Being with Strong Emotions & Letting Them Go

Please check out this regularly updated post on Coping with The Impact of Covid-19 if you are in need of support.

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?




here for you: coping with the impact of covid-19 (regularly updated)


janko-ferlic-zLguZrNzcO0-unsplashimage by janko ferlič @itfeelslikefilm

Resources for Coping with COVID-19:

Offerings from Lissa ~ Embodied Heart Mind:

~Blog Posts every Friday offering reflections on radical embodied care approaches like this post on Being with Grief or Healing Intergenerational Trauma


~Virtual 30-minute Movement sessions by donation (Qigong/Yoga/Improvisation)


Virtual integrative psychotherapy or embodied wellness coaching.
Rates, scheduling, and more info here.


~Online Group Offerings of Embodied Play & Meditation — Forms of Care, Compassion, and Pleasure in Community.   More info here


~Online Group Offerings for One Love Sangha for BIPOC & Comrades. More info here


May the rooting and grounding, the flowing and adapting qualities of trees be with you.

boston-public-library-mj-lOqr77zk-unsplashphoto by @bostonpubliclibrary

Reflections from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh about practicing with difficult emotions from his book Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm:

 “It is in moments like this that we stick to our mindful breathing and gently recognize our afflictions, whether anger, frustration, or fear. Suppose we are feeling worry or anxiety. We practice, ‘Breathing in, I know that anxiety is in me. Breathing out, I smile to my anxiety.’

Maybe you have a habit of worrying. Even if you know it’s neither necessary nor useful, you still worry. You’d like to ban worry and get rid of it, because you know that when you worry you can’t get in touch with the wonders of life and you can’t be happy. So you get angry at your worry; you don’t want it. But worry is a part of you, and that’s why when your worry comes up, you have to know how to handle it tenderly and peacefully.

You can do it if you have the energy of mindfulness. You cultivate the energy of mindfulness with mindful breathing and mindful walking, and with that energy, you can recognize and tenderly embrace your worry, fear, and anger.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

studio-dekorasyon-vngzm4P2BTs-unsplashphoto by @t_t

Supportive Practices

What brings you comfort and ease? What helps you stay in the present? Stay right here and right now with what is —not off into the fog of the past or the future where worry, projection, and painful memories lie. What helps you let go? It may vary. It may be many things. It may be noticeably supportive some times and not other times. It may be supportive in the long-term but not in the immediate moment. 

It may be: Taking deep breaths. Humor. Song. Music. Moving the body (dance, yoga, qigong, running…). Time in nature. Yoga. Meditation. Reflecting on what you’re grateful for. Journaling. Art. Prayer. Knitting. Spending time in the only space (for some this is the bathroom) where you can get away from everyone in your home for a few minutes…

It’s not a perfect. Not something that will always “work.” Not necessarily something that will help everyone. It’s a practice, something to explore, to try on, to be patient with, to be with regularly without judgment or expectation, as a form of support.

It’s definitely a time for being with supportive practices. Below are some potential resources and practices that may be of support for you.

Meditation & spiritual practices:

~Extensive List of Online Dharma and Meditation Offerings 

~ BIPOC Meditation Communities

~Tara BrachJack Kornfield: Pandemic Care, Mindfulness, Compassion Resources

~Kaira Jewel Lingo: Compassion Practice in a time of the Corona Pandemic + Article: In Times of Crisis, Draw Upon the Strength of Peace

~Ten Percent Happier Meditations & Coronavirus Sanity Guide

~Eckhart Tolle and Kim Eng Video Resources

~Iyanla Vanzant: Structured Venting Invitation & Healing White Light Meditation

~Meditation Apps such as Insight Timer or Liberate Meditation by and for BIPOC 

~Dharma Talks and Guided Meditations via Dharma Seed 

Being with the body & releasing and letting go practices:

~Online Trauma Sensitive Yoga Classes by donation

~Online Health and Fitness Classes from the YMCA

~Emotional Freedom Technique/Tapping app 

~Shaking qigong video to release stress and circulate energy by Kim Eng

~Video: How to Attend to Intergenerational Fatigue by Shirley Turcotte

Sound meditation:

~Music/dance parties like DJ D-Nice’s on IG live on 4/11 at 3pm PDT/6pm EDT

~Music playlists for example DJ D-Nice’s Homeschool playlist, Tom Schnabel’s Music for Troubled Times playlists, and Emily King’s So Fresh and So Clean playlist 

~23rd Psalm song by Bobby McFerrin and friends

~Jai uttal psalm song

~Snatam Kaur song: The Angels are Listening

eric-ward-wejhq4J-UNo-unsplash photo by @ericjamesward

Home Retreat

Perhaps exploring a home retreat may be supportive for you. This could be formal where you set up a schedule and explore practices throughout that time that are supportive for you or informal where you honor where your body is in each moment engaging in helpful activities in a more organic way while still taking care of your everyday responsibilities.

Reflections on Creating a Home Retreat article by Dharma Teacher Jack Kornfield

In the article, Kornfield shares how to set up a schedule for a formal home retreat and offers a number of online resources one can use. He writes: “The purpose of a retreat is to follow a formal rhythm of practice that allows you to center yourself, tend your body, quiet your mind, see the present circumstances with clarity and freedom, and open your heart…Though initially a home retreat may feel unfamiliar or hard, you will gradually find yourself settling in and feeling grateful for the rewards. Now is the perfect time to draw on the inner strength of meditation and deepen your capacity to live amidst it all with awareness and compassion.”

In addition to the resources offered by Kornfield, perhaps you may resonate with Soto Zen Teacher Zenju Earthlyn Manuel’s Finding Sanctuary— A Self-Paced Retreat Guidance. 

“What happens to a hurt people? We forget that we are butterflies bearing up in the wild winds. We forget that we are tender from the suffering.”~ Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

Take amazing care of yourselves where it hurts, where there’s fear, where there’s anger, grief, uncertainty, despair, loneliness, scarcity… and know that you are not alone.

simone-dalmeri-aJHSf6IOsvw-unsplashphoto by @simone_dalmeri 

Wellness Resources

~Crisis Text Line (Text HOME to 741741 if in crisis)

~Mental Health and Self-Care Kit with Crisis Hotline information by Bokyung Kim

~Recommendations on navigating physical distancing from the American Psychological Association & Dr. Goldberg, a psychiatrist

~Explaining Covid-19 to Children document

~That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief article by Scott Berinato

~Nine Simple Interventions for Depression by Janina Fisher

~NAMI offers many mental health resources and virtual support groups

~Managing Stress and Anxiety Recommendations by the CDC

~Virtual AA Meetings 

~While at Home tool, resources, and supports

~Spiritual Tools to Relieve Anxiety About the Coronavirus article by Gabby Bernstein 

~COVID-19 Immune & Respiratory Herbs Resource

~ One journey with Covid-19: Timeline, herbs & supplements

~DIY face mask instructions + video (both no sewing) 

~What’s the Best Material for a Mask article

~A letter from the virus, a video by Darinka Montico

~Rick Hanson on Resilience

~Brene Brown’s podcast

~Coloring Coronavirus Reward Stickers by Gemma Carroll

~Free Resources for Schools

~Free E-books from North Atlantic Books

~Free books via Audible, Libby app, Scribd

~Lists of free resources from NPR & Chatterpack 

~Free Coursera courses including The Science of Wellbeing via Yale & art classes through MOMA


Collective Care Resources

~Free Resources for HealthCare Providers + 10% happier, headspace, tapping solution free subscriptions for healthcare professionals

~Resources for HealthCare Providers with Covid-19

~COVID-19 Resource Document for HealthCare Providers

~COVID-19 Resources for Mental Health Providers

~Covid-19 healthcare workers’ Facebook group 

~NYC COVID Worker Care Network & Support Group for Medical Providers

~Managing Health and Nutrition NeedsVisit 211 for assistance with finding food, paying housing bills, and other essential services

~PSA Safe Grocery Shopping in COVID-19 Pandemic Video

~Resources for Domestic Violence & Abuse Victims and Survivors in NYC and nationally

~Collective Care: Resource List by Cindy Milstein & Covid-19 Mutual Aid List

~Additional Resources by adrienne maree browngenerative somatics 

~How To Get On: A self-advocacy guide for folx with disabilities

~A Disability Centered Response to Covid-19

~Queer & Trans Resources in the Time of Covid-19 web site by Max Zev Reynolds

~Know Your Rights Guide for Trans & Non-binary Folx by TLDEF

~Resources for Challenging Times from the Gender Spectrum

~Covid-19 Sex Worker Harm Reduction Resources

~COVID-19 Resources & Healthcare Access for Undocumented Communities

~~Tips for Countering Stigma and Racism and Stop AAPI Hate Incident Report Forms for COVID-19 related hate crimes towards Asian American and Pacific Islander folx

~COVID-19 Racial Equity & Social Justice Resources

~Anti-Oppressive/Anti-Racist Home School Options During Quarantine

~Resources for Educators and Families

~Decolonizing Community Care by Jade Begay

~COVID-19 Decarceral Guidelines by The Justice Collaborative

~COVID-19 Freelance Artist Resources & Freelanders’ Relief Fund

~COVID-19 Relief for Small Businesses

communitycare-mbphoto: wisdom from Minaa B.

***This list will be updated regularly to continue to be a source of support for you.

May you be well

May you be happy, peaceful, and at ease

May you be safe, free from inner and outer harm

May you be free from suffering

With love, 


In closing, I wish you love song from Miumiu:


Holding and Letting Go

Please check out this regularly updated post on Coping with The Impact of Covid-19 if you are in need of support.
2012 8 17 023photo by bernideen

I have a love to garden deep in my roots.
I breathe in flowers sacredly tended to by divine mothers
hoping they blossom throughout this lifetime.

I wake up unexpectedly sometimes
during that late-night, early morning space
where my dreams seem both near and far
and words that don’t speak flow within me
if I just stay awake a little longer
and press my senses gently
against my soul to hear them.

Tonight there was a melody of rain and crickets
just outside my window and I decided to stay
and listen. My hand reached outside the window
to both embrace and release the rain drops in my palm
interchangeably, and I wondered if this is what I should
be doing with each moment here:
both holding and letting go.


(This poem originally appears on


watch me bloom



I want to move in the direction of my fears. I want to fully speak my truth. I want to speak up against injustice regardless of the risks. I used to leave countless words unsaid out of fear, worry, doubt, and to protect myself. Life is too short to say silent though. And as Audre Lorde wrote, “My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.”

That quotation comes from Lorde’s essay, The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action. Here are other note-worthy excerpts from that essay as well:

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect.” 


“What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?” 


“And of course I am afraid, because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation, and that always seems fraught with danger. But my daughter, when I told her of our topic and my difficulty with it, said, ‘Tell them about how you’re never really a whole person if you remain silent because there’s always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out.”


“We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language.”


“It is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”

–Audre Lorde

Affirmation: I deserve to express myself fully in the world.

I am working on aspects of full expression each day in my practice. I approach my interactions with others with the intention of being present, available, and authentic in their company, not hiding or holding back out of fear or habit. I observe the moments where I most want to retreat inside of myself and reflect on what need is not being met in those situations and what I can do to make myself feel more safe and secure in those moments.

I hit the reset button each morning, preferably each moment, and practice loving kindness to myself if a situation arises where I am not as available as I would like. I begin again and again and again knowing that I have nothing that I have to hide or be ashamed of in sharing myself with the world.

Affirmation: I reject any attachment to people’s reaction when I express myself.

I do not have to silence or censor myself in an effort to placate others. I am here to live my truth and to share it freely. I am here to be the most authentic version of myself possible. I am here to inhabit the deepest expression of love available to me in each moment and share that with others.

I plant seeds of self-worth, self-love, and acceptance and I see them bloom into flowers rooted from the foundation of my body at my feet and reaching their most open state in my throat. I visualize these flowers when I speak. There is no room for fear with all this life and growth flowing through my essence.


(This post is an updated version of a post that appears on


connecting with ancestors

3-gogo-and-the-ancestors-marietjie-henningphoto by marietjie hemming

I like to think our ancestors are rooting us on through life.

There is a mindfulness practice from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh called Touching the earth that I learned while on retreat at Blue Cliff Monastery many years ago where we place our palms in front of our chests in the shape of a lotus bud and slowly lower ourselves to the ground so that our four limbs and forehead gently press against the floor. We bow and return to the earth and our roots, connecting with our spiritual and blood ancestors. We know that we can never be alone as we are always surrounded by love, by divine beings who only want the best for us, by the earth. We touch the earth and reconnect with each bow to all of that life and recognize that we make up the earth and life and can never be separate. We are all connected.

Breathing in, I breathe in the earth. I breathe in connection. I breathe in life, strength, stability, love, nurturing, protection. Breathing out, I breathe out separation. I breathe out suffering. I breathe out anger, fear, shame, sorrow, grief.

I wonder if each time we engage in a healing practice, are we touching our ancestors? In engaging in the practice and connecting deeper with ourselves or transforming an area of suffering, are we also lessening the suffering in that whole ancestry chain? If we release a story steeped in limitation and inadequacy that we used to cling to, do we release suffering in our whole ancestry line? Is our growth a shining light of hope and pride to them?


(This post is an updated version of a post that appears on

background image by carolyn doe