Today's Daily Tip
Feel Your Way
But working with the energy of negative emotions is the exact opposite of avoiding them, resisting them, or trying to make them go away. When we enter into the energy of our feelings, we are looking for the transcendent by facing directly into our emotional winds.
Start with Yourself
If you want to practice with intense energies, a good way to start is with your own feelings and moods, and to start small. Stephen Levine once wrote that working with heavy emotional issues can be like getting into the ring with a 500-pound wrestler—if you haven't trained for it, the wrestler will throw you in the first clench. One of the best ways to train for working with energy is to practice during private moments of meltdown.
One of my favorite times for this kind of practice is the onset of road rage. Like many otherwise reasonable people, I have an inner road warrior who emerges only when I'm alone behind the wheel. He's mouthy, cynical, easily offended—a cross between a New York City cabbie and one of those eccentric hit men from a Quentin Tarantino film. There's a lot of energy in this persona, however. So when I notice myself having snarly private dialogues with a driver who has cut me off at an exit, I try to use the occasion for exploring the energy inside my anger.
You can do this too, anytime. First, take a moment to remember one of your characteristic heavy emotions or the last time you were very angry, grief-stricken, or scared. When you've found the feeling you want to work with, here's what to do:
Acknowledge your feeling. Notice and identify the fact that your inner world has been rocked by an intense, primitive feeling. This is especially important when you've been ambushed by an emotion. It helps to say clearly to yourself, "I'm feeling angry," or, "I'm sad," or, "I'm upset." You don't have to analyze the feeling or even think about where it's coming from.
Pause. Stop yourself from acting on the feeling. To do this, focus on your breathing, following your breath as it moves in and out through your nostrils.
Get grounded. When we're experiencing strong emotions, we often lose touch with our physical body. To get grounded inside your body, bring your attention to the sensation of your feet on the ground; if you're sitting, feel the contact between your buttocks and the cushion or floor.
Bring your awareness into your heart. Once you're grounded, find your center in your heart—not your physical heart but your inner heart, the subtle energy space in the center of your body. If you touch your finger to the spot on your breastbone right between your nipples, you will probably find that there's a slight hollow there and even an achy feeling. Behind this little hollow lies your inner heart. Drop your attention into this center, using your breath as an anchor. Breathe in and out as if you were breathing in and out of your heart. Do this for a few minutes.
Explore the energy in the feeling. Once you have found your center like this, focus again on the feeling you are working with. Where is it in your body? How does it feel? This is not an analytical process; it is more of an exploration. You are giving yourself permission to fully feel and explore the inner sensations created by anger, sadness, injured pride, or fear. Feel whether the emotion is hard or prickly in your body. Notice if there's a color field around your mood. Someone told me that his depressed feelings actually feel grayish.