Mindful 03 :: Emotions

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ready to step it up? This is the part of mindfulness learning that I found most vague and strange, and also the most helpful. If you ever mind yourself at the whim of your emotions, this is definitely an area worth spending some time on.

Mindfulness of Emotion

I'm not abnormally emotional, but I do think I show my emotions more than most people. I wear my heart on my sleeve and am not afraid at all to let someone know if I'm upset. In general I'd say this has worked well for me, but from time to time it gets me (and usually Jim, if he's nearby...) into trouble. Practicing mindfulness of emotions has helped me quiet down, become more self aware, saved me and Jim from about a thousand arguments (so far), and has helped me take things less personally.

Why is it so important?  

Research shows that our brains have a built-in negativity bias. We are hard-wired to remember, notice and react to negative experiences and emotional states much more than positive ones. Think about it - when was your last "bad day"? The chances are, the positive/neutral moments of that day actually outweighed the bad moments by far, but that you held onto those negative moments much most strongly than the rest.   Bummer.

When we earn to be mindful of emotions, we start to be more open and available to positive feelings. Negative feelings will still occur, but we begin to see them more clearly, without self blame or over exaggeration.  The mind has to be trained through mindfulness to observe and understand the full spectrum of our emotions.

Ready to practice?

Now try “listening” to your thoughts as an observer or listener. Be as objective as you can be, and try not to become lost in it. But as always, if you do become lost it it, just non-judgmentally pull yourself out and bring your attention back to a state of mindfulness.

As you become more quiet and mindful you will see that our thoughts often arise from underlying feelings or emotion. Can you observe these underlying feelings without identifying with them? Perhaps some anxiety, contentment, fear, joy or sadness? Give it a try. Simply become aware of the movements your consciousness takes.

Keep your mind focused completely in the present. Let go of the past, the future, and the feeling of trying to change things, the "I wish I felt different" or "if only I hadn't done that". Just observe, be here and now.

This one takes a LOT of practice, you probably won't be "mindful of your emotions" overnight (and if you are, I wanna know the secret). But if you add a 10-20 minute meditation to your daily routine, and play around with identifying your emotions, you will generally becoming more mindful of your thoughts and feelings. I'd love to hear about how it goes for you. 

Here are some great extra readings on Mindfulness of Emotion:

p.s. on a totally unrelated note - my mom, dad and brother are visiting from Massachusetts today. I can't wait for the whole fam to be together in California!

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