Skip to content

Archive for

When sadness comes knocking at the door remember it’s fine to feel whatever you are feeling!

Last week I discussed noticing the happy moments and holding those in awareness. What happens though when we are presented with more painful emotions? Remembering to notice the happy moments is important but what do we do with the other experiences – the pain, anxiety, fear, anger etc? We can either live in a dualistic mode of looking only for that which we label as good and then rejecting anything else or we can learn to embrace the present moment as it is. Jung said “what you resist persists, what we fight we get more of”. Mindfulness allows us to hold whatever is arising with a non judgemental attitude of curiosity and investigation. Being mindful does not mean floating above the experience and zoning out, but being fully present to it whilst not becoming it.

This attitude of embracing non-judgemental and compassionate awareness is given expression by non-duality teacher Jeff Foster:

If you feel sad for no reason,
embrace the reasonless spontaneity of your sadness!
In the first light of morning,
when you hear a bird singing her spontaneous song,
you’re not pushing for reasons.
Sadness does not arise to be healed.
It arises to be heard.
It arises to be held,
here, in the loving arms of awareness.

With this attitude any emotion arising in the present moment is simply inviting us to bring gentle attention to the experience. It is not asking to be fixed. If sadness arises we can start by acknowledging, “Feeling sad” and then bring curious attention to how this is felt in the body – perhaps a heaviness in the shoulders, a sense of tears around the eyes, tightness in the chest….. One then holds this in awareness, breathing in to the sensations and having a sense of holding the sensations in an allowing embrace.

If the sadness/ difficult emotion is there we either open the door to it and welcome it home or push it down into the cellar and bolt the door. Welcoming and embracing the feeling allows for healing. Whereas lost in the darkness the sadness/ painful emotion can sound like a monster and we fear opening the door again to let it out. Being left in the dark it festers and grows warped.

I had a nightmare recently that seems to relate to this theme. I was attacked by an angry man running out of the woods and woke up screaming. The next night I became lucid (knowing that I was dreaming as I was experiencing the dream.) Being lucid I was able to remember my dream from the previous night and asked to meet the man again. The dream immediately shifted and I found myself in a visiting room in a prison. I heard footsteps and he stood at a door with two guards holding him. The guards released him and he ran at me and tried to rip me apart but I held him in a firm embrace. I was thinking “its fine, this is a dream so he can’t hurt me no matter what he does to my dream body”. Eventually he stopped struggling and fighting and I felt as if I was holding a sad child. The sadness had just gone wild and destructive through being denied.

Whatever is going on for you just know you’re ok. However hard it may be to stay with the emotions that knock at the door asking to be let in, to be heard, to be held and seen know that it’s ok to feel whatever you’re feeling. You can hold it with awareness and breathe into it rather than become it or be overwhelmed by it. Feel yourself like the sky. Embracing the darkest storm cloud but still being clear, luminous, spacious and free.

Noticing the Happy Moments

One way of cultivating a sense of well being is to be fully present to the moments in our life that bring us a sense of joy, ease or gratitude. We can tend to think that it’s the big things in life that will make us happy – home, job, clothes and possessions. Whilst these may contribute to our well being if we are not taking time to notice the little moments of simple happiness we may end up chasing the big things only to find they don’t hold the real answer to happiness. I’m using an app that allows you to record daily moments of happiness and their research suggests that it’s the everyday moments of happiness that actually lead to a sense of well being, more than the big things. Taking a moment every day to stop and notice what is making you smile or feel good can be a great antidote to worry or anxiety arising form a sense of lack.

These moments don’t have to be amazing events, but can be very simple. A few days ago I was feeding my siamese fighter fish. I had the pump off and as I fed he took each floating pellet from the surface and for the first time I heard how he made a little munching noise as he did so! It was so simple, but made me smile. It would have been easy to see feeding him as a task, something to do quickly and move on to the next activity.  Instead, by slowing down and attending I noticed something that gave me a feeling of pleasure.

It seems to be this act of slowing down and noticing what is happening in the present that is the key to happiness. When we are rushing on to the next thing before we’ve finished the present one it’s as if we are not living in either activity fully.  The present activity we rush through, thinking of the next one but on getting to it we are already on to the following activity…. A participant on my last 8 week mindfulness course commented on how he noticed this shift for himself whilst hanging out his washing. He was busy thinking about all he had to do that day and then remembered to become present to what he was experiencing there and then: the smell of the laundry, the breeze on his face, the quality of the light in the garden etc.  On doing this he had an intense sense of peace through being fully engaged with the present moment activity, even if it was as seemingly mundane as hanging out his washing! We so easily go into autopilot, performing a familiar activity without being present in it as it is so regular we think we know what it is like. By recognising that he was in autopilot mode and turning a curious attention to his sense experience and what he was thinking and feeling he was able to turn an ordinary chore into a nourishing and joyful experience.

As you go through your day notice if you are half living your experiences, being in a dream rather than fully awake and see what happens when you then engage all of your senses with the present moment, waking up to the richness of what is here right now rather than living for the glittering mirage shimmering on the eternal horizon of the future.

To look at the happiness app I mentioned click here

%d bloggers like this: