Day 3, Yoga Yoga Mindfulness Meditation Series, Working with Emotions
On day three, we began our exploration of emotions. We have already laid roots in the physical body and have seen the rich amount of wisdom and experience stored there. For this reason, we will use it as our ally in exploring the nature of emotions. Our breath will continue to be an anchor through this inquiry.
Emotions can be trickier to traverse. They are often so captivating that we are quickly drawn into their story. Sometimes we spend little or no time with the real nature of emotion. Instead we move forward, repeatedly churning through the thoughts that have triggered it. For example, in the experience of anger, if I focus on the person or circumstance behind my anger, I will likely find that I am hooked into the emotion. Anger is strengthened by this kind of focus. Alternatively, if I am able to breath and turn toward anger as it is experienced in the body, less attached to its story, anger can begin to soften. Perhaps initially the experience feels hot and volatile. My skin tightens, my teeth grip and my fists clench. The direct experience of anger is one of contraction and rigidity in the body. I can take time to pause, center on the breath and then continue discovering in this way when anger resurfaces. Maybe over the course of time, for some moments anger begins to feel neutral. I experience a moment where my jaw feels soft, my fingertips relaxed. There is a moment where anger has subsided. Without the story, anger cannot be fueled. However, we have powerful memories and likely the story will arise again, and with it, the hooks into anger. We can continue diving beneath the surface of anger with kindness and patience, as often as is needed. In diving deep, we may even discover emotions that are more deeply layered. Embedded emotions like sadness, grief, loneliness or insecurity can go unnoticed if we remain attached to our stories.
As we investigate, we begin to see that nothing is solid, not even emotions. It is our ego and our attachment to a story that locks us in. The emotion itself is fluid and changing. Maybe the emotions do not need to define us so strongly. Each emotion can be seen as a passing moment in the field of our experience. We begin to see that we are a flow of constantly changing sensations, emotions and events, rather than being hooked to any one moment.
As you practice during the week, take time to explore how you relate to emotions throughout your day. What emotions hook you? Which emotions are you able to experience in a softer way? Does your attachment to the story fuel the feelings? Does your ability to relax the story change how you relate to what has come up and how long it persists? Does turning away from difficult emotions only keep it lurking in the background of your experience? How are emotions experienced through the body? Come back to these inquiries as often as you can.
Much of our work here is in learning how to honor our emotions and allow them space, while at the same time learning how to soften our attachment to the story. In time, instead of being hooked by our emotions, we will be able to exercise greater freedom in the way we choose to experience them. This inquiry will require patience, kindness and courage, qualities which we will continue to apply over and over again. Remember we are not trying to numb ourselves to our emotional experiences. We are trying to move through our emotions in a way that feels more skillful and wholesome.
Enjoy your week ahead!