Have you ever been annoyed because something wasn't working out in your life? Do you remember how you felt? Did you develop a tightness in your chest, pain in your neck, or even a headache? When you set out to do something in the world, obstacles sometimes arise. How do you deal with obstacles? Do you internalize the annoyance in your body or do you fully experience the sensations and feelings that emerge?
Most of us have been taught to desire good feelings and to resist bad feelings. Well-meaning people tell us, "You're silly to feel bad. Get over it!" If you observe infants, you'll find that they have no such judgment about their feelings -- they feel and express all their emotions. In doing so, they move from states of pain and frustration to joy and elation in a matter of seconds. It seems completely illogical to parents watching. Yet, why is it logical to expect that pain and frustration must linger?
In order to feel deeply, it helps to remember to breathe. Why do you think Lamaze classes are all about breathing? Scores of seminars and spiritual practices incorporate breathing techniques to help free the body of trapped pain and blocked emotions.
It's a common idea among those on a spiritual path that one should evolve beyond emotions like anger, fear or rage. Some believe that by overcoming these primal emotions they will have peace in their lives. Actually, when we allow all emotions, we experience life more deeply. The true magic of life becomes available as we open ourselves to whatever comes our way -- without resistance.
At December's Wellness Expo, Doris Helge, Ph.D. shared powerful techniques for experiencing and dissipating emotions. For example, to work out anger, Helge had audience members smash milk cartons with their hands or with a plastic bat. With each slam the participants felt lighter and more at ease. She recommended that executives squeeze a rubber ball or lump of clay to work out frustration. Helge feels many social problems would go away if we would allow ourselves the freedom to safely vent our emotions. Helge's book, Transforming Pain Into Power (ISBN: 1-885598-88-2) is an excellent resource of transformative exercises for feeling more deeply and experiencing life more fully.
A good way to help others experience their feelings is to listen to them without judgment. In their book, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk (ISBN:0-380-57000-9), Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish outline dozens of ways to validate children's feelings and experiences. I find that the techniques work for people of all ages. When we tell someone not to feel a certain way, we invalidate them and prevent them from living in the moment. When we simply listen to them with neither approval nor disapproval, we share a sacred and tangible reality of uncomparable richness.
The greatest gift you can give someone is to accept them as they are. When you accept another, you honor them as the Creator of their life and create the space for them to change. In this space, miracles happen.
Tony Cecala, Ph.D.
Publisher, The Holistic Networker