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Mindful : October 2017
Becoming familiar with a dif- ficult emotion means getting interested and curious about it, like you might do when vis- iting a new city. Take it slow, uncovering new “territory” a bit at a time instead of trying to get to know it all at once. As you do, you learn that you can sit with uncomfort- able feelings, and that they will eventually pass. Over time, you develop resilience, self-knowledge, and trust in yourself—the best antidotes to the self-judgment that shame inspires. Whether you’re experienc- ing feelings of shame right now or have buried shame that you’ve been avoiding, are you willing to get to know it a bit better? Remember, thoughts and feelings are larger and scarier when they’re left unexplored and kept in the shadows. Take a comfortable med- itation posture, and begin by bringing attention to your breathing. Gently bring the experience or memory you feel ashamed of to mind. Without needing to change anything, observe and take note of what thoughts, emotions, and sen- sations come up. Name them as they arise. Fear. Anxiousness. Guilt. Hot. Clenching in my stomach. Don’t want to look. If the sen- sations are strong, breathe into them, feeling them soften and expand as you do. As best you can, bring kindness and compassion to this moment of difficulty. Remind yourself that you are safe. Remember, if you feel overwhelmed you can let go of the practice at any time, coming back to it when you feel more able. Stay with this allowing, labeling, and breathing into the sensations that are pres- ent for as long as they hold your attention, then shift your awareness and bring a kind of spaciousness to the entire body. In this more expansive state, ask yourself: CanIletthisbeasitis? (It’s already here, after all.) Can I let it go? (It’s already happened.) Does it need addressing? Do I have to take an action? If so, what? Can I shift my attitude, bring- ing a different perspective to this experience? To listen to a guided audio version of this practice, go to mindful.org/shame Be an Explorer Being curious about shame can lessen its sting PHOTOGRAPHBYMICHELLEMCCARRON/MILLENNIUMIMAGES,UK 58 mindful October 2017 emotions