When I feel anxious, apprehensive, or overwhelmed my automatic reaction, like most people's, is to push those difficult emotions away; so I push them down, distract myself, or I ignore how I'm feeling. Experience has taught me that this doesn't work as what we resist persists. Fortunately, my mindfulness practice has given me tools for managing difficult emotions, and today I will share one of these with you in this post.
My go-to mindfulness practice for managing difficult feelings is The Surrounding a Difficulty With Love Meditation (you will find it on page 126 of my Yoga Through the Year book). In this meditation we learn to approach our difficulties with curiosity, rather than avoiding them, and this can help to reduce the intensity and duration of difficult emotions. This meditation can also help you to learn how to show love and acceptance to yourself when you are suffering.
The Surrounding a Difficulty With Love Meditation
Allow 10-20 minutes.
Find yourself a comfortable sitting position. Have a tall, erect, and relaxed posture. Or if you prefer lie down. Notice where your body is in contact with the floor, or your support. Allow those parts of your body that are in contact with the floor to go with gravity, and relax down into the earth.
Take your awareness around your body; noticing which parts of your body already feel relaxed, and which parts feel tight, or tense. Let go of any unnecessary tension; relax your shoulders down away from your ears; and soften your face with a half-smile. Become aware of the natural flow of your breath.
Now bring to mind a difficulty that has been troubling you. Spend a few minutes turning this troubling situation over in your mind. Notice in a non-judgemental way any thoughts and feelings that are arising in response to this difficulty.
As you dwell on this troubling situation notice how your body is responding. Notice where you are feeling the difficulty most strongly in your body. Rather than pushing the unpleasant sensations away see if you can welcome and surround them with love. Imagine that you are giving a big hug to the parts of your body that have tightened or tensed up in response to this troubling emotion.
Notice how the intense physical sensations change from moment to moment. Keep surrounding them with love. As you breathe in, imagine that you are breathing into this part of your body. As you exhale, soften and release, letting go of any tightness or tension.
Now let go of focusing on this difficult situation and the emotions it brings up for you. Bring your awareness back to where your body is in contact with the floor or your support. Feel yourself supported by the earth.
Come back to an awareness of your surroundings. Notice how you are feeling now and in what way this is different to how you felt at the start of the meditation. Give yourself a big hug and then carry on with your day.
On the Mindful Way Through Anxiety website, you will find an audio version of Inviting a Difficulty in and Working it Through the Body. Which takes a similar approach to the meditation I have described above.
In future posts I will share with you more tried and tested mindfulness techniques for managing difficult emotions, to help you find your peaceful place within.
Jilly Shipway, sharing seasonal yoga ideas and inspiration with you through the year...
Please feel free to share ideas and resources that you find in my blog, but please do acknowledge me and my website as their source. Thanks!
Disclaimer: if you have any concerns about your health or suitability to do yoga, please consult a medical professional before attempting any of the yoga routines in this blog.