Oh, dear ones, how normal is it for big feelings to sometimes hit hard as we navigate Corona times? Stomach-dropping fear anyone? Roiling, buzzing anxiety? Chest-gripping grief? I invite you to judge nothing—by which I always mean NOTICE that you're judging it and seek to release judgment: welcome yourself to the human race; meet whatever you're experiencing now knowing you can be feeling it only if millions of others feel it too.
I offer you 2 resources here:
1. The HEART MEDITATION is deeply calming and connecting. You can do it either in the actual moment of meeting a strong emotion or when you simply choose to settle into the heart realm and find what's there. The meditation invites you to keep dropping in where perhaps you haven't yet—or never as you are right now in this fresh, all-things-new-all-things-possible moment.
2. The written part follows.
STEP-BY-STEP TACTICS TO GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY when strong emotions hit and you feel disconnected from love.
1. NOTICE AND MEET RESISTANCE.
This really means notice it and let it be there. You will resist. So get okay with that. But know that if you run with the resistance (otherwise stated, ignore it and let it dictate what you do or don't give attention to), you can't sort of reach around it to stroke and soothe what you're feeling. Resistance will take many forms, and may look like:
2. LOCATE YOUR WILLINGNESS TO MEET WHAT YOU'RE FEELING.
You don't have to make resistance go away! Once you notice it, accept that it's here; accept that we all resist. Then you can pause with it, breathe into it, and find your willingness to meet the strong emotion itself. Beyond your resistance is the thing that will set you free. Here, that means that beyond resistance is the emotion for you to meet directly by dropping in with it and feeling it fully.
You might simply tell yourself: Something feels awful here. Because something that feels awful is here, I'm willing to meet it. I'm willing to feel it. I can't just will it away, so I'll drop in to see what it has for me. I'm willing to feel bad, for now. I'm willing to feel whatever any human being might feel. I'm willing not to abandon myself here and now.
3. FEEL WHAT YOU'RE FEELING AS YOU INTEND CONNECTING TO LOVE.
Every emotion carries with it a call to love. Wow.
No matter how painful a feeling, no matter how close to the fear or hate end of the spectrum it may register, it only wants to call you back to yourself, back to self-acceptance, back to love.
It's actually amazingly easy to feel what you're feeling—as opposed to analyzing it, thinking about or mulling over the related story and all its gory details, or letting it engulf you in a toxic way.
You know what I mean by that toxic engulfment? You're there if you feel wretched with it; if you're despairing (even to the point of questioning your life's worth or declaring yourself hopeless for living it well); if you're steeping in your worst beliefs about yourself, others, your prospects, life itself. You're there if you feel all alone.
So how do you feel a feeling? This post will take you there (This is what X feels like), even as it connects you to all the other beings who feel it too, so you don't get lost in being alone or in feeling singular in or singled out by what you're feeling. Chapter 3 of Scooch! offers a lot on that topic in the Mind the Pain Body section (ch. 3 covers Mind the Pain Body, Tend the Mind).
More than anything, you drop in. You give yourself to locating IN THE BODY the specifics of what you feel:
Be a scientist collecting data on the body. See if you can do that without a lot of words or naming (or work up to that as you experiment with this method). Ultimately, all you're trying to do is FULLY feel whatever you're feeling, and feel it where it is—in the body.
Call on the breath as you do this. FEEL the movement of the breath as it already registers in your body. Then gently direct your breath to the place of pain.
That's all the pain body wants: awareness and breath. So drop in. Fully. Drop into the pain as you would something that feels great, relaxed, letting it have you: think of easing down into a jacuzzi and letting go, releasing all resistance.
4. SEEK TO LOVE WHAT YOU'RE FEELING—AND LOVE YOURSELF FEELING IT (HINT: neutrality is a great support).
This heart meditation (mentioned & linked above) will walk you through. Read on for some words to explain it.
Start with simply intending love. Remember that love doesn't need ANYTHING put on or forced. It doesn't need you to try to locate some approximation of feeling love. Love doesn't necessarily come with any particular feeling attached. You don't need to rev up inner flavors of sweet or kind or whatever loving means to you—or rather, to your disconnected self. Just let love be a powerful, neutral force that doesn't need you to cough up anything in order to show up and make itself known. It's already who you are in your essence. It already drenches the entire Universe. So simply intend connecting to that.
Since you're already dropping into the feeling and breathing it (if you've followed instructions in #3), now bring your awareness to your heart center and invite love. Relax muscles you don't need on the out-breath so you stay out of effort, and simply breathe in the intention, the invitation, the truth of love's inherent location everywhere—accessible from this specific area of the body (aka, the heart chakra).
You've JUST been exploring a feeling. See if you can head from that feeling/sensation to some neutral acceptance, even expectation, of love. Love as ever-present, inherently yours, beyond any need to earn it. Scooch that way and don't worry about getting there.
But let me stress the idea of NEUTRAL. It's powerful to just let love be, call it in, let it come as it will as you sit here as you are: you need ask nothing specific of love; it asks nothing of you except the letting go, the allowing.
You'll love yourself better if you cultivate some connection to neutrality inside yourself, especially in painful or self-disapproving moments. It's neutral, in fact—because these are normal human things—to feel strong emotions, to feel out of control, to be confused and in the dark, to have a bad taste in your mouth, to have a wildly beating heart, to fear you won't be okay, to disconnect from your best self, to lose track of all hope, to not know what to do next. It gets easier to drop self-judgment if you can hold a neutrality toward anything you've habitually disapproved of (in yourself or others).
So I'll leave you there. This is a practice. Make it an experiment (perhaps a grand experiment while you're at it). Let it take you wherever it will. Come back and seek to meet yourself, your emotions, the heart space again and again and again. Especially during intense, hard times of collective fear, grief, and letting go, as we find ourselves living in now in the time of Corona.
Love & blessings, Jaya
Have you ever shown someone a startling blossom or alien bug and been disappointed by the way they say, Amazing, and then carry on? Like it was nothing? Like—what kind of amazement has no power to jolt them out of sleepwalking, even for a moment? Don’t do this to yourself. Drop a notch deeper into presence.
Once you think you’ve seen something, look again.
Try any of these tactics to drop down a notch, drop deeper into presence. What we’re after here is meeting the dynamic reality of this moment—not your concepts about it or all the prior decisions you’ve made, the stories you’ve rehearsed, the names and descriptors you’ve got down. (Red cardinal. Jenna when she’s moody. This much half-and-half.) These simple measures could literally take one more second—or whatever you like better in the moment.
Especially if you’ve had a thought about the being or thing perceived (and thus turned it into a concept of itself), look again as if for the first time. Apply this to the most familiar face (even in its most predictable presentation), the flower you walk by (yes—even if it did already spike appreciation), the cup steaming with the known hot beverage.
Now and now and now, just for now: just one notch deeper into presence.
Love & blessings, Jaya
Photo on left courtesy of zwalshphotography. That picture depicts a sad white American 20-something smoking. The picture in the middle depicts a Black child aged 3-5 with sad face resting on arms. The picture on the right depicts an older Indian woman with a sad, pensive look.
The written part of this post describes a meditation/visualization exercise and what it does. There's an audio at the bottom in which I walk you through this powerful process for meeting a situation that brings up strong emotion.
A Formula for Meeting Feelings Well
I’ve got a sentence for you to play with—a formula, actually, with an X to plug something into, but its purpose isn’t mathematical. It’s to support you to move through any strong feeling better, with greater awareness, in a way that’s kind to yourself. It has the lovely effect of both allowing you to come closer to a feeling, while simultaneously giving you distance and perspective—thus beginning to set you free, or to disconnect overt suffering from pain or discomfort.
Unavoidable Pain/Optional Suffering
There’s no way to avoid feeling bad sometimes. It seems to be a reality of a human life on planet Earth. We haven’t done something wrong or failed at being an evolving human being when we feel bad. Grief is real. Depression strikes. We have angry reactions (and they’re actually useful, sometimes, to show us that something’s off and must be dealt with) or feel building frustration (which is useful to call us to a reset if we catch it and respond!). There’s truly no problem with feeling bad. The problem is that we let it get to us, hijack the mind, and take us down the rabbit hole—or to places far uglier and less cozy than I imagine any rabbit hole to be. We quickly go from pain or discomfort to overt suffering--and that part is typically optional.
Think-Feel Feedback Loop
You’ve seen yourself put a story to what you’re feeling, right? You’ve caught yourself reviewing details of the story that seems to be the obvious cause of a bad feeling. Absorbed in the story, you intensify the feeling, and that stronger feeling asks for more story. Redundantly reviewing its details and your assessments of it (not fair, not okay, makes no sense), you get sucked in deeper; the feeling gets stronger still. Taking off on some defensive inner response (not what I meant, not my fault, not what I usually do) or some wretched interpretation (unseen, abandoned, betrayed), you may successfully get stuck in a bad feeling and perpetuate it for some time.
Come Close to Feelings You May Want to Push Away
Even if you try to shove it down, you can’t quite shake it off. It colors whatever you do—certainly your sense of well-being, possibly what others around you experience. The dark cloud you carry around may dim the whole room. Or are you someone who pretends it’s all good, unaware you’re radiating something false and impenetrable that frustrates and mystifies those around you?
But you could come close to the feeling instead, even magnify it for a moment, and really let yourself feel it. (By feel it, I mean feel it, not think about it.) Hey, the feeling’s here anyway (it’s present), so you may as well give it your awareness (your presence). That’s where my formula comes in.
Tell yourself, This is what X feels like. Ideally, sit down or lie down with it a moment, but you could do this while working on the computer, or performing any rote task. Here you are, living your human life. And here’s this normal (painful) feeling: X.
If you can close your eyes, this can help you drop fully into the feeling, even for 30 seconds or a minute. I’m going to first walk you through coming close to the feeling, then have you notice you’re gaining distance in so doing.
Plug In a Feeling Name or General Description of Situation for X
Your first job is to fill in the X with your best label or name for the feeling at hand.
This is what loneliness feels like.
This is what techno-frustration feels like.
This is what worry about someone you love feels like.
This is what distress over planetary problems feels like.
Whatever it is, name it, plug it in for X, and take it in.
This Is What X Feels Like
This. This is what it feels like. The phrase itself holds an invitation to feel it, so that's your second job. Not just feel it, but feel it precisely. You could
In short, come close enough that you truly let yourself feel what you’re feeling. In this way, you get present to the feeling. By not ignoring or minimizing it, you teach yourself that you’re fully equipped to feel this painful sensation: it’s not bigger than you; it won’t get the best of you.
Into the Feeling, Out of Conceptualizing It!
Perhaps most important, this gets you out of transferring a bodily sensation to the mind, making a concept out of it, bypassing the actual felt, sensory experience of what’s moving through you. This in itself is powerful. It also allows the feeling X, I believe, to better move through you and move on: you know, that pesky the-way-out-is-through thing.
The Simple Power of Breathing a Feeling
And while you’re giving X your awareness, you might consciously give it breath, though it’s likely that will happen anyway. The breath is soothing, calming, leveling to the nervous system. The breath is kind. You might think in terms of the breath wanting to support you and get you through whatever you’re moving through.
The breath, too, is a felt, sensory experience that we seldom feel at all. When you sit with this formula, tune in to the breath (no manipulations needed, though you’re welcome to slow it down and deepen it if you like—it’ll go that direction anyway if you give it attention for a bit).
Gaining Distance from the Feeling by Joining the Human Race
As you repeat This is what X feels like, be aware that any number of human beings have felt this way over time. Right now, some are feeling it right along with you. Connect to them. Be one with them. You might even imagine specific faces. Take these from all the continents, from various races, ages, socio-economic levels, gender expressions. We are all one. You are not alone, and in holding awareness of others in the same boat, you cast your vote that they feel relief too, that they feel less alone too.
As you simply keep holding what X feels like with the gaze of the compassionate, dispassionate witness, noticing that others feel it too, welcome yourself to the human race. Take the compassion you’re able (probably more easily) to extend to others, and bring it back to yourself. (Aw, sweetheart, Ow.) And know it's okay for you to feel this: it's something that human beings, in the course of a lifetime, over the course of eons, feel and have felt. Why shouldn’t you feel it too, just for now? There’s no problem.
And you don’t have to suffer. You don’t have to add in and review and get preoccupied with the story of the hour that seems to have launched the feeling X. You can just feel this pain. You can let it move through you and move on.
Below is an audio version of this exercise. I highly recommend that you do it when you're in the thick of a feeling, especially if you don't know what to do with it, can't get out of the related story, or need support coming back to yourself and walking yourself through it kindly. If you're not doing it for the first time, you can begin at the 2:45 mark, when we launch the actual process.
Click on left arrow on audio bar below to hear the meditation/visualization.
Love & blessings, Jaya
p.s. Want a list of things NOT to get involved with when you feel bad? Here are my well-loved (helpful, practical) 11 Rules for When You’re Discouraged or Distressed.
No, but can anything halt a running rumination, never mind dissolve it? I maintain that a good breath plus a good question has potent reset power. I’ll give you three footholds to this here:
In a hurry? Skip to #3 and grab some potentially arresting questions for next time the mind tries to run away with you.
1. A story
I recently went to the coast of Maine for the love of sea and summer and the place itself. It’s so lovely to breathe that clean air full of salt—and consciously breathing is my favorite reset.
One day, I got into a muddy line of rumination. You know when you throw a whole relationship into question? That. Reality: sunshine and blue sky. My mental space: a dank, festering atmosphere for some putrid specimen to grow unimpeded and keep spawning hands to palpate for problems. (Yeah, yuck.)
Standing outside to feel my feet on the earth (I was going for grounding to move out of my head), I heard a bird call I couldn’t identify. From grounding, the simple act of connecting to one of my senses brought me more fully back to presence. That’s when I took a breath that I actually paid attention to (coming closer to presence still), and I reached for a question.
Let me add that I was already aware of the line of thinking that kept reasserting itself, and I had already consciously noted some wise stuff. (It hadn’t fully taken yet, but I don’t consider that a problem; I trust the process.) These things I knew:
Nailed it. I felt an immediate and pure release. This could be a good daily question to ask the self about anyone close, and it’s especially brilliant for a romantic/primary partner.
Because you already know this, don’t you? You actually don’t need anything from anybody. The best work of unsticking from what you think you need from another (certainly the beloved) really happens between you and you, and you can leave them out of it. They don’t need to show up in any way (except however they do) for you to keep letting go of wanting to control them or of expecting them to make you comfortable. (Um, and rumination doesn’t help.)
The question reset me and I had a great day from there (peninsula, beach, lobster) and felt love and joy with the human being in question. The pure truth of needing nothing from another in order to be well, happy, safe, in love—anything—came in so fully for me that my mind didn’t even try to pick the rumination back up.
Now, you know the mind will typically try. In my case, on that day, it had robotically picked up a small set of repeating thoughts for at least an hour with factory-set arms of steel. I just don’t let this sort of thing move in for the day, so note that I was already in my process. Most important, I hadn’t been believing those thoughts. I had been witnessing them and telling myself truer things. So this probably set me up to be more open to the power of the question. It’s a useful thing to practice, that not believing your own thoughts.
A good question, even if it doesn’t just dissolve the whole thing, can throw a wrench in the works of a rumination on auto-pilot. The question creates an opening, or a sense of possibility that you could actually let it go. That’s pretty amazing in itself. You can best expand that sense of possibility through presence—not with further thinking.
2. An important distinction
It helps to clearly make this distinction: yes, you can meet challenging mental stuff through clear thinking processes of inquiry or contemplation; rumination is not that! When you give full focus to straightening out your thinking in a time you’ve designated for that—perhaps with a clear helper or a tool like The Work of Byron Katie—that’s a productive, helpful way to meet the mind. Rumination just hijacks your thinking. Rumination means mindless mental chewing as you do other things. It’s no good. It robs you of presence, expands whatever anxiety or emotion matches the content, compounds confusion, and further furrows the brow.
Want to play more with presence? It’s not hard. Keep coming back to the breath, and use grounding and checking in with your senses to connect to here and now. It takes rumination-thwarting focus to keep coming back to now, to what the moment is feeding you through the body and its senses. You might call it hard, but it’s not. It’s a practice, and it’s worth repeating (while the repeating thoughts that take over if you don’t do this are truly of no use to you).
3. Some questions
There are so many good questions to ask yourself. Just reach for it. Try out a few (without necessarily answering them), just to see how they hit you. You’ll know in your body when you’ve got one worth keeping in view for a minute. The right question may need no answering either: the truth it points to is self-evident.
That last one can actually be fun. I call it the Here and Now game. It allows you to get curious about or fascinated by where you were in time (years away, sometimes!) and what place you were in beyond your current physical location (an ocean away, perhaps). It’s a playful way to call yourself back to the moment, your actual reality. Take a conscious breath and ask, How far away did I just go in time and space? Could be all you need to foil the rumination.
Love & blessings, Jaya
Heart art from the incomparable (Ithaca local!) ALiCE MuHLBACK. (Alice made my logo!)
get free of 3 painful patterns in relating
Attachment, frustration, rejection: 3 simple and super-recognizable relational patterns. It’s so helpful to see how they’re operative—because, simply put, they take us away from love.
Note that we all have all three patterns, with one predominant. They work together: you have to be attached to something in order to be frustrated that it’s not in place and then reject what you don’t want.
This may seem more heady than my last deeply heart-based Love Overhaul post, but I promise there’s some gorgeous wow-juice in here. I’ve laid it out with simple clarity (not saying you’re slow or thick, oh, NOT-Molasses One; I know your life is full). And this may look long, but it has lots of skimmable bullet points.
I’ve illustrated each pattern below with simple “I” sentences. Scan for the phrases that resonate (uh, and maybe feel cringey). I invite you to watch first for your own relational patterns, then later consider how you’ve been on the receiving end of those of others.
As you read, remember there’s nothing to judge: this is just what we human beings do. We’re just trying to get our needs met because we don’t trust that’s always happening anyway. We don’t trust that life will show us how. We don’t trust that we’ll be okay if we don’t grab the reins from others (or use more subtle tactics to manage them). So read with compassion and kindness to yourself.
What could I be attached to that would keep me from purer forms of love?
How do I cultivate or demonstrate frustration, thus staving off the purer forms of love?
How many ways could I feel or wield rejection to keep myself from purer forms of love?
PAUSE. Allow an integrating breath to go fully in and fully out. You can stop here and just notice and take in the ongoing story of attachment, frustration, and rejection in human (your) relating. Or read on (or come back later) to get more clarity on moving beyond them.
Countering these relational patterns
I’ll give you a bunch of helpful bullet points, then I’ll give you the big, most important thing, the one thing to focus on if nothing else. (Spoiler alert: It’s about presence. Boils down to NOW.)
About NOW as key once again
Speaking of this moment, NOW can be understood as the great solution, the foil to the relational patterns, if you’re clear on the difference between relationship and relatedness. I learned this from Jessica Dibb and Russ Hudson, two brilliant teachers of the Enneagram.
Relationship is about structures, agreements, and expectations.
Relatedness is about active, dynamic, live, in-the-moment relating with another. You’re relating with who they are right now as who you are right now.
Once again, now is your best friend. Now contains all you need in every realm of life, and certainly to express, experience, and act upon love. (It occurs to me all human relationships are love-based—even in our professional lives, even in quick exchanges with a cashier: we’re always emitting, receiving, exchanging love.) Actual relatedness requires being present right now to what’s actually happening, what’s being said, what’s being felt.
I like to think of my progeny in terms of the current version of them. There have been so many versions over the years, so I get to keep falling in love with who they are now. We can apply this to anyone, and bring it to now: the beloved before you isn’t simply a current version as in this year’s version or this era’s; this is the current version right now, in this very moment. There has been and will be no other moment like it.
We support one another’s becoming and our endless potential to transcend false identity by simply allowing one another to be as we are right now and drop in for that. Drop in with curiosity, awe, amazement, the sense of what a privilege it is to witness and partake of this moment, to participate in it fully, to discover someone you love all over again, to discover yourself again in the process. Does it get any better than that?
I invite you to the freest love you have access to at any given moment. Breathing consciously into presence, you can witness and shift out of attachment, frustration, and rejection.
If you’d like a simple, beautiful love credo (which got more responses than anything I’ve written perhaps ever), see my post Love Overhaul.
Love and blessings, Jaya