Inspired living

Monday meditation: 3 simple steps to emotional mindfulness

Emotional mindfulness

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I was chatting to a good friend this morning about a challenging personal situation that was bringing up some old memories when my throat suddenly felt constricted, my glands felt swollen and and I couldn’t swallow. I wasn’t getting sick. My body was telling me (quite strongly) how I was feeling. Recognising when this happens is the first step to emotional mindfulness.

Meditation teachers will often tell you to focus your attention on areas of tightness or tension in the body.  When you focus your awareness and your breath on the area of tightness, without judging it or trying to change it, the energy begins to flow more freely and the tension slowly releases.

It always reminds me of the beautiful concept “energy flows where attention goes”. It is similar to acupressure or acupuncture but you are doing it with your awareness and with your breath.

This morning, when I suddenly became unable to speak, my friend (who is a holistic practitioner) reminded me to apply the same theory to the feelings I was experiencing. As I focused my attention on my throat, the feelings and symptoms intensified and I felt terribly uncomfortable. So I sat with her and breathed into it. I let myself feel and accept the emotions rather than try to suppress them. I felt anger, sadness, grief, and then an overwhelming urge to cry, so I did. I continued to breathe into my throat and as I felt it start to loosen, a teeny tiny feeling of joy began to creep into my heart and make me smile.

I continued to breathe into my throat and as I felt it start to loosen, a teeny tiny feeling of joy began to creep into my heart and make me smile.

Becoming mindful of our emotions in this way isn’t always easy and there are often so many reasons we tell ourselves why we can’t take a moment to be with our feelings. But I have learned that if we don’t acknowledge them in the moment, they’ll be back. And maybe they’ll come up in a manner and at a time that could hurt myself or possibly others.

I also realise that although I feel better in the moment if I acknowledge my emotions, its not a one off deal. It takes time and commitment to form a habit around it. So I sit, breathe, take a moment to listen to my body and take another step on the journey.

3 Steps to Emotional Mindfulness

1. Open to the feeling

Mindfulness is about becoming aware of our immediate sensations (what you are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling right now) in order to connect fully with the present moment.

Similarly, emotional mindfulness is about ‘sitting with’ the sensation of an emotion, whether it be fear, guilt, anger or frustration, rather than trying to suppress it, ignore it or reframe it. The idea is to approach the feeling with an open attitude of curiosity. Say to yourself: What is this feeling? Where am I feeling it in my body?

2. Acknowledge and accept the feeling

Acknowledge to yourself that the emotion is there and identify or name it if you can. Consciously accept that you are feeling this emotion. Say to yourself: I think I’m feeling frustrated and resentful. Its ok, I accept that this is what I am feeling right now.

3. Remember that emotions are impermanent

Say to yourself: I remember that I am not my fear, my anger or my frustration. Emotions, like thoughts, arise and pass away. My essential being is so much more than that. I am like the eternal sky and my emotions are the weather. They give me valuable information, but they are not who I am.

When the emotion has cooled, you might like to think further about the emotion including why it arose and what this might tell you about yourself and your attitudes, beliefs and values. You can then reflect on how you wish to respond in your life. Its great to do this with the aid of a journal, trusted friend or therapist.

But for the moment, just open yourself to the emotion, acknowledge it, try to accept it and remember that it too, will pass.

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Jodie Gien is a committed mindfulness teacher with a longstanding personal practice of her own. Having worked for many years as a human rights and discrimination lawyer and mediator at the Australian Human Rights Commission and then as an executive coach prior to teaching mindfulness, she is passionate about fostering human potential. Jodie conducts training in mindfulness for corporations, staff and students in schools, parents, athletes and community groups. She also teaches private courses together with mindfulness coaching sessions. Jodie is an accredited “.b Teacher” for the Oxford University Mindfulness in Schools Project, an accredited Mindfulness Trainer with the esteemed Gawler Foundation and is an accredited Meditation Facilitator with Nature Care College. To find out more, visit Jodie's website or email jodie@mindfulfutureproject.com.