Anger is Welcome. Sadness is welcome. Fear is welcome.
There's a meditation in the Waking Up app called Awakening Emotions, part of the Effortless Mindfulness series by Loch Kelly. It's one I've gone back to time and time again, and know it so well I can practice it in smaller bursts depending on the situation and the emotion.
It starts of in almost obvious fashion. Kelly asks you to feel a negative emotion, through and through. Feel it in your face, feel it in your chest, feel it on your skin and in your bones. To tell yourself 'I am angry', or 'I am sad', or 'I am afraid'.
Then he gets you to create distance between you and the feeling. First, by saying 'I feel' angry, or sad, or fear. Next, 'I am aware of the presence' of anger, sadness, or fear. The physical sensations you awakened start to dim. The emotions become pushed to the edges of your consciousness. No longer are you the emotion, but you are aware of it.
The next line is anger, sadness, and fear are one with awareness. They're not separate to you; they're not some intrusive alien feeling outside of your mind, but rather a part of your conscious experience. A part of who you are.
And then, he gets you to say:
Anger is welcome
Sadness is welcome
Fear is welcome
The first time I went through this, I balked at this part. I didn't want to welcome anger, sadness, or fear. I want to them to be shunned, or at the very least under my control. I figured inner peace was finding the absence of these emotions, not allowing their presence and going to say as to welcome them.
But then something annoying happened. It worked.
This morning, I had just such an incident. I've had some stomach issues for a few days, so my patience is fading along with my energy. A work situation came up, and it pressed all the right buttons.
When I get like this, I want to lose control. To hit my desk, my screens. To stomp, shout, lash out. When I stop myself, the boiling water that is my emotions starts to bubble out of the pot. Breathing gets heavy, temples start to feel the squeeze. The pressure needs releasing somehow, and if it's not through anger, it'll be through fits of barely controllable sobbing.
I followed some techniques I learned from therapy to stop the flow, namely a) remove myself from the situation and b) run my wrist under the cold bathroom tap to shock me out of it. That cooled things down, but left me simmering.
So I sat down cross legged in the corner of my sofa. My phone was across the room to stop me distracting myself from my tasks. I set a timer on my Watch app, closed my eyes, and went through the script.
I am angry. Through and through. Every drop of blood boiling in my veins.
I feel anger. Like a sheen of emotion just about touching my skin.
I am aware of the presence of anger. It exists in my mind's room, sitting there, staring. Waiting.
Anger and awareness are not separate. One is part of the other.
Anger is welcome. It is accepted, a part of me that I can no more cut away that I could my conscious memories.
The freedom you feel when you do this is breathtaking. The knowledge that you don't have to fight it, just acknowledge and accept it, is liberating.
I still fall short, of course. Still rant and rave about stupid things, still get fixated on short comings and sadness, but that's okay too. I can't change that.
I can accept them though. Welcome them even, with a smile and open arms.
And then just keep going.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post and want to read more of the same, you can subscribe via email or RSS. Mailing list subscribers get a bonus post every Sunday.