Learning to Surf
This week we bring our kind, curious attention to our emotions. This practice can have profound benefit as we open to, become aware of, and stop resisting our moment-to-moment emotional experience. As we pay attention to our emotional experience, we come to understand that - just like all breaths, sounds and thoughts - emotions have beginnings, middles and ends. This is an amazingly liberating discovery as we realize that even our most uncomfortable emotions will pass without our pushing them away. In darker moments, we have a hard time believing that we will experience pleasant emotions again. Our time spent observing our emotions proves to us that all emotions - comfortable, uncomfortable, neutral - are temporary events, to be followed by other temporary events. They may be big or small, but they will come and then they will go, like waves in the ocean. As the saying goes, you can’t control the waves but you can learn to surf.
Mindfulness of Emotions is a more challenging practice than Mindfulness of Breathing primarily because the object of our attention, our emotions, is far more subtle than our breath. Our breath offers us constant physical sensations as our body literally moves with each breath. Emotions are fleeting, lasting from a few seconds to just a few minutes. Moreover, when we think of emotions, we often call to mind our most extreme emotions like anger, elation, or despair. In reality, our emotional experiences are more often neutral, like calm, bored, comfortable, patient…. even “happy” is a pretty subtle emotional experience. In fact, unless you’re paying attention, you may not know you’re happy!
So, when we combine the fleeting nature of emotions with the fact that they are often very subtle, we sometimes find that when we sit down to formally pay attention to our emotions…… they’re nowhere to be found! It’s not that they aren’t there, it’s just that we need to be patient and open. It’s a very similar experience to pausing on a hike to sit quietly on a rock. Little by little the forest begins to come to life as you become aware of the birds, bugs, movements of leaves, and small animals that were there the whole time. When you take your seat for your Mindfulness of Emotions practice, you may find it helpful to begin by paying attention to your breath. Then, when a thought arises (as we know it will!) notice if there is an emotion tied to that thought. If there is an emotional tone (perhaps there is a tinge of frustration as you think, “I can’t feel any emotions! I’m no good at this”), bring attention into the body and notice if there is a physical “home” for that feeling, perhaps a tightness in the belly, and then perhaps note, “Ah, this is what frustration feels like”, or, simply, “Uncomfortable”. Then just allow that feeling to follow its natural course, not holding on to it, nor pushing it away. And notice what comes next. You are learning to surf the waves of life.
We hope you will join us this week as we learn to surf together.
Every weekly CMP session is free and open to the public, suitable for newbies (we’re all beginners!) and those with long-established practices.
Community Sits This Week:
Monday 7:30 PM Sama Yoga 45 Grove Street, New Canaan
Tuesday 2:00 PM Ferguson Library, 1 Public Library Plaza, Stamford
Wednesday 12:00 PM New Canaan Library 151 Main Street, New Canaan