Hey there, Friday! Great to see you. It’s been a long week, and you’re a sight for sore eyes. This week on the blog, we took on the messier side of mindfulness, and talked about the “stuff” that sometimes bubbles up during a practice. You know, you’re all set to be totally relaxed but instead, you end up not being able to shake some sense of frustration, or disappointment, or irritation that you didn’t think was a big deal. It happens, and when it does, we can choose how to respond. But, before we go any further and get into this weekend’s mindfulness challenge, I’ve got a story for you.
This past week, we had a storm where I live. Nothing too epic as far as storms go, but it put on a pretty good show with some thunder and lightning, and took down some tree branches as it passed through. Afterwards, the air was still kind of muggy and tropical-feeling, but we were relieved it was over and settled back down. Then, a couple of hours later, boom! More thunder! We looked at each other like, huh? More?? This storm was over, y’all. What was it doing thundering again? And so we hunkered down for round two, surprised though we were. Despite our confusion, the the second storm did its thing and passed right by.
Thing is, that second round had kind of a magical effect. The temperatures dropped at least ten degrees, and the air felt significantly lighter. We needed that second round to really change the state of things. But, if it had been up to us, we would have shut it down. It wasn’t up to us, though, and we knew that. I mean, who tries to control the weather…?
Ahem. Sorry, didn’t mean to be looking right at you, but you know…sometimes we all do, right? Except it’s not the weather outside we’re trying to control.
Difficult emotions are tough because, well, they’re difficult. They’re uncomfortable, and we’d prefer not to feel them. We listen to messages that tell us to “choose happiness” and whatnot, and force ourselves to not feel the yucky feels. To a certain extent, we do get to decide how much power we allow our emotions to have over us, but we aren’t in charge of whether they happen. Here’s the thing: they’re gonna happen. Emotions are physiological; the initial experience of them is not a choice. The question is, what do you do with them from that point forward? Do you engage in battle to ignore or subdue them? Or do you make a gentle effort to observe them as “weather” that will pass? You were there before the emotion, and you’ll be there after it. It won’t always feel as strong as it does in that first moment.
So back to your mindfulness challenge for this weekend! It’s a real-time, real-life kinda challenge. You don’t have to meditate to make it happen, but of course, if you’re in that mood, be my guest. Your task is a simple one: notice an uncomfortable emotion. That’s it. You don’t have to do anything in particular with it unless you want to. You may be in conversation with someone and realize, I think I’m feeling jealous. You may be stuck in traffic and simply say, I am super irritated right now. Maybe you hear a song that unexpectedly takes you back a few years, and you’re a little sad or nostalgic about something. This is real life observation, and it can occur at any time.
The simple act of noticing an uncomfortable emotion and naming it to yourself is powerful. It helps you recognize that you are separate from it, and that it’s simply an experience that will, eventually, pass. It also allows you to recognize that space between your internal reaction to something and your external response to it. If you can find that split-second in between, you have also found something pretty magical in its own right: your power.
Have a great weekend! The forecast looks a little bumpy here and there, but ultimately, there are clearer skies ahead.
Photo credit: Jamie Street