It’s difficult dealing with our emotions; most of the time, when they are upsetting, our instinct is to run from them. However, we can’t run away from our shadows; left unobserved they grow and lurk in corners that we dare not venture into.
Mindfulness helps us to acknowledge the presence of difficult emotions and to approach them slowly, with curiosity. I was very surprised the first time I did a mindfulness exercise of this kind: We were asked to think of a difficult situation and the emotion related to that situation. I was quite confused – surely by approaching and examining our emotions, we can amplify them? “If you feel overwhelmed,” my teacher told the group, “then return your focus to your breath – the breath is your anchor.”
So, after beginning with a breathing meditation, we began to focus on the situation. I thought of something that made me angry – and was asked to give that a colour – definitely a glaring red! A shape – jagged. Weight – very heavy and ready to burst out. Then we observed how our bodies were reacting to that emotion – most people said afterwards that their difficult emotion caused tension in the shoulders, a sensation of weight on the chest, rapid breathing or a fluttering feeling in the stomach. After examining the emotion we then returned to our breath and finished the meditation with calm.
By exploring our emotions from a different angle (that of the observer) we can begin to see them for what they are and learn to accept them. By acceptance, I don’t mean resignation; but rather accepting that the emotion is present right now. Only then can we make informed choices about how to deal with them before we react automatically. It’s also interesting to experience how changing our focus on the breath can help to calm those emotions.
Can our emotions be heightened? Yes, however; by examining them cautiously and becoming familiar with them, you may find that they lose some of their power over you – like switching on a light and seeing what’s really in the dark.
* Tomorrow I’d like to look at a topic which isn’t often discussed – depression in men. Join me and share your experiences!