In recent weeks we have been doing powerful work together by understanding, witnessing and releasing the sorry stories that interfere with our experience of peace. Thank you for your courage to go to places that may not feel comfortable at times. We can see this as a sort of spring cleaning of our minds, hearts and souls, a way to let go of that which no longer serves so that we make room for the new. This week, we turn a corner as we look at how our emotions—and our relationship to them—affect our inner peace. Being honest and present for how we feel is key to finding our inner peace sanctuary.
When we consider emotions and all the colours they express, we may feel that they are antithetical to the calm we seek. Inner peace may conjure a sense of being in a neutral state where we are unaffected by anything within or around us. We may avoid or suppress our emotions, hoping to somehow escape their waves. Yet, we will not find peace this way.
Emotions are like a river or an ocean, energy in motion. Whenever the waters gets dammed or pent up, it needs to return to healthy flow. Blocking the fluidity of our emotions ultimately desiccates the calm, clear lake of our inner peace until it becomes a desert, devoid of compassion. This is not a sustainable way to live. What then are we to do with feelings that may seem confusing, or at times so intense and unruly?
Over the years of listening to people share their vulnerabilities in my yoga therapy and counseling sessions, as well as through the intimate unraveling of artistic collaborations, I have noticed that many feel overwhelmed, sometimes even ashamed, of their emotions. It is common to fear that opening up to emotions is like opening Pandora’s box that will unleash devastation in our lives. It is as if by allowing emotions to flow, tears or rage will totally take us over and never stop.
We all may have, to some degree or another, a tendency to disconnect from the seeming messiness and unpredictability of emotions. With a desire for a balanced life, we put on brave faces, stuff what we feel out of sight and get on with our days. For some, the urge to control is so deeply ingrained, even addictive, that to explore emotions, soften, and possibly break open to them, feels terrifying. The idea of being in flow and understanding that our emotions are temporary, defies our ego identity that wants to forever keep us feeling separate, seemingly in charge and king of our isolated, micro-world.
Yet, we are sentient beings. We feel. It is part of our nature. There is nothing wrong or bad with emotions. There are painful ones and pleasant ones. Either way, they are temporal, not eternal. They come and go. As we grow, we learn to move beyond the reactivity that can make emotions feel scary. To do so, we must put to practice the three steps of transformation. When we understand that emotions are transitory, that is, that they won’t last, we learn to witness their tides as they move through us. We see them with balanced presence, while giving them the space they need.
All emotions are a bridge between your body and your mind. They physically show you what you are thinking and perceiving. Your heart races when you are afraid. Your temperature rises when you feel angry. Emotions move through your body as a means for you to understand more viscerally how you are reacting to thoughts.
Any emotion that is out of flow will constrict the body in some way. Our emotions provide us with humbling mirrors for the ways we identify with our mind. We learn how involved we are with our sorry story, rather than witnessing what is in the space of fullness. As we witness our emotional landscape like ripples on water, we can watch the waves move, even find delight in their dance. Then we remember that beyond any perceived turbulence in the moment, we are always as deep as the ocean and as open as the sky.
As we move forward together, each week we will explore a new emotion. We will learn from the qualities it has—such as the heat of anger that burns us and our world—and learn how to understand what we are feeling and why we may be feeling it. We will look at what our emotions may be telling us about ourselves and our situations, and how by being present for them, we can cultivate our inner peace sanctuary and offer greater peace to our world.
Before we move next week to understand, witness and release specific emotions, such as anger, resentment, or jealousy, try this practice. It helps you become present with your emotions as you allow them to flow through you.
Sit quietly. Take several deep breaths. Allow your awareness to move inward, perhaps down from your head, into your heart, and down to your belly.
See how you feel. Perhaps you find that you feel relaxed, satisfied, fulfilled. Perhaps you feel anxious, angry or sad. Whatever you find, allow it to be, without judging. Just witness what is. In witnessing, there is no narration of likes and dislikes. A vast space naturally arises beyond the habitual tendency to constrict and try to control what is. In this space, possibility is born and your true nature arises.
As you continue to practice, your awareness deepens. Painful parts of the psyche often begin to emerge through this process. If pain arises, notice how it feels. Does it feel hot? Does it feel cold? Does it seem to have textures, edges? Does it feel loose or constrictive? Where do you feel it in your body? Is it in your gut? Is it in your chest or your head? Where are you holding? What are you holding on to?
Watch what begins to arise, without trying to change or fix it. Allow it to be as it is. Allow the intelligence of Nature to move within it. Let the feelings and sensations have room to breathe. As you practice this witnessing, physical, emotional and psychological pain will naturally begin to move, unfold and eventually release. The energy once caught in painful, sorry story eddies now flows back through the river to the ocean of life.
In this process, there may be tears, sweat, movement or vocalizing. These can be part of the return to the river, when they arise from a sense of inner spaciousness, without forcing, without wanting. As energy stuck in pain begins to release, you feel more expansive, energized and vital. This moment seems richer, more possible.
Throughout this day, you can continue to breathe and witness the moment. So it is. So it is. One moment gives birth to the next, each one unfolding perfectly. Your individual awareness opens to infinite consciousness. You meet that which is, without resistance. Then you awaken to the reality that you have been one with the ocean all along.
From my heart to yours,