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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.
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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.”

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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?

 

–lissa

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self-care -> community care

Please check out this regularly updated post on Coping with The Impact of Covid-19 if you are in need of support.
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There is nothing selfish about self-care. Self-care is a foundation of community-care and a form of community-care. By allowing space for our own healing and care, we support community’s healing and care. We all are interconnected.

What are some ways to find self-care practices that are supportive for you?

-Checking in. Noticing how you are right now. How’s your body, your heart, your mind?

-Allowing space for the feelings, the sensations, and states that are present in the body, heart, and mind.

-Noticing if the feelings, sensations, and states feel familiar to you. Have you felt this way before? When have you felt this way before?

-If you have felt this way before, what have you done in the past that has been supportive and what have you done that hasn’t been supportive?

-What can you do right now to support feeling taken care of and nourished?

Engaging in this type of mindful reflection practice can allow space for you to honor your current state and offer yourself care that will support your current needs. This is a way of offering the care that the body, the heart, the mind, the spirit is asking for and will most benefit from rather than allowing an external source to guide your own care.

Be aware of when judgment takes space in this reflection process or in your self-care activities too and see if there’s space to relinquish that judgment and allow care to take whatever form feels most resonant in the current moment. Care can take many forms. Resting is care too.

In case challenging or difficult emotions arise during this process, it may be helpful to engage in a self-compassion practice if that feels of support. Here are phrases that resonate with me from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh:

karuna phrases

Self-care can take a lot of forms ie. being outdoors, exercise, stillness, music, creativity, connecting with loved ones, cooking, comedies, resting a palm on your belly and chest noticing your breath, etc. Find works best for you in each moment.

When you take care, you support the care of others as well. That care radiates out and a collective care begins to form. Thank you for all the ways you’ve taken care of you, of us.

—lissa

 

 

 

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connecting with ancestors

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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?

—lissa

(This post is an updated version of a post that appears on lissabliss.com)

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background image by carolyn doe