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Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh on Being with Emotions from The Mindfulness Bell:
“We should not be afraid of our feelings and emotions. Sometimes an emotion can be very powerful, like a storm. It makes us suffer a lot. But we should remember that an emotion is only an emotion. Not more than an emotion. Sometimes we think that we are only our emotion. That is not correct.
…When we observe a tree in a storm, if we focus on the top of the tree, we feel a lack of safety. The tree seems fragile, unable to withstand the storm. But if we focus on the trunk of the tree, we see its firmness. We see that the tree is deeply rooted in the soil and that it will withstand the storm. When we are overwhelmed by strong emotion, we should not focus on the level of the brain or the heart. We have to bring our attention down to the level of the navel. This is our trunk. We know that to stay in the storm is dangerous, so we go down and embrace the trunk. We practice mindful breathing, and focus all our attention on the rise and fall of the abdomen during the storm of strong emotion. Breathe in and out deeply, and nourish your awareness that emotion is something that comes, stays a while, and goes away.”
For me, the rising and falling of emotions during this storm feels like being by the ocean watching the rising and falling of the waves, the moments of stillness and the moments of turbulence, while staying rooted in my practices of mindfulness, compassion, and joy.
I welcome the various sensations and feelings, allowing them to stay, and asking do you need anything? Offering a gentle touch, resting my hand on my heart and belly, noticing the rising and falling of my chest and belly with my breath. Sometimes, humming or rocking helps or the offering of a kind phrase, Darling, I’m here. I know it hurts. It’s okay. I’m here.
For instructions on a meditation practice that can be helpful for being with difficult emotions, please visit here to learn about RAIN from Meditation teacher Tara Brach.
I find it important to discern the difference between being with emotions as they come and go and holding onto certain emotional states such as fear or despair. A practice I try to do daily is shaking. It helps me to release anything extra, anything that I no longer need to carry, any energy that is stuck or stagnant. Here’s an example of it offered here by Kim Eng.
I also find it helpful to connect with moments of joy and levity as well. For example, listening to a gentle song like the one below brings me ease and helps regulate my nervous system. Engaging in yoga or qigong practice, finding things that make me laugh, or being with forms of virtual connection and joy such as a virtual dance party are all supportive activities that I schedule into my day to help me find balance.
What helps you to stay centered and rooted right now? What helps you be with strong emotions and what helps you let them go? What brings you joy and levity?
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