Mindfulness is the practice of watching our thoughts and paying attention to what comes up. With a busy life, it can be difficult to make the time to sit down and clear my mind. But I have found it to be a valuable stress reduction technique. From my personal experience, It has also engendered a sense of self compassion and self acceptance, leading to more happy moments and a sense of well being that alleviates even the darkest days.

This week involved a minor (it felt major at the time) upset, and a general feeling of malaise and unease. I tried desperately to pinpoint the cause or source of this uncomfortable feeling, and admittedly, found myself struggling to be still – I wanted to get out of the negative emotion as fast as possible. My morning meditation, while it did help me sit with the emotion, was still not enough to short circuit the feelings of anger and resentment. I had read Buddhist texts on happiness and decided to put it to the test. Mind training through meditation helps one to become aware of the emotions and rather than acting on them, allows one to watch the negative feelings to arise and let them naturally dissolve. However, having given myself an hour to fret over the situation, I eventually got tired of my negativity, wondering how long the strong emotions were going to stick around. I wanted to give myself the appropriate time to sit in the emotion, but for how long? Throughout the process, I found myself desperate to change my mindset in a more positive direction to avoid the pain. But my body needed to sit for a day in this jumbled mess to allow myself to feel how I felt and not fight myself. I do understand that emotions, either good or bad, are an opportunity to learn more about myself – to calmly observe them, to stay in the moment with them, but to not let them take me over. I admit, despite my best efforts, I failed to avoid becoming absorbed in the drama. I did not want to act out according to my emotions and do undue damage to my relationships, so I tried to watch my thoughts and not judge them. I have found that when my mind wanders to that sad or scary place, the emotions can feel so powerful that my story takes over and I find myself being sucked in. I’m still learning…

Other times, my thoughts are easier to deal with– such as when the emotion is not as strong. Instead of reacting, I try to take a deep breath, slow my reaction and calm my mind. I feel more centered and grounded through meditation, bringing my attention to the here and now. Yes, it takes practice and time and energy to create a discipline around mindfulness and meditation, but I feel it puts me in touch with my true feelings, thoughts and emotions. As a result, I enjoy a greater sense of self awareness. I am able to make more powerful decisions regarding my behavior and things don’t so easily upset me as a result of my practice. We spend so much time worrying about the future, dwelling on the past – our minds are rarely present. Meditation can also take the form of mindful walking or eating mindfully, as long as your attention is focused on the intricate details of the activity. By noting the physical sensations of the body during mindful moments, we see how the body responds to our thoughts and feelings as an observer. We are not absorbed in our feelings and don’t get drawn into the drama. It created space for me to see that the other person in the argument was likely struggling too, and like me, just wanted to find happiness. It allowed me to see their point of view and find compassion, not only for them, but also for me too. Working with emotions is all about framing the way I see the situation in a more positive light, allowing the emotions the space and love needed to feel the feelings in my body, and breathing into it. I try to remember that challenging people in my life are my teachers, and it letting go of my story and connecting to my senses, I can see more clearly and see that person with less judgement. Buddha is quoted as saying “Remembering a wrong is like carrying a burden on the mind”. This was a gentle reminder for me to remember the art of forgiveness, of both myself and the other person. In the end, it hurts me more than the other person when I dwell in a negative state of emotion. Days later, the strong emotions passed and I looked back, wondering why I had been so upset. I felt distanced from the feelings, as if it had happened to someone else. It illustrates the transitory nature of our emotions. So when the darkness enfolds you and you don’t know what to do, sometimes its best to just do nothing and allow it to pass in time.