In my post about neuro alchemy, I talked about how you can become an alchemist of your own mind, gaining control over your thoughts, feelings, and actions, thereby empowering you to change your life and the world.
Damn that’s epic. I love that.
One of the foundational skills to support this transformation is becoming more aware of your feelings. I assume I’m among like minds here and don’t have to explain why being able to recognize, name and tame your feelings is neither uncool nor pointless. We’re beyond that, right?
One of the best ways to start (and improve) this process is to do regular emotional check-ins. These could be really quick or they could be lengthy. You can call it emotional mindfulness or emotional meditation. I refer to my own practice as “mindfulness”, but “meditation” seemed more ritualistic, so I’m using that here.
Emotional meditation is one of those things that’s simple but not easy. Especially if you’re dealing with any internal struggles or spending a lot of your time avoiding your feelings. It does get easier, and it is always highly rewarding, but I find that making it a habit requires ongoing effort.
Checking in with your emotions is like emotional weightlifting. It’s hard to want to go to the gym. It’s hard to get yourself out of bed or off the couch. Perhaps you’d rather have a snack. Or check Facebook. Or grab a beer. Pretty much anything except going to the gym.
Then of course once you do get to the gym and get moving, you feel great. And you see the results over time. Doing emotional weightlifting will help you gain more control over nearly every aspect of your life, because you are no longer blindly guided by unexamined forces. If you can become aware of these forces, you can come to understand them and learn to control the to a degree, or use the to your advantage.
A Short Guide To Emotional Meditation
There are probably a number of ways to go about this. This is what I’ve found has worked best for me. You can do this practice anywhere, at any time, but it’s always going to be a bit easier if you’re away from people and distractions.
You can do this out of the blue or in response to sadness, anger, anxiety or stress. I recommend you do this for at least 5 – 10 minutes, but as with any meditation, you could in theory go on as long as you like and find it useful.
Once you’re situated somewhere comfortably, close your eyes and relax your body. Take 3 long, deep breaths, matching the length of your inhale with the length of your exhale.
Consider your day, week, or month. What’s going on with you right now? How are you feeling? How would you explain it to a friend? Are you feeling scared, agitated, overwhelmed, bored, lonely, sad, or empty? This is the spark we’ll work with. If you don’t feel anything, that’s okay, too.
Now, start to tune into your body. If you have a feeling in mind, can you feel that somewhere in your body? If you couldn’t detect an emotion, can you detect sensations in your body? I find I’m almost always “carrying” negative feelings in my chest (or stomach if it’s really bad).
Notice that sensation. What does it feel like? Is there pressure, like someone pushing on you? Perhaps it feels like there’s a weight in your stomach, or a ball of lightning in your chest. Try to imagine the sensation as an object of energy in your body.
Keep breathing normally. Be curious. Don’t push the feeling away. Don’t assess or judge it. Surrender to the feeling. Relax your body around it. Welcome it, and let it be there. It has a lot to teach you. These feelings are our internal alarm system and they’re there to protect us. Just sit there breathing around it for a few minutes.
You may find the feelings get suddenly much more intense, like turning up a radio. You may also find that the more you try to stay with your feelings, the more disconnected you feel from them. You might even get foggy or light-headed (happens to me a lot). It’s okay. Just stick with it for a bit and when you’re ready, open your eyes and take a deep breath.
Smile. Thank your body. It’s just doing what it was built to do.
And that’s it. One of the major goals here is to recognize how intimately tied our emotions are with our physical body. Hurt the body, impact the emotions. Hurt the emotions, and the body is impacted. Tuning into your body in these moments is kind of like giving a little kid a hug. You begin to develop a stronger relationship with both your body and your emotions, and you start to become a support for yourself.
Another thing to note is that this is an exercise about tapping into the physical, and through exposure, getting more comfortable with uncomfortable emotions and physical sensations. As you expose yourself more, you’ll gain emotional resilience, you’ll engage in less unhealthy dissociative acts (boozing, over eating, couch potato-ing, etc), and will be more willing to take on challenges that you have previously avoided (thus empowering you to do anything you freaking want and take over the world!)
Damn, that’s epic!
If you have a different process you use to become more aware of and in control of your emotions, I’d love to hear about it in the comments or on Facebook!