Weathering Stormy Feelings

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I know looking back on my own life I can see many instances where I spoke or acted on impulse, due to the raging storms of emotion within me. Some very strong feelings are also triggered by our hormones. If we are unable to control these hormonal urges they may drive us to make impulsive decisions on sexual matters. The consequences of these impulsive decisions can be very long lasting in our lives. If we can manage our feelings, and better control our resulting thoughts and actions; we will not have so many occasions to later deeply regret.

A great deal of suffering can be drawn into our lives and the lives of those who live in close proximity with us, due to the way we think, speak and react to our feelings. This effect carries outward into our society like the ripples in a pond, bringing either waves of added suffering, or waves of added benefit to the lives of all those within our sphere of influence. We all interrelate with one another on some level. With the increased connections of the electronic age, and all the social media connections, our impact has a much broader range then was possible in the past.

Due to the fact that how we relate to one another, affects people on a far broader scale today, brings to mind the consideration of our responsibilities to one another. Although we are each responsible for ourselves, and our behavior, we need to keep in mind how the things we say, and the things we do, may influence and affect the lives of those around us. If we continue to react without thinking to our feelings; we will not be able to create the best possible life for ourselves.

We also need to consider how this ripple we start in the pond of our life, by the way we react to our feelings and beliefs, also flows out into the lives of our children and grandchildren. Furthermore how we react to our feelings, can negatively impact the lives of those we interact with, on a daily basis. For these and many other reasons, it is very wise to learn how to better cope with our inner feelings, in order to have the best possible experiences in life.

Our feelings combine with our beliefs about ourselves and others, along with the rules we abide by in our interactions with one another. This powerful mix of feelings and beliefs will influence how we will act in all the situations we find ourselves in. Our personal combination of feelings and beliefs creates our thoughts. Our thoughts carve out the reality we perceive within our life experience. Our life experience flows from this stream of feelings, beliefs, thoughts, words and actions as we create it.

I like how Thich Nhat Hanh describes our feelings, in his book Peace is Every Step. He says, "In us, there is a river of feelings, in which every drop of water is a different feeling, and each feeling relies on all the others for its existence. To observe it, we just sit on the bank of the river and identify each feeling as it surfaces, flows by and disappears."

Thich Nhat Hanh also says that "Mindful observation is based on the principle of "non-duality": our feeling is not separate from us or caused by something outside us; our feeling is us, and for the moment we are that feeling."

He goes on to describe how there are three sorts of feelings, pleasant, unpleasant and neutral. He says we should focus on observing our feelings, with love and attention; while using conscious breathing and mindfulness. This will help us to identify and acknowledge the feeling we are experiencing. If a feeling is unpleasant, we can mindfully embrace our feeling, like a Mother comforting a crying baby. Applying our energy to the feelings in this way, will help us to transform the unpleasant, or stormy feelings into either neutral or pleasant feelings as we practice.

1. The first step in transforming our feelings is to recognize each feeling as it arises.

(Example from Peace is Every Breath) "Breathing in, I know there is an unpleasant feeling in me." "Breathing out, I know there is an unpleasant feeling in me." We want to keep our breathing calm and light so our mind and body can begin to reach the same equilibrium. As we identify the feeling using mindfulness, we can address it by name, such as "anger", "sorrow' or "fear." Do not seek to drive the feeling away, simply acknowledge it. "Hello Fear, (Anger, Sadness) How are you today my friend?"

2. With the second step you will invite your feeling and mindfulness to shake hands and connect with each other.

Allow your mindfulness to greet and care for the stormy unpleasant feeling you are experiencing. As the feelings connect with each other, mindfulness will calm the stormy feeling for you. It may seem frightening at first, but with practice your mindfulness will gain strength and will help you transform these stormy feelings.

3. The third step is to calm the feeling you are experiencing.

"Breathing in, I calm the activities of my body and mind." Again use the visualization of a Mother holding and comforting a crying baby. As the baby feels the tenderness and love of the Mother (your mindful energy) the feeling (baby) will calm down. "Breathing out, I calm my... " (fear, anger, sadness... )

We do not need to bury, reject or drive away our feelings. What we need to do is mindfully and lovingly embraces them. As you lovingly embrace the feeling, with your mindful energy; you will transform the stormy feeling, with your love and compassion, into a more beneficial and pleasant feeling. With this gentle approach we will be able to withstand the storms that pass through the branches of our being. Mindfulness will help us to understand all of our feelings are an important part of us. When we acknowledge and embrace our stormy feelings they can be transformed into positive and beneficial energies. We can then go on to create a happier, more positive and successful life experience for ourselves. This will also benefit all those we hold especially dear.

I strongly suggest reading Thich Nhat Hanh's book, Peace is Every Step, for a more detailed and comprehensive explanation of this wonderful process.

In the Christian tradition the feelings and thoughts we experience are considered in Philippians 4:6-8 as follows. "6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think on these things... "

I think that an attitude of gratitude and a heart filled with thanksgiving along with lips that look for every opportunity to praise; will lift our hearts from many a moment of sorrow or despair. In addition using the mindfulness approach to transform our feelings can be utilized within any faith.

Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens. Khalil Gibran

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When dealing with your feelings, or those of another, consider the words of Jalaluddin Rumi, the thirteenth-century Persian poet. "Listen with ears of tolerance! See through the eyes of compassion! Speak with the language of love."

In summary we all experience a vast array of feelings. Enjoy the pleasant ones; transform the unpleasant stormy feelings by mindfully embracing them. Acknowledge all feelings, for they are a valid of expression of who you are, and what is meaningful to you. Love and accept yourself feelings and all! Seek to better understand why you feel the way you do, and in so doing you will come to better understand both yourself, and the others who are important to you in your life.