoid actually feeling fear, or sadness. Sometimes, we get a glimmer of a feeling and we start worrying—thinking thoughts in our in our head like, “I can’t take this.” We can get emotional about being emotional. This results in lots of behaviors to escape our feelings. The fear of emotions can also make you feel like your emotions are on steroids…Feelings that are inflated and blown up, lead to panic rather than problem solving.
In some ways, it is counter-intuitive to sit with a painful emotion, especially if we think the worst. It can feel dangerous. But the average emotion lasts seconds, not minutes or hours. Emotions typically come over us like a wave comes into the sea shore creeping up and then receding. But, if you run away as a wave comes in, your brain will never know that it recedes. So, touching into emotions signals danger for some people. This is especially true if you have had painful experiences in your past and did not have the support necessary at the time to fully process those experiences.
If we actually feel the physical sensation of an emotion washing over us, and label it, the emotion decreases in intensity. For instance saying “this is so sad”, or “I am so afraid,” feels physically sickening briefly, but generally leads to your brain kicking in and offering solutions, or to some perspective about the situation instead of panic.
Once we realize that the physical symptoms of emotions, especially unpleasant ones, are not harmful or dangerous, they become part of the balance of life instead of a pit in which one can become trapped.
So, today’s practice is about leaning into emotions. Click the video to practice leaning into emotion.
Now, today when anything worries you, angers you, or makes you sad, take a moment to just notice the physical sensation of the emotion, take three breaths in and out noticing your body before doing anything. There is value in feeling the feelings that come up for you. Not avoiding them will ironically make them less intense and shorter lived.
Have a good day.