In my last blog post, Are You Running Away from Your Own Power? I wrote about how pent-up and stuffed emotions can run our lives.
I also discussed a simple strategy to get to know your old habitual emotions, so that you can finally give them an exit route and begin to experience life in a new way.
Now, I want to talk about how to avoid creating pent-up emotions in the first place, and it has everything to do with letting feelings out as they arise.
Feelings and Emotions
In their book, Tantric Love: Feeling Vs Emotion, Diana and Michael Richardson distinguish between feelings, which are exactly what they sound like ~ a feeling in the body, a stirring, a vibration ~ and emotions, which are old feelings that were never expressed and had to be stored.
One of the greatest and most rewarding practices I have found is to let out feelings immediately, as they arise, while they still feel alive and fresh.
This means they flow through you and then out, and never get a chance to fester, or become resentment or blame.
In other words, they never get the chance to become old, stored emotions.
Does this sound familiar? Your co-worker, friend, parent, partner or child says something to you, and though seemingly small, it urks you on a really deep level. Suddenly your eyes start to glaze over. Your mind starts going in circles, repeating a thought pattern that feels incredibly familiar, and toxic.
A minute ago you were fine, living in the moment, happy ~ and suddenly you feel like everything is going to pieces.
That’s the feeling of old emotions coming to the surface.
To fight off the pain, maybe you binge, maybe you say something mean or sharp to your significant other, whatever it is, it is a reaction ~ and not your best self creating your reality in this moment.
How to Spot a Feeling
A feeling is just what it sounds like ~ something you feel in your body. You can spot a feeling by practicing being aware of what you are feeling at any given moment.
This is like the ground level, the foundation for understanding shifts in your feeling state later on.
I give all my clients a simple, 5-minute meditation practice to do every morning before they begin their day.
It consists of sitting comfortably with a straight spine on the floor (crossed legs) or a chair. Close your eyes, and go deeply into your body. Imagine all of your attention going inside, so that none of it is “out there.”
For this time, you are 100% focused on you. What is it like inside your body? Is it soft? Open? Relaxed? Is there tension? If so, where? Soreness? Heat? Cold?
You don’t have to name the sensations as you notice them, just noticing them is where all the gold is.
Set a timer on your phone and just sit with eyes closed, observing the sensations of your body for five minutes every morning.
On the Fly ~ Reigning it Back In
Once you become a little more practiced at holding some of your attention in your body at your own will, you’ll be able to notice moments throughout your day when all of your attention has left your body and you are completely “out there.” In those moments, consciously try to reign it in ~ bring your awareness, your attention back into your body with the trust that focusing on what you feel inside will actually help you make better decisions and be more effectively involved in your life dynamics because you will be in a more centered place and able to offer your true self to any given situation.
Flying with It
Once you have done this for a while, you’ll start to be able to spot a feeling as it arises. For instance, I was on a hike with a friend one beautiful spring day, and we were talking casually. Then he started to tell me a story that felt like it was disrespectful of my boundaries, something too personal that made me feel bad.
Before I could name what I was feeling, even silently to myself, I became aware of a generally yucky feeling deep in my abdominal area that made me feel bad, like I didn’t want to be there.
I had, at that point, been practicing noticing my feelings for a while. So I noticed this right away as it started coming up. At first I just got curious, trying to explore it a bit and see if it got stronger. It did. At another time, with less practice behind me, I might have said to myself, “well, he has every right to tell me this story, it’s my problem if it makes me uncomfortable,” and stuffed the feeling, which would be sure to cause problems in this friendship down the line.
Instead, I just stopped, looked at him, put my hand over my stomach (not to be dramatic, it just felt natural!) and started to cry. Needless to say, he was startled.
“I just feel so sad!” I said.
I was careful not to direct the feeling at him, and not to expect anything from him in response to my release. Instead, I directed it out to the open air (we were in the mountains) and let it all go as quickly as it came.
You might think you need to trust the person with very much before you can allow yourself to be so open and vulnerable with them. In reality, all you need is to trust yourself! If you can trust yourself to love and stay with yourself no matter what, then you can feel free to express yourself with honesty (not drama – honesty) in any situation!
I’ll cover this more in a future article or podcast.
Other Ways of Moving Feelings
Sometimes feelings want to be screamed to let them out, in which case screaming into a pillow is one way to do it. (This is the way I taught my daughter to let out her frustration years ago, and she does it to this day!)
If you are out in nature, screaming from a mountaintop can feel amazing. So liberating.
Jumping, stomping and dancing can be incredibly effective, as can laughing, crying, or a mix of both.
Some Keys to Remember
- As you release your emotion, hold your awareness on this being a healing and cleansing act, and not one in which you hurt yourself more or “pour salt on a wound,” so to speak.
- Remember not to let your feelings out at other people, and if others are around when you are expressing, be sure to let them know that it isn’t about them, that you are having some feelings and you are just letting them out.
Of course, you might want to wait until you are alone to express your feelings, though I have heard inspiring stories of women in Bali who, as part of the custom, openly express feelings as they arise, giving way to much screaming, crying, laughter, and hugging in the streets!
Try these simple, effective techniques for moving your feelings as they arise. I strongly believe that, like me, you’ll experience a lot of relief and freedom from expressing what you feel right when you feel it.
And don’t be afraid if you go too far in the direction of expressing your feelings freely and express too much. You’ll find your balance ~ sometimes it takes going a bit too far in the other direction from what we have been doing, to eventually find our balance.