At times in life I have woken up with a feeling that things just don’t feel right. As a human with a brain that feels negative feelings are some kind of threat I jump straight into problem solving.
I should get another Job, maybe I need to move house, definitely need to do more exercise, I shouldn’t have gone out at the weekend…
So the internal dialogue goes on, fixing and sorting. If in this moment deep in problem solving mode I could actually take a step back and look at my process I would recognize that when I actually put my head above water and take a breath, this problem solving has done very little other than to impound the feeling something is wrong and I need to change myself or my life in some way.
Inspired by a number of teachers who focus on kindness and compassion as a core part of our mindfulness practice I decided to do something different. Now as much as possible when I have that little window of awareness when I wake up feeling a bit crappy, I use instead a ‘hand to heart practice’.
I bring a hand to my heart and a hand to my tummy and recognize what is happening.
I notice first the feelings, this can feel quite overwhelming, I don’t need to get in to them too deeply, but I just lightly notice, ok some sadness, maybe some fear.
I notice the texture ah this feels quite heavy
I notice where this sits in my body – ah my chest feels tight, my jaw is clenched.
I direct my attention to my breath, I feel the rise and fall of my chest,
I feel the warmth of my hand on my chest and I offer myself kindness and nurturing, perhaps I will say words of kindness to myself ‘it’s ok, you feel a little sad, your a little scared’
In this moment perhaps my mind will wander to the whys, but I gently bring my attention back to this moment, I stay here in my body, and care for myself.
As I stay with the sensations in my body, I see them as they shift and change.
I notice the thoughts become less strong and suddenly something completely different is there, new thoughts, new feelings, what felt so overwhelming has take it’s natural course and transformed into something new
Why not give this practice a try yourself – next time you wake up feeling a little off – stay with the physical experience, care for yourself observe and notice how things move, shift and transform
Resolution or deeper understanding does not need to come from a place of forcing or fixing, when we do not naturally have clarity around what we need perhaps it is enough, just being with, sitting next to and holding hands with our difficulties.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jalaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks (The Essential Rumi)