“Anger and sadness are an important part of life, and new research shows that experiencing and accepting such emotions are vital to our mental health. Attempting to suppress thoughts can backfire and even diminish our sense of contentment.” ~Tori Rodriguez
Everyone has different ways of expressing emotions. In my family, I learned that you stuffed your emotions – it was all about appearances and we wanted to look happy. When my father was angry, he stuffed his emotions and gave us the silent treatment. I learned this was the way to deal with emotions. However, after developing a mindfulness and meditation practice, I learned that this was not an effective or healthy way to deal with emotions. I now know how important it is to express emotions in a conscious manner.
Stuffing your emotions is like holding a ball under water; you can keep it under water for a while, but at some point it’s going to pop up. That’s what happens with your emotions. You might be able to hold your tongue when you are angry and suppress the emotion, but it will come out and you might lash out at someone (it may or may not be the person you were angry at intially). Or if you never express the emotion, it may manifest in your body and lead to dis-ease that turns to disease. Research has shown that stuffing our emotions can lead to heart disease and cancer.
I have been at mindfulness presentations and asked to think of a time when I was upset or afraid and to notice where the tension appeared in my body. Initially I wasn’t good at that exercise – I couldn’t feel the emotion in my body. But, then I began to practice listening to my body when the emotions of anger or fear arose. When I start to get upset, I pause and listen to my body. For me, I feel the tension in my chest, it is a constrictive feeling like a weight being placed on my chest and I also find that my shoulders and jaw become tense. When this happens, I take a few long slow deep breaths and practice releasing the tension in body. Once I regain composure, I consciously deal with the fear or anger. If it is fear, I ask myself if I am truly in danger and deal with the situation. If I am not in imminent danger, I examine my perceptions and determine what is really going on – why is my ego afraid. If I am angry, I evaluate why I am upset and how to get my needs met in a constructive manner. Everyone expresses emotions in the body differently – you need to determine how and where you hold emotions in your body.
Am I successful at doing this all of the time? – NO! But awareness has helped me see that expressing emotions is far healthier than stuffing them. My daily meditation practice allows me to come from a calmer state of mind and I don’t react inappropriately as often as I once did. I practice living in the present moment and continually work on listening to my body. Staying in my body leads to a healthier life and allows for more contentment.
Do you feel emotions when they arise in your body?
What part of your body do you feel emotions and what do they feel like?
How can you release any negative emotions in your body?
“Fears are nothing more than a state of mind.” ~Napoleon Hill
I know that most fears are unfounded, they are all in our mind, but we all seem to have something we fear. I have always had a fear of camping by myself in a tent. I have lived alone, have no problem staying in a hotel alone, have slept in a tent alone on group camping trips and I love my silent alone time. But the thought of camping by myself in a tent frightened me. My husband worked for a lock manufacturer and shared that locks only keep your friends out - if someone wants in, they can get in. I know this to be true since my house was burglarized. But, for some reason I feel safe if there's a lock on the door and the material of my living quarters is made of more than thin fabric.
Recently, I was to go on a camping trip with friends and they would be in their motor home and I would be in my tent which was perfectly fine with me because someone I knew was nearby. I was following behind my friends in their motor home when they had a blowout of the front passenger side tire and they went off the side of the road. Fortunately, my friend had taken the motor home safety-driving course and was able to keep the motor home upright and everyone, including the dogs, was safe. The motor home on the other hand did not fare as well. I was grateful they were alive. They had their jeep to drive home in after the motor home was towed to Tucson. I had prepped for this camping adventure by purchasing a tent I could set up by myself, a new smaller pop-up shade, and a bunch of other camping accessories. So I decided to continue on my own to the camping site and face my fear of camping by myself. I probably should not have been listening to a murder mystery book about a camping safari trip where all of the guests ended up getting murdered - the irony was not lost on me.
I arrived at the beautiful camping spot on the lake and noticed the storm clouds, so I got busy putting up the tent. I got the tent set up and staked down just as the rain started. I immediately started working on the rain fly and got it on before the downpour. I waited out the storm by sitting in the car and decided to drive into town and get an umbrella - the weather forecast had not mentioned rain. The storm passed and I got everything else set up.
So now I had to face my fear of sleeping in the tent with no one I knew near me. I followed all of the things I've been learning with my mindfulness and meditation practice. If I heard a sound and began to worry, I stopped myself, took a deep breath and asked myself if anything bad was happening in this moment? The answer was always no. I told myself, if something bad happens I will deal with it then - I am prepared. I was in a safe State park, had the recommended wasp spray that shoots 10-12 feet to ward off attackers and I could sleep in my car if I really get scared. I knew that worrying does me no good - so I practiced living in the present moment. I enjoyed the beauty of the full moon reflecting off the lake, the sounds of the heron's wings as he took to flight and the smells of the forest. I love being in nature and I released my fears to the wind and fell peacefully to sleep. Worries and fears are all in my mind and I get to choose what thoughts I believe. I have faced my fear and know that I can camp alone in a safe campground.
What fears do you need to release?
“Anyone with the camera can take a picture. Not everyone with the camera is a photographer.
Technical information can be learnt in schools. Great photographs can be seen in libraries and museums. But where is photography to be found?
In the heart.”
~ Robert Leverant
In recent months, I have been focusing my creative efforts on photography using both my iPhone and my DSLR camera. Photography is another way for me to live in the present moment. When I am living in the present moment, I am grateful for all that exists and I see more details and the things I would normally miss because of rushing from one thing to the next. I am aware of bugs, flowers, insects, and so much more. I see and appreciate the colors in the foreground and sky. The shapes and textures of everything in life mesmerize me and I get excited about life. My body, mind and spirit are integrated and I capture images that come from my heart and soul.
Facebook, Instagram and a plethora of other social media sites have allowed everyone with a smartphone to take snapshots and post them for the world to see. I enjoy seeing many of these photos, but the ones that I am drawn to most are the ones where the person has gone beyond pushing the shutter button to plan the composition, effectively capture a mood and tell a story. I agree with Leverant that anyone can take a picture but not everyone with a camera is a photographer. He wrote this quote before smartphones with cameras even existed, but he understood that photography comes from the heart. We must all be present and conscious when photographing our world.
Do you take photographs?
Do your photographs come from the heart?
Do you think about the story and emotion you want to convey?
Peggy Steffens is an artist and Chopra Certified Meditation Instructor
My goal is to build a community with like-minded individuals who want to grow, share and learn from one another. Please post comments to enrich the experience for all.