No matter how spiritual you are, sh*t is gonna come up.
Full disclosure, I’m not sure exactly what it means to be ‘spiritual’, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean that we magically live in a world where everything flows perfectly in every moment and rainbow unicorns deliver our mail and we all live happily ever after.
I’m not interested in suppressing everything and pretending to be ’positive’. I know that will do more harm than good – and it doesn’t seem very genuine. I know that life will be challenging sometimes.
So I’m interested in how I deal with the challenges when they do inevitably pop up in my world. Like with intense emotions for example.
The way I see it, when you’re suddenly overcome with a ‘challenging’ emotion, like anger, or jealousy for example, you have two choices.
You can choose to either:
1. Address it, allow yourself to feel it and move through it.
2. Deny it, suppress it, distract yourself and avoid it.
Guess which one means that it keeps coming back to bite you in the ass?
Nothing ever goes away until it’s taught us what we need to learn.
In many spiritual traditions & schools of thought, intense emotions are seen as powerful fuel for our own transformation, a chance to move through something, to experience the intensity of life.
No one else is responsible for your emotions. Through taking full responsibility for our emotions and practicing self awareness, we can learn to ride the waves of intensity, rather than be stuck at the mercy of them!
Here’s a little story from my own life about the green-eyed monster – Jealousy …
I’ve been on a biiiiig journey with jealousy. These days it’s much better, but I’ve definitely experienced full-on-frothing-at-the-mouth-mad-with-jealousy on more than a few occasions, truth be told.
I remember one experience of jealousy so painfully intense and debilitating that I couldn’t even see straight. I couldn’t function, my whole body was shaking and my guts were churning madly. All I wanted to do was run away from it or blame someone else for my emotions… but I knew avoidance was impossible with this level of intensity.
It took every inch of courage I had to just sit there with it, to feel the sensation of the jealousy in my body and observe it.
After 15 minutes or so of sitting and observing the physical sensations of the emotion in my body and breathing into it, the sense of the jealously moved from my belly to my chest.
Then, over the period of a few minutes, (and this is the crazy part) the jealousy slowly dissolved into an incredible, long-lasting feeling of ecstatic bliss, expansion, joy and openness.
This naturally flowed into a state of immense-whole-body-pleasure and total acceptance of everything. In that place, there was no pain, no bullshit, no story, no drama. Just bliss.
Shifting Shadows: A practice for you to explore (if you like!)
Next time you find yourself feeling something difficult or challenging – like anger, jealousy, grief, fear, resentment… Whatever it is, no matter how intense it is, see if you can just be with it.
See if you can stay with it, even when you might want to do things like…
Run / Hide / Avoid / Distract
Drink yourself into oblivion
Analyse and judge
Scroll mindlessly though your Facebook newsfeed
Watch YouTube videos of cats
Eat a whole bucket of crème-brulee-double-choc-fudge icecream (omg does that even exist!?)
Call your friend in victim-mode and complain
Blame someone else
Scream at your children
Disappear into a black hole of depression, despair, self-doubt and denial
Busy yourself with random unimportant tasks
Watch a movie and zone out
Masturbate to release some energy
Just STOP… Pause. Breathe… and become aware…. Ask yourself: What am I avoiding feeling?
Then, just sit with the feeling that arises, quietly. Watch it in your body, let go of the story that the emotion is attached to and just observe the energy and sensation of the emotion within you. (eg. it might feel like a tight knot in your throat, or a burning ball of fire in your belly)
It is my personal belief that if we can maintain steady, nonjudgemental awareness of any intense emotion for even just a short time, it will transform into something else that feels more expansive.
It works for me, when I actually do it. Every. Single. Time.
This simple practice, done regularly as you feel challenging emotions, can bring an enormous sense of inner freedom. Over time, your emotions will no longer have the same impact on you.
In my experience, the stronger the emotion, the more powerful the rocket-fuel for release and expansion!