This month, some of us celebrated Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, this seems to me like a rinse and repeat of New Year's Eve. It all sounds better on paper! Whether you feel the commercialism of the holiday or are a full supporter of Cupid, February tends to be a cold and wet month in the low country. Most of us are feeling the short days are really getting old and the need for a shift into something encouraging is increasing. Maybe a little more sunshine? Maybe warmer weather? How about a trip somewhere? Although, most of us are still recovering from holiday expenditures...
As an observer of psychology and people in general, February seems to be a tough month. So I wonder if instead of swinging from the last nerve to keep our New Year's resolutions, we just use that energy to show ourselves a little love instead? If I gave you full carte blanche permission to do this, what would it look like?
The book "Radical Compassion" from Tara Brach comes to mind immediately. As does her popular RAIN exercise (meditation for crunchier people, like me). Not familiar? I'll take you through it.
Tara Brach argues that we so often dehumanize ourselves in the concept of unworthiness when we avoid our feelings. We deny ourselves a basic human experience when we do this. More often than not, it's the uncomfortable emotions we're dodging.
Let me ask you a question... when is the last time you felt irritable, short-tempered, or
fatigued and didn't know why? Perhaps as you read this post, you think "How did she know?" We all do this! And I guarantee you there is an unacknowledged emotion that bubbles beneath the surface. Something deeper. Something you've been avoiding because it's too uncomfortable to handle directly. Unfortunately, the tension will not go away on its own. It will come out as a projection on others or achiness in your body. Perhaps it will express itself as poor sleep or distraction. The emotion needs to be acknowledged, handled, and resolved. This is possible. I promise. And I even have the steps for you to do it, thanks to Tara Brach.
Let's try giving yourself a little love through RAIN. This can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes depending on how many times you'd like to rinse and repeat, or how many labels you have to list. So let's get started...
You can check in with yourself in the here and now to start. If you are perfectly at peace and nothing is on your mind but happiness, congratulations! You are with about .00001% of the population and should be teaching others how to do what you do! If you are with the rest of us, there is more than likely something weighing on your mind from the present or very recent past that is bothering you. Perhaps someone cut you off in traffic on the way somewhere today. Perhaps you don't feel supported or heard by an employer or significant other in your life. Whatever it is, consider something that is on your mind and not resolved. If you're incredibly brave, you can bring your attention to an unresolved issue that has been heavily weighing on you. It's all game. There are NO wrong answers and you can't mess this up. Just go with your gut and remember, this is an exercise, not a quest for perfection. It's all about building love for yourself as you are in this moment.
Now that you've chosen a thought or event to exercise/meditate on, follow the steps below:
RECOGNIZE... or label the emotion you're feeling. Remember, anger/irritability/frustration never travel alone. These are secondary emotions to another one that you will need to identify for accuracy. You might find it helpful to write down the emotion on a piece of paper in front of you.
Feel free to reference the emotions wheel I use nearly every day in 1:1 therapy sessions:
ALLOW.... the emotion to be present long enough to feel it fully. Do you notice something in your body? How about new thoughts? Judgments about yourself or someone else? It's possible that your body and mind will want to resist even here. If you can get past the discomfort of sitting with your feelings, you will win I promise. Let yourself keep sitting in the emotion. See what comes up. Just allow it to be there without the need to adjust or change anything about it.
INVESTIGATE... Ask yourself why you feel this way. What has happened? Take a quick reality check that you aren't re-writing history but accurately recalling the best you can without judgment. This is called rational mind and is separate from your emotion mind. Any answer is okay. Don't worry about what other people think! This is between you and yourself alone.
NURTURE... Can you now invite softness and acceptance towards the emotion itself? Perhaps you offer yourself understanding that you are a work in progress, or that you are allowed to make mistakes as a human being. What would you tell your inner child or younger self if you could go back in time to another moment in the past when you've felt this feeling? Would you berate them or offer them an opportunity to grow and learn? Treat yourself kindly. Validate your own feelings and then provide yourself with what you need.
Through this practice you will find less judgment towards yourself and others because when you accept the emotions, the judgment tends to no longer be necessary. This isn't about not holding yourself or others accountable. It's about seeing the humanity beneath all behaviors that we have. Accepting yourself as you are with room to grow! This practice is here for you to revisit anytime. The more you practice, the more naturally you will exercise it, and the quicker you will find peace.
Thanks for reading and know that I see and honor the light within you!
If you're interested in learning more about Tara Brach's approach, find the affiliate link below. Keep in mind that Tides Therapy and Consulting does receive a small benefit from any affiliate links, but you are not charged any additional amount.