Tag: emotional awareness

Keeping Open to Love

 

Have you ever met one of those people that no matter what life tosses their way they remain loving and kind while you find yourself getting annoyed?  Admit it, there are times in our day-to-day life when obstacles or challenges get the better or us. You may be exhausted from a newborn keeping you up all night or upset over an incident at work, or sad about a recent loss.  Whatever the cause, during these times, it’s easy to shut the security gate to your heart and retreat from feeling. Life holds many promises and disappointments, how then do you navigate through the ups and downs while keeping an open loving heart. Is it even possible?  Yes, but for most of us who don’t float about with angel wings, it’s a process, a choice, and it doesn’t come without work and a lot of practice.

First, begin to notice what is your go to emotion when challenges present themselves; fear, anger, jealousy, or perhaps you simply pick up the rug, sweep it under, and don’t deal with the issue at all.  Bringing awareness to how you react (in other words your patterns) is essential to redirecting them.  For example, if you get bad news about a promotion or plans change, or your partner is cranky do you immediately get mad or do you lapse into a panic?  Make no judgement on how you respond, however if you want to change, taking an honest look is the first step.

Treat yourself as if you were your own best friend. When you reflect on the “whys” of your behavior, be kind to yourself. Why do I always react with anger or fear? Perhaps that was the model you got as a child, or perhaps you were oblivious to your emotional patterns.  Then say to yourself, I am afraid or angry or hurt or jealous, but I don’t have to be.  After all, we have a choice in how we want to move through life.  Remind yourself that you have the right to be forgiving and loving towards yourself.  Being kinder to yourself will help you be kinder and more loving to others.  Knowing you are as worthy as anyone of love, allows you to release fear that in turn allows you to let go of anger (which largely comes from being afraid).

Communicate your emotions, say “I feel angry, I feel afraid,” get them out on the table rather than holding them where they wreak havoc on your relationship with yourself and others. Being truthful creates an atmosphere that leaves room for dialog. Which prevents us from making up a false reality (such as why does that person hate me, when they don’t).   If there has been a misunderstanding, dealing with it will open the channels for reconciliation. Yes, you want to be a loving person, but sometimes you immediate reaction is just the opposite.  You fail.  Mistakes are lessons in humility.  Admit when you’re wrong and give a sincere heartfelt, sorry.

Practice, practice, practice, life will give you ample opportunity for this.  Use each one to shift your choice of emotions and take your time.  Try counting to ten before you react, then learn to come from a place of love and understanding.  Once you begin doing this, it becomes habit forming and will not go unnoticed by those around you.  Love will flourish in your friendships, in yourself, and have a profound effect on the way you live your life.  There will be less frazzled angry moments because you have become a person that lives with an open heart and chooses to lead with love.

 


Creating a Consciously Aware Life

 

How do you define consciousness? The medical definition of consciousness is the state of being awake and aware of your surroundings. But there is a deeper more symbolic definition of consciousness that transcends the physical and the mental.  The ninety-three-year-old Buddhist Monk and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh describes consciousness like a stream or river, it is always continuing and evolving. And like running water there is the shallow surface to the still silence in the depths below. Like many who have studied consciousness in the physical (brain/mind) and its effect on the body and perception, they all have found that you can shift your consciousness once you raise your awareness and focus.

If you think of consciousness as layers imagine the first being that which is more primal or automatic and connects the brain to the body; your physical needs; hunger, pain, pleasure. You are aware if a room is hot and stuffy, if you are nauseated, or feeling relaxed from a massage. This is surface consciousness.

Let’s think of the next layer as your thoughts and perceptions, how you evaluate your experiences and how they impact your decision making. Here lies what you have learned from both a formal education, absorbed from your culture, as well your past experiences and how these affect your emotions. Your emotions and feelings though are liable to be subject to moods of others unless you learn to listen within.

There is another layer. Learning to listen to the awakening of that layer, that transcends all the other layers, this deeper level of consciousness that can elevate your awareness, heal your mind and your body, and bring you a greater sense of peace and joy. Ah, this is what we all want, right? So how do we get there?

For a moment, create in your mind’s eye your favorite place in nature. Whether it is at the ocean hearing gulls and the sounds of waves crashing on the sand, or in the mountains with the scent of pine trees and the moist dirt of a mossy forest, breathe and be there for a moment. Open your eyes and notice how you feel. By bringing your awareness inward, you can choose what it is you want to focus on. This is a step in the direction of creating consciousness. Being aware. If you are meandering through a beautiful park, with the fall leaves surrounding you, yet rather than admiring their beauty you worry about an upcoming business meeting, your mind is not engaged, you’re distracted. Creating consciousness is letting go of those distractions and reconnecting to the quiet within.

Living consciously helps you with negative emotions. It gives you the ability to deal with negative feelings differently, to not be rote with reactions. Creating consciousness builds empathy towards yourself and others, because you have a deeper understanding. Think about when you were four or five, learning to count, then learning to add, subtract, multiply, divide, etc. As your awareness grew, so did your understanding and appreciation for numbers. It is the same with cultivating an expanded life that is fully alive and conscious. And like learning math, it takes practice.

When you are feeling angry, rather than lashing out, notice the anger, shake hands with it, acknowledge it. Then breathe, long slow steady breaths. Make a conscious choice to handle your anger differently, not allowing it to consume you.

Spending time in silence, bringing your awareness to your breath or meditating is a powerful way to increase your consciousness. By withdrawing from outside stimuli on a regular basis you can begin to create a calm interior. Physiologically, when you slow your breath, your body relaxes. Rapid breathing is associated with fear and anxiety. Consciously, focusing on breath, allows you to relax.  When you practice this, eventually you learn to quiet your thinking mind, the one that makes assumptions and passes judgements.

Living with purpose or living fully, is the same as living consciously. Bringing awareness to yourself helps you to be a more loving human being as you begin to see that you are interconnected to all living things. You need the warmth of the sun, the shade of trees, the oxygen from the plants, the love of another. By raising your awareness and centering on the self that is beyond definitions (mother/father, employee/employer) you can tap into the truest essence of you. That spirit or energy that is kind and loving can grow, once you bring your consciousness there and spend time stripped of pretense.

Opening your awareness liberates you from patterns of thought. Thoughts that have biases towards yourself and others. It gives you new perspectives, like wearing a pair of glasses that help you see better. You may not be aware that you treat certain people with disdain, like wait staff at a restaurant or the janitor at your children’s school. When you awaken your consciousness, you may see the humanity in all people. You may get to know that janitor and realize he is an artist or a single father working several jobs to provide for his children. Awakening removes veils allowing you to see the beauty in all things, a flower, an old man, a cloud. It gives you a sense of appreciation for the life that is all around you.

Lastly, living a conscious life is indeed like the stream that flows into the river that eventually finds freedom and flows into the ocean where all embankments and confines are removed. You don’t have to go on long extended or expensive retreats to create an expanded consciousness. You simply have to practice, be fully aware of the beauty around you, take time to notice your child’s sweet chubby hand that brought you a fistful of daisies, or the stranger that offered you a smile. Know that the sweet place of consciousness dwells within you. Listen to Podcasts, read books, find a favorite poet or philosopher, try guided meditations, nourish your consciousness, and then watch it, like the one seed of a sunflower, grow and bloom.


Emotions and Your Body

P1020568Have you ever experienced physical pain or discomfort with no apparent physical cause? For example, dreading doing something and after thinking about it for a while, having a headache or stomach upset? What we experience as physical pain in the absence of any injury or physical cause may stem from our emotions. Our thoughts and feelings are so powerful that they can manifest in our body. We become aware of this process when we feel discomfort. Emotions somatized can actually be the cause of our organs and systems not functioning properly.

Some examples of how emotions can manifest in the body:

  • Anxiety/Fear may be experienced in the body in many different ways. Often these feelings will affect the adrenal gland and the kidneys. Of course they can affect other parts of the body as well.

Possible causes: Lacking in confidence and security. If you dispute irrational thinking and keep your thoughts in present time rather than negative futures, you will eliminate anxiety and fear from your life.

  • Sadness often will affect the heart and the thymus gland.

Possible causes: Holding on to negative experiences, the inability to “let go.” Letting go of negative thoughts and past experiences will allow joy into one’s life and sadness will shift. Refer to the post Letting Go for more on this.

  • Depression often will affect the way we think, our head and brain.

Possible causes: A need for acceptance, self-consciousness; unable to see path; over-thinking or over-feeling with the perception of having no choice in life. Truly accepting yourself with all of your flaws and strengths decrease your need for outside approval. Practice seeing yourself as one with infinite possibilities.

  • Grief often will affect the liver, gall bladder and can cause many other challenges in the body.

Possible causes: Denying and/or not releasing grief,

  • Anger often will affect the liver, which cleanses our blood and stores our emotions.

Possible causes: Not releasing anger, bitterness, or resentment; not allowing forgiveness. By acknowledging experiencing, honoring and releasing these negative feelings you will be free of anger and able to allow joy in.

  • Stress in general can affect all organs, depending upon the person.

Possible causes: Imbalance in one or more aspects of life. Refer to the post, Life Balance, for more information and how to create balance.

  • Feeling stuck or confusion usually affects the throat area.

Possible causes: Having something to say but fearful to speak the truth, which results in feeling “stuck.”

Can affect: Gall bladder (for example, gall stones). The gall bladder acts as a passage from the liver to the small intestines.

Possible causes: Self-resentment, not allowing yourself to speak your truth.

Areas of the body that can alert us to emotional causes of pain:

  • Left side of body – represents feminine energy. Ask yourself are you denying your feminine qualities or ability to receive.
  • Right side of body – represents masculine energy. Ask yourself are you denying your masculine qualities or ability to take action.
  • Lungs – might indicate an inability to speak one’s truth.
  • Abdomen/gut – caused by the unconscious taking in of other peoples’ emotions.
  • Shoulder issues – the feeling of being overburdened by the challenges of others.
  • Hips – the feelings of insecurity and fear create the inability to move forward.
  • Knees – the lack of self-respect, often is the cause of knee issues.
  • Lower back – resentment rooted in the belief, that there is no one to help you and your burdens feel too great.
  • Cervical spine (neck) – linked to the inability or fear of being flexible in life.

We can use the presentation of symptoms to check in with ourselves and ask whether the pain or discomfort we are feeling could have an emotional cause, rather than a physical cause. Spending some time on releasing heavy emotions can help lessen—or completely resolve—physical symptoms.

Try using:

  • Meditation or yoga to quiet the mind and provide a sense of grounding, lightness, or peace.
  • Emotional Freedom Technique (known as EFT or Tapping), which involves tapping your fingertips on pressure points on the face and body to release emotions.
  • Journaling. The simple act of recording thoughts and feelings on paper can provide awareness, release, and resolution.
  • Counseling. Sometimes, just having an impartial person to hear you can provide great relief.
  • Coaching. Sometimes in combination with counseling, coaching will teach you the action steps you want to move forward.

The Total Self

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In the post, Life Balance, I discussed the most prevalent areas of our lives that need balance and why each is important. The life area called Self is composed of our emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual needs and desires. Due to the complex nature of Self, I’d like to explore each component separately.

Emotional

The emotional aspect of Self determines how we feel about our inner and outer world. What do you need for a full emotional life that serves and supports you? Do you want to be more focused and grounded? Approach life with a more can-do attitude? Radiate more love and joy? React to challenges calmly and confidently? Once you decide the emotions that are important to you, ask yourself what actions to take or habits to adopt in order to bring them into your everyday life.

Intellectual

This is the part of us that needs mental stimulation and growth, and goes well beyond the classroom. It could be learning a new skill or hobby; increasing knowledge about a topic that interests you; challenging your brain with intellectual games or philosophical discussions. Consider what you need to keep your mind alert, interested, and challenged. What do you want to learn, discover, and explore?

Physical

The physical aspect deals with what it takes for you to look and feel your best. What does it take to be strong, healthy, and confident? How do you need to physically care for yourself and others? How would you want to be physically cared for by others? This includes nutrition and exercise; sexual needs; physical contact (a hug, pat on the shoulder or arm, etc). Some people crave a great deal of physical connection—giving and/or receiving—and some people not so much. Either end of the spectrum or anywhere in between is perfectly valid…it depends on what feels right to you.

Spiritual

This is the part that yearns to connect to something bigger than us. While connection to a higher power certainly occurs in religion, it is also possible to achieve through meditation, being in nature, and by practicing the arts…however you can come to a place of reflection, contemplation, and inspiration. Some questions to ask are: What fills your spirit and soul? Gives you comfort, guidance, and support? How do you want to grow spiritually?

Everyone is unique in his or her needs and desires. Awareness of what you require and desire will help you achieve those qualities that bring you balance within the life area of Self.


Emotional Awareness

Desert

Let’s say elevating your level of positivity and happiness is a daily intention for you. You utilize mantras, affirmations, and/or other tools on a continuous basis. You are letting go of unsupportive thoughts and adopting supportive ones. But there are many moments, or even days, that you are far from a state of bliss. What gives?

Well, we’re not robots, so it’s perfectly normal to experience unexpected emotions even after a lifetime of positive focus. No one is a happy, smiley person 24/7. Nor should that necessarily be the goal, nor a marker for successful personal growth. A more helpful goal is to achieve emotional awareness, or being conscious of how we are feeling and why.

Here are some points to keep in mind regarding our emotional experiences:

Emotions are not destinations. They are road signs. Your emotions are a result of your thoughts. So if you recognize you are in an uncomfortable emotional state, take a look at what you are thinking. For example, if you’re feeling despair the thoughts creating that are likely defeat, hopelessness, and powerlessness. Once you’re alert to your thoughts, you can start shifting them to ones you consider more positive and higher energy. “Happy people” are not always happy and “unhappy people” are not always unhappy…they just engage in more of that particular kind of self-talk and, therefore, resonate the corresponding emotion.

All emotions are the same. Yes, you read that right. Emotions are neither “good” nor “bad.” They are just different from each other, and some we prefer over others. However, being able to identify what kind of emotion we are experiencing gives us the opportunity to shift our thinking in another direction. We can create more of the feelings we like (referred to as “positive” feelings) by changing or shifting the language we use in self-talk from words that create emotions we feel badly about to words that create feelings we feel positively about.

All emotions are useful. Emotions like despair, fear, anger, and frustration may be uncomfortable and undesirable, but they are signals that something isn’t sitting well with us. Uncomfortable emotions can nudge us into awareness and can help us define what we want in life. As we work to move on to preferable emotions, we may see beneficial results we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience in the absence of that initial unwelcome feeling.

Recognize and accept all of your emotions for what they are. Emotions are part of the human experience. Take comfort in knowing it’s ok to feel unwelcome emotions, and feel confident that you have the power to change your thoughts, and therefore your emotions and your experience, at any time.