“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” – Lao Tzu
The final part of this series focuses on emotions. Most of us are so afraid of our emotions even though we shouldn’t be. There’s no such thing as a “bad” emotion. All emotions are simply signals telling us something needs to change. And we need to listen to these signals before the problems we have get worse. This is the message in Heart of the Soul (also available in South Africa). In it, Gary Zukav and Linda Francis promote three things:
“What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” – Abraham H. Maslow
There are so many benefits of meditation. In addition to reduced anxiety and insomnia, it helps you keep cool in the midst of madness and is also great for resting before you get tired (as Dale Carnegie suggests). Ultimately, it’s about slowing down to connect with yourself and your feelings.
Meditating for half an hour every evening really has brought a sense of grounding to my life. If you can’t find the time (which simply means you need meditation more than ever), all it takes is a few minutes in silence or a nice hot bath. Just close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Be aware of the feelings you’re having and pay attention to where in your body those feelings are occurring. It’s the first step to building emotional intelligence.
“The unexamined life is not worth living” – Socrates
Once you’ve gotten used to feeling what you’re feeling, the next step is to express. It’s about getting the issues off your chest so they don’t linger around and add to your woes. Other than having a solid support group, one of the best ways to do that is through a journal. I’ve been keeping one since I was fourteen and writing in it almost every day has been truly incredible.
This is about slowing down and connecting with your thoughts. It’s about listening to what that wise inner voice is telling you. Again, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Take a few minutes every day to jot down your thoughts, your dreams, or one thing you’re grateful for. Write about what’s happened lately and how it made you feel. Write about how you reacted to a problem and why you think you did what you did.
Information like that is priceless when it comes to figuring out what makes you tick. Looking at the events of your life from an objective standpoint really puts them in perspective. Sometimes you can’t help but laugh at all the molehills you turned into mountains. And going over some entries you wrote years ago reminds you how much you’re grown and how far you’ve come.
“Flow with whatever is happening and let your mind be free. Stay centred by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.” – Chuang Tzu
Relaxing involves two things. It’s about doing one thing at a time and making sure you do it slowly. In a nutshell, relaxing is about focusing on the present. I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to be completely engaged in whatever it is you’re doing, from eating to reading to working out at the gym. There’s no greater feeling in life than being in that blissful state of flow.
Focusing on the present also ties into connecting with your feelings and thoughts. It’s about accepting all the curve balls life throws your way as an inevitable part of the experience. It’s about understanding that you can’t control everything. In fact, the only thing you can control is yourself and doing so requires letting your thoughts and feelings flow freely.
The first step is for us to receive them completely. We must detach so we feel our feelings without allowing them to completely sweep us up. Don’t resist your frustration or your anger because repression will only make it stronger. Instead, think of yourself as a conduit. Embrace it completely! Listen to what your body is trying to tell you and then start healing the pain. Don’t waste your time trying to rearrange the outside world when your inner world is where the real problem lies.
“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
In closing, I’d like to offer an edited extract from the book:
“You must become aware of everything you are feeling all the time. Continuously scanning your energy system and the accompanying thoughts, moment by moment, is emotional awareness. Emotional awareness means relaxing into the present moment even when it contains painful emotions. Intimacy means trusting that the universe will provide what you need, when you need it, and in a manner most appropriate for you.”