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Mindful : June 2014
54 mindful June 2014 getting started: emotions Stop being so emotional! When you hear something like that, what can you really do? You can try to push down on your insides and get them to change, but that’s like playing inner whack-a -mole. What- ever you push down in one place just pops up somewhere else. You work hard to calm yourself down about a snub at work only to find yourself yelling at your daughter later, for essentially no reason. Emotions are challenging, but why would we want to stop being emotional? It’s our lifeblood. It’s what causes us to get up in the morning and cross the street. Even if it were desirable to get rid of them, we’d have no choice. They’re pa rt of our system of sensing and responding to the world. Without them, we’d be automatons. Music would not move us. Loss would not affect us. Nothing would bring us to tears. Nothing would ma ke us fall down laughing. Nevertheless, emotions can wreak havoc and spread pain throughout our lives. And that ’s where meditation comes How Are You Feeling? in. Contra r y to what some people believe, meditation does not make us emotionless, nor does it convert all emotion into fluffy- minded bliss. When we’re doing mindful- ness meditation, if we feel jealous, we feel it: the pain, the guilt, the whole enchilada. What also happens, though, is that we have a little space a round the emotion. We can see it for what it is. For one thing, emotions combine thoughts (“John just said something very nasty”) with feelings (a clenched jaw, a grimace). And the thoughts come in rapid combinations and gather momentum. As we meditate, we notice this process. We notice how the emotion feels. We’re a bit like a scientist, though. Our primar y job is not to judge it or try to change it. It is to watch, stay with it, a nd let it be. We can see that the emotions are not permanent, that they come in waves. Going deeper, we see complex layers. While jealousy may appear completely negative a nd undesirable, we can dis- cover an underlying energy there that can provide the fuel for inspiration and emulation. If we strip away the damag- ing, aggressive ing redient in the emotion, something powerful and beneficial ca n remain. This is what it means to tame our emotions through meditation. We see the possibility of riding their power without harming others or ourselves. We also can choose how to act, rather than be driven to act. There’s an art to it, and as the photographer Annie Liebovitz recently pointed out, “Art is messy. It is hard.” In the next few pages, we look at five emotions and some meditative practices to work with them more creatively. Meditation gives us a chance to entertain that question at a deeper level. It can give us the room to fully experience an emotion for what it is. SELF-COMPASSION By Kristen Neff After a close look at how we beat ourselves up for having an emotional life, this book gives practical guidance on how to be kind to ourselves. LOVE 2.0 By Barbara Fredrickson Our most power ful emotion can also be the most challenging, causing us to cling, push, and pull. Here, it is celebrated for its power to connect us deeply. Books to Get You Started Getting Started: Emotions was compiled by Barry Boyce, editor-in- chief of Mindful, in consultation with: Jeffrey Brantley, MD, director of the MBSR program at Duke University’s Center for Integrative Medicine. Author of Calming Your Angry Mind. Vinny Ferraro, meditation teacher and senior trainer, Mindful Schools. Stefanie Goldstein, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and co-author of the audio program: Mindful Solutions for Addiction and Relapse Prevention. Christa Turksma, child-clinical psychologist and specialist in developing mindfulness for teachers and families. GRIEVING MINDFULLY By Sameet Kumar When we lose those we love, it’s hard to find the space to let all the feelings run their course. Kumar suggests how we can do that. For a selection of audio and video and other resources on meditative prac tices for emotions, go to mindful.org/gettingstarted