Turning Towards Feelings

Awoke with the start of some little nippy worry thoughts arising in between sleep as I surfaced. The ones that could turn into a stress causing story if allowed to propagate. They hook up with any existing anxiety inside and then off they go, and then there’s more anxiety and more thoughts.

I guess I was still dreaming because what I identified as my grandmother suggested to simply be nice to myself instead, to enjoy myself.

I’m comfy, I’m safe, healthy, it is a new day and all is well….why would I spoil the mood by introducing even mild worry?

“You don’t have to worry” she said, “enjoy life”.

It was interesting to see it as simply as that, as an unkindness to ourselves to allow stress producing thoughts to elaborate in our minds. Or alternatively to drop them as an act of kindness to ourselves.

So glad I have discovered the option of not believing thoughts that suggest I should be worried or concerned about things that may (though nearly 100% of the time don’t) happen. I can instead turn to what I am experiencing in this moment and be here intimately for it.

It can be a little uncomfortable at first the idea of dropping worry, as we previously believed that thoughts that identify potential threats help to keep us out of danger. With practice we see that dropping those thoughts does not make us oblivious to danger, and we are able to respond appropriately to anything of concern which arises. Dropping the worrying does not increase our danger in life and does not turn us into irresponsible risk takers.

For those who have had their nervous system primed to be a bit trigger happy on the threat detection side early in life, our minds can regularly identify threat where there is none. And this can lead us into living in a contracted state, not open to really experiencing life as it is happening as it doesn’t feel safe to relax.

Childhoods or traumatic experiences as adults can raise our base emotional state to a fear level that leads us to filter the raw moment to moment experience through the always on commentary of our thoughts.

Often we find ourselves not living now but off in the future in our minds and missing life. It is a way the brain tries to protect us, but results in causing ourselves unnecessary unhappiness.

Part of my toolkit for living is regularly checking in with feelings that I have ignored as they are unpleasant and cause me to feel disturbed. I find those feelings easily by locating them in the body. I drop out of my thoughts and into the body and notice where the feelings are being felt physically with an attitude of open curiosity. I allow the feeling to be there and say hello. I sometimes visualise a little 50mm rim around the sensation of space so that it can manoeuvre or move a little if it wants.

I see that that tendency towards experiencing a clenched fist in my chest or a tight throat interfere with my ability to experience the simple joy of being alive. And I strongly suspect this tendency originates from past experiences I have stored inside that taught me to anticipate danger or pain.

By turning towards the anxiety and locating it as a felt experience in the body I allow it to release in its own time. As long as I am not doing the practice in order to get rid of it, it will release as the purpose of focusing on it is to allow it to be there.

Turning towards disturbing feelings in the body may seem a little daunting at first, I used video guidance to give me the reassurance the first time.

We are not used to turning towards pain, and may doubt our ability to contain it and be with it. Now it has become easier and has become a mainstay of my daily self compassion and general calming down in life practice. As I do more of it my base state is more relaxed. It is like discovering a superpower I didn’t realise I had!

I often forget still, as it isn’t fully an automatic response yet. I’m still changing over from contracting away from and resisting my feelings to being open to them. I have an increasing enthusiasm and confidence in the process as I am starting to see a virtuous feedback loop take place. I turn towards my disturbed feelings and they in turn don’t feel a need to shout so loudly to get my attention.

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