For years I have been hearing that emotions are energies that like the weather, just want to pass through.
Through the early Buddhist teachings I received, I was taught that life and the present moment is like a filmstrip (remember those?)
Enslaved and Powerless?
I spent most of my life either feeling enslaved by and powerless around my emotions, or trying to to make them go away so I could live a “normal” adult life, like “everybody else.” Emotions got in my way and they scared me. Growing up I received no guidance in how to deal with them, only modeling that they were to be sidestepped. I received the message that emotions were wrong, a problem, and that I shouldn’t have them. Except for happiness of course. And some sadness was tolerated as well.
Now, in my 58th year I am finally getting a handle on these unwieldy storms, torrents and winds that meet me regularly.
The instruction continues to be: feel them, let them pass through.
Technique 1: Letting Emotions Pass Through: Opening the Way
But what if I hate myself for some of them? What if I interpret them as dangerous and evidence of my defectiveness in the Universe? Those beliefs make inviting emotions in like a hurricane to board up the windows against.
On the other side, wanting to be all loving and gooey with emotions, or “my little girl” as I have thought of many emotions as belonging to, I have also veered towards letting them talk, vent, whine, cry, scream, be overtaken with a sense of absolute unsafety as long as they wanted, so that they’d feel “heard” and “loved” and then would shut up. That was my hope and hidden motivation.
I wanted to be a “good mother” to myself and my feelings so that they’d feel loved and seen as I was not by my own mother. The result of that experiment was that I had a wild child running around unsupervised and driving the bus. I didn’t feel worthy of or able to set boundaries with him/her. In fact, she scared me. I so wanted to be a “good mother” that I confused love with not having limits. Is this because I grew up in the wake of the sixties, a child’s interpretation of love equating with no limits, never saying no?
Technique 2: How to Give Attention Without Letting Emotions Take Control
I’m finally learning to juggle it all: sometimes listening, giving attention, soothing, reflecting back, explaining to that part of me, my little girl, her. Other times I conjure the courage to make an executive decision and change directions with distraction, or a physical movement.
Technique 3: Observing Emotions and Sending Them Love
There is a third technique that I learned so many years ago by my Theravadan Buddhist teachers, which is to watch it and send it love. I practice this while in meditation. I go to my heart and listen, feel and observe from there. Whatever comes across my filmstrip screen, I observe and send love. Not trying to get rid of and not separating myself from the emotion, but watching and listening with compassion, nothing more.
After decades I am using this tool again, and along with others, it is helpful.
The fourth strategy I’m using for learning to weather the scary storms of my emotions is to fly purposefully into the eye of the hurricane. I locate it in my body, I invite it to show me its colors, textures, tones and energy and I let myself experience them as fully as I can. I breathe deeply through and with this and so far, I survive!
In fact, instead of feeling run over and victim to my emotions, I am feeling stronger, fuller, deeper, and broader.
I am learning that I am a warrioress and that going into the onslaught of the emotional energies that come through my screen is making me better and somehow kinder to myself.
I always thought that admitting the reality of “my” emotions would prove me horrible and way behind everyone else’s progress as humans. Instead, flying into those colors and shapes is culminating in ownership of my experience and as I can’t control it, there is sovereignty in knowing my truth and taking my part in the dance.
Controlling the Weather: A Patriarchal Cultural Approach to the Nature of Life
All this weather work makes me wonder about the development of technology which has at its core the desire to control nature. The ultimate evidence of this achievement would of course be to be able to control the weather. I’m wondering whether Western civilization’s desire to control weather is an outer reflection of the cultural desire to control emotions.
I imagine it all started with fear of emotions and interpretations around what they indicated – an angry God? "Well to 'hell' with that," our European Industrial Age scientists thought, “let’s be stronger than nature, than the weather, than God. Let’s conquer this uncontrollability so that we can feel important and in charge of life.”
So here we are, and the culture is falling.
What does it take and will it take for us to admit not our helplessness in the Universe, but our place and relationship to it? Not separate from but part of. How do we dance with that which is Ourselves?
How do you dance with and navigate through your emotional weather?