As I wrote in Mindful Mind - we spend much of our mental time and energy trying to avoid or prevent pain and suffering. When it comes to our emotions however, we have to feel it to heal it. This is where the practice of mindfulness comes in.
Being mindful of our emotions can be extremely challenging because it can be counter intuitive to 'lean into' our pain. However, as Helen Keller said, "The only way to the other side is through," and this is true in grief - we must move to the heart of our pain to heal.
It's helpful to understand the interplay between the mind and our emotions. Often, our experience of emotion is either triggered by a thought, or triggers a thought. A problem can arise when a feeling gets linked with a thought loop in the mind, which plays over and over again. When we think about a feeling we over identify with it, and get caught up in the story and become swept away by it. Being mindful is a more balanced approach of recognizing the feeling, being aware of how it feels in your body, and watching it transform and move through you. There is no need to explain it, change it or make it go away. Simply be with it, and connect with it as it is experienced in the body. For example, you may feel tension creeping into your shoulders, emptiness or queasiness in the stomach or a lump in your throat with tears in the eyes. This is how the emotions shows up in the body.
Emotion actually comes from the latin root, with means "with movement." When we practice mindfulness we give our emotions space freedom and time to move through us. Emotions and feelings are meant to be felt. Being mindful reveals a natural rhythm to them, a natural ebb and flow. Periods of intensity followed by periods of reprieve - where everything is in a constant state of motion...a fluidity. This natural rhythm is how we dose ourselves with pain - sinking into the intensity at times and at other times moving way from it and resting. Tuning into this rhythm and honouring it is powerful self care. By understanding and experiencing that all emotions have movement and come to pass, we build trust in our ability to be resilient in the face of emotional suffering.
One of the most powerful and supportive mantra's I have found for myself is "This too shall pass," which is reflected in this thought provoking quote by Neil Jordan:
"I hoped that grief was similar to the other emotions. That it would end, the way happiness did. Or laughter."
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