I have a confession to make: Even though I’m the first one to preach the benefits of mindful meditations and how it helps with anxiety and stress, my emotions still get the best of me at times. I tell myself I’m the spiritual girl and can regulate my happiness and face the storms of my life with ease with a committed meditation practice. I practice daily and will get on my soapbox and talk to anyone who will listen to me about mindfulness. Now, don’t get me wrong. Mindfulness has been transformational in my life and I don’t go a day without meditating. However, I have to tell you I still have meltdowns, I still lose touch with reality, and I still visit crazytown. So if I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that mindful meditations help reduce stress, the question becomes..
Why do I still have meltdowns? Why do I still lose touch with reality? Why do I still visit crazytown?
Here’s the answer: I forget. I forget to rely on my practice.
When the going gets tough, when I’m on a downward spiral, when I’ve veered off track, I have to REMEMBER to rely on my practice. That’s the tricky part for me. For some reason, I throw everything I’ve learned out the window and think there is a magic pill I need to take to get me back home where it’s safe and sound. I forget that by simply taking a few deep breaths my emotions will start to calm down. This is because sometimes our emotions can hold us hostage with their intense grip on our minds and bodies. For example, when you’re anxious, your heart might race, your jaw may tighten and agitating thoughts may cling to you for minutes, hours, or even days. This is because emotions, whether they are anxious, peaceful, anger, sad, or happy, activate your nervous system to release chemicals into your bloodstream that can pull your focus and energy away from the present moment. When emotions are very strong, we may be tempted to deny them and refuse to accept them. When we suppress our emotions and stuff them down inside us, it only postpones the inevitable: They will keep coming back until we address what they are trying to tell us.
Here’s a typical scenario during an upcoming anxiety or panic attack:
Irrational me: “I need more than just this damn deep breathing exercise to calm me down!”
Three breaths later: “Uh, no you don’t”
When we remember to come back to our practice, we can pause and allow the emotions that we are feelings to float into our awareness. When we allow these feelings to exist, without judgment, we can then sit with the emotion, and give it our full attention. Emotions come into our existence for a reason. Just like a child throwing a tantrum, they want to be seen, heard, felt and acknowledged. When we look at our emotions with kindness and compassion, they reveal to us something that our subconscious is trying to tell us. Emotions are messengers, here to deliver information about our life and relationships in order for us to take action and empower ourselves. Just as it takes time to strengthen muscles, it also takes time to strengthen our ability to welcome and respond to our emotions, rather than avoid them.
It’s so funny how we forget to rely on the wisdom that lies within us when our emotions go haywire. We think the answer lies outside of us, when in reality all we have to do is go inward and connect to the presence of peace, the presence of power within us. We can connect to this power by getting still and focusing on our breath. Works every time.
All we have to do is remember.