Just last week I had an experience which was a perfect metaphor for dealing with feelings mindfully. I went down to my local calm swimming lagoon, with my goggles and snorkel for a quick refreshing swim before our mindfulness practice group on Tuesday. I should mention here that I have a mild fear of stingrays…. So I was swimming out and there was a HUGE stingray swimming past me and I mean huge, just under a metre across, I have never seen one like it…I was able to breathe and sit/swim with the fear and keep going…..then there was a granddaddy stingray, nestled in the sand, only a casual wave of his flipper alerting me he was there…..now my heart was racing so I was breathing, talking to myself and to him ‘ it’s OK, I’ll let you have your space’ and I start back pedalling…admiring his form, still staying calm and sitting/swimming with my fear, then as I head back to shore one shoots past me – now I’m feeling uncomfortable….heart now in my mouth, still breathing, still talking gently to myself and then as I’m almost there, safely in the shallows, there’s one more – and I feel completely freaked out – I have to get out now!!!! And I breathe to calm myself down when I’m out of the water, away from the fear!!!
This to me is my experience of dealing with emotion…we can learn how to acknowledge our emotions, learn how to breathe through them, learn how to talk to ourselves calmly and gently – and we’ll still have times when we are completely overcome! In my mindfulness practice though if this happens then I find myself calming down alot quicker than I used to!
So my favourite way of dealing with emotions mindfully is to use the RAIN acronym:
•R – Recognize what is happening- give your feeling a label – even this is enough to calm down our emotional limbic brain a little bit the research shows – try it …’here is fear’
•A – Allow life to be just as it is, it is often our struggle with an emotion – trying to bury it, squash it, say I ‘shouldn’t’ feel like that, deny it that makes it worse and bigger. By adding these thoughts to an emotion we add fule to the fire and escalate the emotion. By the time I saw my fourth stingray I was focussed on the stinger and Steve Irwin and my brain was firing away to escalate the fear!!
•I – Investigate your inner experience with kindness- how do you feel this in your body? where? what shape? size? can I breathe around it / into it….
•N – Nurture yourself – whatever you need in this moment…for me after a little while it was to get out of the water – for Tara Brach she shares imagining a kiss on the brow, or you could put a kind hand on your heart and say ‘there, there, little one,it’s OK…’ as they do in ACT Mindfully
If you have read the How To Talk So Kids Will Listen book you will recognise that these are the same strategies we would use to acknowledge a child’s feelings…and Thich Nhat Hanh suggests we do this with ourselves when we are feeling BIG feelings – parent our own inner child…give ourselves the empathy we would give to a good friend or to a fearful child…
Give it a go…if you feel an emotion, label it (e.g. irritation), allow it, breathe into it and see where it sits in your body, and then nurture yourself – what is it you need right now?
For more info there is an article on RAIN of self-compassion by Tara Brach http://www.tarabrach.com/wp-content/uploads/pdf/RAIN-of-Self-Compassion2.pdf and for a MEDITATION exercise I would recommend: The RAIN of self- compassion by Tara Brach https://www.tarabrach.com/meditation-the-rain-of-self-compassion/
This is one of my favourite meditations for dealing with BIG Feelings – and for giving yourself some compassion & empathy and nurturing – perfect if you are feeling bad about how you have interacted with someone lately…instead of beating yourself up – you can do this – it’s only 10 minutes long….the aim isn’t to feel better afterwards – it’s to sit with the feeling mindfully – but it often shifts something within – makes it a little easier 🙂 Give it a go – see if it’s for you? I’d love to hear how you find it? 🙂
Good Luck with it this week – be gentle on yourself 🙂 Sara x