But I don’t want it to be this way, you say. I want things to unfold according to plan! I hate this! That is natural, we all want to be happy and fulfilled. So, as often as not we refuse our experience. We create a story in our heads about our inability to handle that thing whatever that thing is. How we’re not smart enough or strong enough to find a solution. We look the other way and pretend that it doesn’t exist and no matter how fast we run, it is on our heels.
It’s Just a Story
But that story about our inability to handle the challenges in our lives is just that, a story. A story we have told ourselves so many times that we believe it. Just like a small child who is convinced that there is a monster under the bed that will come out and eat them as soon as mommy is gone. We need to crawl down on the floor and say hello to our imaginary demon.
The only way out is through, and feeling the actual experience of fear, dread, anger is the only way to dissolve it. When you stop fighting reality, you free up a lot of energy for creativity and problem-solving.
That’s the beauty of mindfulness, of being able to meet all of the messy, unruly, parts of ourselves and our lives with kindness. One of the best ways to do this is with a practice I call acknowledging.
- First, we turn toward our monster and name it. Is it anxiety, despair, or doubt? Does it wear a cloak of sadness or rage? Can we just be with it and name it? Rage, rage, rage, or dread, dread, dread. Psychologist Daniel Siegel says that “when we name it, we can tame it.” It is no longer controlling us, we have stepped in to take charge. This process has actually been documented by science. David Creswell put people in MRI Scanners and then exposed them to horrific pictures to watch what would happen in the threat center of the brain. As expected it lit up, but when he asked them to name their emotion, the light began to dim.
- Another step we can take is to name that most difficult emotion with a kind and understanding voice as we might speak to a friend who was struggling with that emotion. Affirming their emotion without adding fuel to the fire.
- The next step is to go back to the body. What does this disturbance feel like in your body? Is it a knot in your stomach, a constriction in your throat, or clenching in your jaw?
- When you find that sensation, can you stay with it? Can you take the time to honor what your body is experiencing and welcome it? When you notice any pull to return to the thoughts, that’s mindfulness too. From here just feel and observe.
I’ve been just as resistant to difficult emotions as anyone. They are hard to feel but unacknowledged I’ve learned over time that they cloud our minds and our hearts. At least that has been my experience.
If we use this process of Welcoming, it will help us work with our inner demons large and small, and open us to the whole spectrum of experiences that make up our lives. However, you never want to begin with something that is traumatic or even super difficult. By beginning with something that is a four or five on a scale of one to ten, we can strengthen our muscle of emotional well-being. This is a form of strength training, just like going to the gym.
Join Us to Work-Out Your Well-Being and Welcoming Muscles in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Class Starting on Thursday, August 19, at 7:30 pm.