My toolbox

Sometimes I’m overcome by emotions that are very strong and make it difficult to function. I can’t concentrate on anything else and mind keeps getting drawn back into the same loop, re-igniting and intensifying the emotions.

Since I’m not mr. Spock I’ll have to work with them. This post is a reminder to myself of the tools that I have used in the past to work with difficult emotions.
My approach may be different depending if the problem at hand is completely outside of my control or if I need to make some difficult decision or come up with a solution.

If I need to make a decision and I find myself in a recurring thought pattern, it is important to wind down first. I sit down and focus on the breath. If mind goes back into the loop, I keep going back to the breath. If possible, I keep a general awareness of bodily sensations but main focus is with the breath. For me it can take a half hour to an hour before I find that mind has more or less calmed down and often a new insight or avenue of thinking spontaneously pops up out of that calmness. And if that doesn’t happen, at least I had a break from the mind torture.

If the situation that causes the emotions is out of my control, then all I can do is get some peace for myself by calming down the mind.
These are the mechanisms that I have used to varying degrees of success (in random order):

1) Distraction.
Depending on how strong the emotion is, if I can still think of an activity that gives joy and that is immediately accessible I go out and do it and try to give it my full attention. It might feel awkward in the beginning but if I keep going it is likely to gain momentum.

2) Grounding.
I go walk in nature if possible, or work in the garden using bare hands keeping my attention with physical senses.
See. Feel. Smell. Hear.

Also , there are energetic grounding excercises that work well to release tension.
Sit down, observe breath for some time and then imagine roots growing from your feet into Mother Earth. She is very good at transmuting negative energy into positive,balanced energy. Imagine the roots growing down, deeper and deeper into the earth until they wrap around the crystal core. Now imagine all this tension flowing down into that core where it is cleansed and transmuted into love and strength. Then imagine that cleansed energy coming back up through the root, through your feet and into your heart.
There are many other meditations to release anxiety.

3) Observe.
Negative emotions always manifest in the body as unpleasant feelings. First I consciously relax my body. With me, tension causes me to contract muscles in my lower abdomen, pulling in my belly. If I relax there, it already makes a difference. (Also during the day I check that place and see if it is relaxed or cramped up.) Then I stay with the breath for a while by focusing on the sensations of it at the nose. Can I feel the temperature difference there between the in- and out breath? After a few minutes I focus on the physical feelings associated with the emotions and investigate them. Where are the edges of the feelings? Are the edges clear or faded? Is the intensity constant? See what happens to these sensations when the thoughts deminish or increase. The physical sensations are much less hard to bear if the associated thoughts are not as present.

Alternatively , these situations are very valuable for non-duality, if I have the clarity for it at that time. I try to find the owner of the emotions and thoughts, who is having them? Or the other way around, who is noticing these sensations,thoughts and emotions? What I usually find to some degree is that all sensations, thoughts and emotions are simply there without anyone owning them. If you keep your awareness with What Is around you and mind is quiet, there are no problems.

4)Soften using meditations.
Find some meditations that amplify self-acceptance, self-love or forgiveness, like Metta meditations. Often we have these strong emotions because we’re very hard on ourselves or hold resentment towards others.

5) Allow.
Allow yourself to have these emotions. They are What Is at this moment. Resisting them gives them more power.

6) Choose.
When we can’t do anything about the situation then what does feeling sad or anxious about it help? Or sometimes we are just sad or depressed or anxious and we may not even know why. In this case, one can simply choose happy thoughts. This really is possible. If you keep up the effort of inserting happy feelings in your mind this can really change your day. You might however find that you’re not willing to do that, like you’re attached to the sadness somehow. This is worth investigating. If inserting happy thoughts is to big a step, choose something neutral first. Say to yourself “It’s okay. I’m okay”.

7) Talk.
Talk about the problem, but not too often or too long. Talking about the issue or emotions can be helpful and any feedback may give you insights, but talking for the sake of it can intensify the emotions. You hear yourself talking about it and this reinforces the thoughts in your subconscious, you’re convincing yourself you have a problem every time you talk about it. This even applies to thoughts. Be wary of sentences or thoughts that start with ‘I am…’ for this reason.

8) This too will pass!
This is not much comfort when I’m in the middle of it, but I know it’s the truth. I must keep faith that this too will pass and better times will come.

These topics are only summarized here, there is much more that could be said about each of them.

I’m interested in your toolbox too! Please share in the comments if you have anything to add.

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