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.