Stop whatever you are doing and devote your full attention to being still or slowing down. If it helps, close your eyes. Become conscious of your breath breathing itself. Follow one complete inhale-exhale cycle with your attention. Bring your awareness to the present moment, and allow yourself to sink into it. Put your hand on your heart. See if you can focus on your breath while letting your heart soften…
Look: Allow your attention to turn towards how you are feeling right now. The first thing that often happens is we have a story that immediately wants to explain our feelings and that wants a lot of attention. Underneath that story are important feelings. Can you get past the story to at least one feeling, clearly? Does it arise with a name? Try naming the feeling softly to yourself.
Now – can you try to approach this feeling with the same kind of curiosity you might offer a child who is hurting? Can you picture bending down and offering eye contact and your full attention? Can you cultivate a touch more tenderness?
It is really good news that we are tender-hearted and capable of feeling – even things that we might not like to feel. It means we are human. And being human is a big, vulnerable job.
Are there layers underneath the first feeling that you might identify? What is the texture of how you feel? Explore the edges and girth of the feeling. Deepen your willingness to listen to the physical sensations that arrive with feelings. Be receptive to this wisdom. Inquire even more deeply about how your heart would describe its state. With kindness, allow more “feeling” words to come to mind. Speak them softly to yourself as they arise.
We are liberated by being able to identify the nuances of our feelings. All feelings are gifts reminding us that we are still fully alive – on the inside. There is good news in the fact that we can feel at all. It is really good news that we are tender-hearted and capable of feeling – even things that we might not like to feel. It means we are human. And being human is a big, vulnerable job.
Challenging feelings are what connect us to the rest of the human race, and often, ironically, what make us most lovable.
As Leonard Cohen says, “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
Notice that you can be compassionate toward your emotions and that compassion can change the quality of how you feel about your feelings.
Go: Try to embrace how full of light you are. Develop a posture of grateful kindness towards yourself, as you might extend yourself to someone else. Notice that you can be compassionate toward your emotions and that compassion can change the quality of how you feel about your feelings.
Remember times when you have had challenging feelings in your past – and notice that they could shift, sometimes completely. Connect with the impermanence of feelings – like the weather – they change and move like clouds through the sky of our life.
Write about the nuances, physical sensations, and/or “the weather” of your feelings in a journal. (Access your private online journal here.) You can learn a lot by letting yourself excavate and name small feelings under the bigger ones.
It is amazing how easy it is to “make someone’s day” with an act of kindness, and it is remarkable how much focusing on helping others can ripple back to helping us feel better about life.
Now, notice how your compassion for yourself can translate into greater compassion for others. There is a wonderful quote: “Be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” Extend yourself with care to someone in need today. Act with generosity toward someone. Direct your attention toward a hurt you might be able to help heal…It is amazing how easy it is to “make someone’s day” with an act of kindness, and it is remarkable how much focusing on helping others can ripple back to helping us feel better about life.
Feature photo by Selena Gallagher
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