7. Reflection on Emotional Issues

‘The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist.’ Will Smith

We can approach our emotions or emotional states from a position of power or a position of powerlessness.

Emotional issues are among the most painful of all for us to deal with as they can create feelings of anger, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, fear, guilt and self-loathing. By learning ways to deal with our fearful emotions we are freed from a cycle. As the saying goes: we fear what we don’t know or understand.

By taking a proactive approach to reflection we grow our awareness of our selves. This helps us to integrate new learning when situations recur and develops our emotional intelligence. As a person, if we can accept all our aspects of self (the good, the bad and everything in between) we are able to move forward with respect for our self.

We all have many parts that need to be integrated, accepted and loved for what they teach us. If we can move to a state of observation without judgment on ourselves, we can pass these observations and non-judgment to those around us. As we grow and change, we develop more flexible responses to triggers and negative patterns. To be whole we must work on our strengths but never ignore our weaknesses. It’s our weaknesses that teach us the most as they highlight what we need to work on in order to move forward.

Time to Have a go!

Emotions will always crop up so allow the emotion to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions throughout your day and say to yourself: ‘joy’, ‘anger’, ‘frustration’, ‘happy’. Acceptance of the presence of your emotions allows you to re-wire your brain and develop your response to a situation.

Once you have practiced naming emotions throughout your day, for a week, try and extend the exercise.

You may wish to look at an area of weakness or fragility to work on for building understanding and acceptance of the emotions involved.

You may wish to look at an area of strength to work on for building understanding and acceptance of the emotions involved.

5. How Mindfulness techniques and practice helped me

As for many of us, I had become attuned to my ‘auto pilot’ also referred to as set pattern response based on my personal past experiences with my family, friends, peers, work colleagues and my students. Learning about mindfulness helped me to enhance (well in some instances relearn completely) how to be flexible and adaptable to situations. This relearning allowed my brain to be re-trained with better or new responses to situations and thus come off my ‘auto pilot’.

Through acknowledging that I had fallen into a repetitive pattern and that I needed help I was able to take my first steps in exploring and cultivating a new working base for myself.

Mindfulness has allowed me to change the way I react and interact with external influences and more importantly in my relationship with myself. I learnt to identify my common self-critical or self-blaming thoughts thus creating greater patience, kindness, acceptance, and compassion towards myself and others (even my students!).

I have found that completing my daily mindfulness routine (sometimes this is only 10 minutes) I am enjoying greater fulfilment in my daily life as I am more present in the activities I am doing, such as my gardening. The biggest change is I am not ruminating or having as many negative thoughts and my anxiety levels have dropped substantially as well. Just over a year ago my blood tests showed I had high levels of cortisol and high cholesterol levels. These two indicators are associated with being in a prolonged state of flight, fright and freeze – or anxiety and stress – over a prolonged period of time. This year I have shown a marked drop in these.

Time to have a GO!

Here is one of the key Mindfulness exercises that you can have a GO with.

The Basic Mindfulness Meditation (FOCUS)

To commence get yourself in a comfy position (e.g. sitting on a straight-backed chair, lying on the floor, sitting cross legged) that will keep you awake or alert. You can do this with eyes open or closed.

Focus on your breathing. Don’t change the rate of breath or depth but do notice sensations of air flowing into your nostrils and out. Notice if your belly is rising and falling with each intake of breath and each exhale.

Once you have narrowed your concentration to focus just on your breath, begin to widen your focus and become aware of: sounds, sensations and your thoughts.

Embrace and consider each sound, thought or sensation without judging it. If you notice your mind wandering (you know making to do lists, ticking off shopping or chores still to do etc) draw your focus back to your breathing. Re-try expanding your awareness again to incorporate sounds, sensations and thoughts.

Complete the meditation by refocusing on your breathing. By creating a daily practice, even at 10 minutes a day, is more impactful than once a week. Why? This allows you to re-train your brain to store new memories of responses to situations we have practised thus creating a new response system. We become less reactive/reactionary.