Mindful Emotions



Just last week I had an experience which was a perfect metaphor for dealing with feelings mindfully. I went down to my local calm swimming lagoon, with my goggles and snorkel for a quick refreshing swim before our mindfulness practice group on Tuesday. I should mention here that I have a mild fear of stingrays…. So I was swimming out and there was a HUGE stingray swimming past me and I mean huge, just under a metre across, I have never seen one like it…I was able to breathe and sit/swim with the fear and keep going…..then there was a granddaddy stingray, nestled in the sand, only a casual wave of his flipper alerting me he was there…..now my heart was racing so I was breathing, talking to myself and to him ‘ it’s OK, I’ll let you have your space’ and I start back pedalling…admiring his form, still staying calm and sitting/swimming with my fear, then as I head back to shore one shoots past me – now I’m feeling uncomfortable….heart now in my mouth, still breathing, still talking gently to myself and then as I’m almost there, safely in the shallows, there’s one more – and I feel completely freaked out – I have to get out now!!!! And I breathe to calm myself down when I’m out of the water, away from the fear!!!

This to me is my experience of dealing with emotion…we can learn how to acknowledge our emotions, learn how to breathe through them, learn how to talk to ourselves calmly and gently – and we’ll still have times when we are completely overcome! In my mindfulness practice though if this happens then I find myself calming down alot quicker than I used to!

So my favourite way of dealing with emotions mindfully is to use the RAIN acronym:

•R – Recognize what is happening- give your feeling a label – even this is enough to calm down our emotional limbic brain a little bit the research shows – try it …’here is fear’

•A – Allow life to be just as it is, it is often our struggle with an emotion – trying to bury it, squash it, say I ‘shouldn’t’ feel like that, deny it that makes it worse and bigger. By adding these thoughts to an emotion we add fule to the fire and escalate the emotion. By the time I saw my fourth stingray I was focussed on the stinger and Steve Irwin and my brain was firing away to escalate the fear!!

•I – Investigate your inner experience with kindness- how do you feel this in your body? where? what shape? size? can I breathe around it / into it….

•N – Nurture yourself – whatever you need in this moment…for me after a little while it was to get out of the water – for Tara Brach she shares imagining a kiss on the brow, or you could put a kind hand on your heart and say ‘there, there, little one,it’s OK…’ as they do in ACT Mindfully

If you have read the How To Talk So Kids Will Listen book you will recognise that these are the same strategies we would use to acknowledge a child’s feelings…and Thich Nhat Hanh suggests we do this with ourselves when we are feeling BIG feelings – parent our own inner child…give ourselves the empathy we would give to a good friend or to a fearful child…

Give it a go…if you feel an emotion, label it (e.g. irritation), allow it, breathe into it and see where it sits in your body, and then nurture yourself – what is it you need right now?

For more info there is an article on RAIN of self-compassion by Tara Brach http://www.tarabrach.com/wp-content/uploads/pdf/RAIN-of-Self-Compassion2.pdf and for a MEDITATION exercise I would recommend: The RAIN of self- compassion by Tara Brach https://www.tarabrach.com/meditation-the-rain-of-self-compassion/ 

This is one of my favourite meditations for dealing with BIG Feelings – and for giving yourself some compassion & empathy and nurturing – perfect if you are feeling bad about how you have interacted with someone lately…instead of beating yourself up – you can do this – it’s only 10 minutes long….the aim isn’t to feel better afterwards – it’s to sit with the feeling mindfully – but it often shifts something within – makes it a little easier 🙂 Give it a go – see if it’s for you? I’d love to hear how you find it? 🙂

Good Luck with it this week – be gentle on yourself 🙂 Sara x

Feeling fear….mindfully!!

At first I HATED my 50 minute drive to work….still do on occasion, but I appreciate the drive better if I have downloaded some podcasts at Zencast for free http://www.zencast.org/ and I feel that I am learning…

Appropriately the other week as I was driving along, worried and scared about work, I found two podcasts, Fear by Gil Fronsdal and Redemption by Jack Kornfield – 2 of my favourite mindfulness teachers.

I wrote down some of their key points as it helped me so much that week!

When we feel fear – it is a good idea to first examine the beliefs & ideas (thoughts) behind it- where do they come from?  Often our fears are so much worse in our imagination…(too true for me, all that lost sleep and what I feared most, conflict, didn’t eventuate!)

Next be a body witness: where do you feel the fear in your body, what shape / colour does it take, sit with the fear & observe it if you can….or do something that helps you to feel peaceful and then sit with the fear…. Observe too whether you feel scared of the fear….and sit with that if you can…  I found observing the fear in my body actually helped me to be less scared…less overwhelmed.

And Gil also talked about the need for Generosity & Integrity….and somehow this helped me to remember that other’s feel fear too, that I need to have compassion for how others are feeling and to find a way to maintain my integrity as well as those around me in conflict…   Pema Chedron says that it is important find the middle road between silence and listening and action….don’t be a doormat, but don’t dominate either….

These strategies helped as I drove to work, to observe my fear and to see what was behind it and amazingly the situation when I got there couldn’t have been more different to how I imagined it was going to be!  Hopefully it will work next time too!!

I had a chuckle at this quote in Jack Kornfield’s podcast:

 ‘Fear is the cheapest room in the house, I hope you can improve your accommodation!’ (I’m sorry I can’t remember who said this, you will need to listen to the podcast!)   It’s so true, we can so easily REACT out of fear rather than finding a different place to interact from….I’m upgrading to a room with a view!!