This month we focus on mindfulness of emotions, to continue with our focus on bringing balance to our emotions and emotional cleansing. Mindfulness is non-judgemental observation of the present moment. In this article, our third in our series on mindfulness, we explain how you can practice mindfulness of emotions.
Emotions are the third element, out of five, that you can choose to focus on when practising mindfulness:
Emotions rise and fall. They come and go. E-motion or energy in motion might be one way to think about this – emotions are meant to be felt and released. However sometimes they can become trapped and we hold onto some emotions longer than we need to, keeping hold of anger or sadness. By practicing mindfulness of emotions you become more aware of their fluctuating nature and start to practice letting them go. By practicing in meditation (a quiet space with no distractions), we become more adept at doing this in our everyday life – releasing emotions in a healthy way as we experience them on a day to day and moment to moment basis.
How to practice?
As with any meditation practice, find somewhere where you will not be disturbed by the phone or people (or pets!). Make sure the room is warm enough, with fresh air. Maybe wrap a blanket over your legs or shoulders. Sit cross-legged (remember to keep your knees on the level with your hips or keep them below the hips, which will look after your back). You can also sit on a chair that has a high back, keeping your feet on the floor. Close your eyes.
Decide how long you are going to meditate for – 12 minutes is a good length of time to start or maybe 20 minutes. Commit to this length of time and set your timer. (You can use your phone, just remember to set your phone to flight mode, so you won´t be interrupted by emails, pings, calls etc).
Many emotions might arise – anger, joy, happiness, sadness, curiosity, boredom and so on. Sometimes no emotion might be present. As with any mindfulness meditation the key is simply to watch, to be mindful, and not get caught up in the emotions.
Technique: Mindfulness of emotions
Sit quietly and turn your awareness inside. Observe, without judgement or pressure, and notice your emotion. Watch how an emotion arises – it might start quite mild and as you become aware of it, you can notice how it might increase in intensity until it reaches a peak. The emotion will then start to lower in intensity as it disappears.
Notice how you can watch each emotion, and do not have to delve into it asking “where is this from?”, “what does this mean?” or “I remember that memory and it hurt?”. Whenever you find that your mind becomes involved (talking to yourself, thinking of a person or place or experience, replaying an event) bring your mind back directly to the emotion. There is no judgement. An emotion is simply that – energy in motion. Remember, if the emotion feels very strong, that you are not re-experiencing the event or conversation and that you are safe.
Sometimes you might also notice a sensation – let that go and return your awareness back to any emotions that are present.
Simply observe the emotions as they arise without trying to change anything. Accept what emotions you experience. No emotion is inherently good or bad, it just is.
If no emotions are present, then return your awareness to your breath, sitting peacefully and quietly. Maybe you will notice a feeling of contentment – observe that too. When we become more practiced you start to become aware of some of the more subtle and quieter emotions, like contentment or peace, or maybe a mild amusement. Notice how these two also come and go.
It might help to think of emotions like waves. The sea is always moving, sometimes the waves are big and strong, sometimes they are gentle and smooth. The wave always comes in, and then it always goes away.
When to practice mindfulness?
You can do this any time of the day (or night) although it is great to start your day with a meditation (we find the whole day becomes smoother!). It might also be good for you to try it one evening, as meditation can be helpful to allow us to release and relax, settling our minds before bed. See what time of the day works best for you.
You can also practice mindfulness in your yoga sessions. For example, as you hold a yin pose, like a seated twist, you can become aware of emotions rising and falling. Read more about yoga for emotional balance and release by clicking here.
We have written previously about the seven attitudes of mindfulness (click here). Non-judgement is particularly important when working with emotions – just know what some moments you might experience anger, and the next joy. Some moments might be neutral. An emotion is just that – not essentially good or bad. Be kind to yourself!
If you are interested in learning more about meditation and want to practice, you can check out our meditation page or come stay with us. We are currently offering daily meditation classes, plus extra evening guided relaxation (visualisation), one yoga nidra (in savasana) plus meditation workshops to enjoy a mediation retreat.
To your health and well-being.
About the author
- Lisa is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. She is an Epidemiologist, therapeutic hatha and yin yoga teacher and also teaches mindfulness meditation. Lisa has studied NLP and hypnosis, as well as nutrition (she designs the menus).