This week, my mindfulness training homework is all about embodied emotion. It’s about stripping away the stories we superimpose on our emotions in order to let the emotions “breathe” and resolve.
To get there, however, we have to make a leap. We have to cozy up to the emotion and risk experiencing it in our bodies. But … why on Earth would we choose to do that when our brain clearly directs us to fight, fly or freeze?
Because as it turns out, our mental processes are lousy metabolizers of emotion. When we attempt to think our way out of or around an emotion we find ourselves in a kind of quicksand that sucks us ever deeper into the echo chamber of our half-baked half-truths and excuses. Meanwhile, we never truly address the kernel of emotion around which that story gets plastered.
So if the goal is to move through an emotion, to free ourselves from its tyranny, we have to let our body’s wisdom lead the way. That means rather than agonizing over the WHY-is-this-happening-to-me, we attend to WHERE-does-this-show-up-in-my-body, and HOW-exactly-does-it-feel.
In other words: How is anger presenting in my body right now, and where? And what does it feel like to sit with that sensation? You might notice there’s no fixing or solving in this equation. This is pure observation, and it’s definitely a skill that takes time and patience to hone.
Back when I received my first initiation into the King Salomon Lineage and its mystery school, I was taught that on their own, emotions (even strong, painful ones) have a very modest shelf life — a matter of minutes, in fact. I recall immediately dismissing this teaching. I found it ludicrous. After all, I knew better: I’d held on to some deeply painful emotions for years! I was an expert, and how.
I’m finally opening my ears and heart to what I missed in that moment: The fact that it’s the stories we construct around these emotions that are neverending; not the emotions themselves. This is dead-simple stuff, which is probably why our brains are ill-suited to the work.
Thankfully, a mindfulness practice helps build a bridge between our overly analytical tendencies and our profoundly wise nature. I invite you to share your own journey with mindfulness and/or embodied emotion — and to reach out if you have questions! I’ll be kicking off a new meditation series in a few weeks. No time like the present to bring yourself into present time!)