Way #14: Observe your unpleasant feelings with nonjudgmental awareness.
“It is not worth our while to let our imperfections disturb us always.” Henry David Thoreau
We tend to be our own worst enemies. The way we physically and mentally view ourselves is often very different than how the rest of the world perceives us. We oftentimes will pass judgment or harsh criticism on our failures, shortcomings, or coping abilities when life gets tough. Most of us even have something disagreeable to feel about our physical appearance and body type. Why do we so often put ourselves down? What if we learned how to let these negative thoughts and feelings flow through us as part of us, but not as the concrete definition of us?
Life is not linear. We are not simple beings. Think of your journey as a colorful and intricate spiral graph. During the span of your life, you will nearly experience every single definable emotion. Your experience will be completely unique and relatively unpredictable. This is a good thing; otherwise imagine how boring your existence would be. The difference though between embracing the ride and constantly wanting to get off of it, is how you treat yourself. What type of relationship are you in with yourself?
Harvard professor Ben Shahar states that, “especially in the United States, there is almost a cultural admonition to be cheerful, to put on a happy face, and to look happy all of the time. The problem is, a diet of cheerfulness-for-every-meal leaves individuals ill equipped to deal with life’s unavoidable dark side-grief, anger, envy, sadness, and fear. The paradox is that when we allow these emotions in, when we don’t suppress them or fight them and instead are mindful of them as they are occurring, that is when they release their hold on us [eventually]. When you really pay attention to them and observe your unpleasant feelings with non-judgmental awareness, then the emotional pain, just like an itch, will go from dull to acute to cresting, and then fade away. To wait out an itch is to accept that nothing, not even the pleasant feelings will stay the same forever.”
The practice of mindfulness is the practice of acceptance. It is accepting how you feel physically and emotionally in the present moment, and rather than passing judgment on yourself you instead treat yourself with admission and respect. Cultivating mindfulness involves learning to be self-aware. By simply listening to your breathing, by acknowledging the way the wind feels on your skin, or just recognizing that your emotions come and go and do not dominate you, is practicing mindfulness.
When we make the conscious decision to practice being mindful, we are setting ourselves up to one day be able to subconsciously let the unpleasant feelings and events in our lives to pass through us with no attachment or residual negative after effect. It is learning to just ‘let it be.’ It is when we let go that we are able to learn and grow from our experiences rather than become defined by them. Feel what you need to feel when you need to feel it, and then move on. There is enough judgment being passed around us and onto us; it is time to stop participating.
Be kind to yourself at all times. A lightness, peace, and freedom will come from this decision. Joy is sure to follow.
“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” E.E. Cummings
Thank you for sharing a smile with us this week!