This task is an interesting one – it is about the choice to decide how to deal with our feelings.
I know, it sounds like the opposite of what I wrote in the previous three steps, but it’s not, it is just a further step on the mindfulness path.
What we’ve learned so far is to focus on our inner world, to recognise and named our feelings and to become aware of them, without judging, avoiding or thinking about them.
And now we are about the learn to make decisions about our feelings.
Starting with a small reminder: making a decision is part of what make us up as human, and it is the basis of freedom. Even if we are angry, disappointed, very excited or sad, we are allowed to make decisions, and we have the choice to do it or not.
If we act guided by our feelings, we re-act to our inner world. It is an easy way to deal with it, but it could bring a lot of problems as well. Imagine you start screaming to your boss because you don’t agree with the last office policy. Not a good idea.
If we are aware of what we feel, we can understand our feelings and how this affect our body: where do we feel the joy, does our body hurt when we are angry. That means we are conscious of what we feel.
Being aware of our feelings gives us the opportunity to decide how to act further: do we like to act by them – crying if we are sad, jumping around if we are happy; or do we rather work in a different way – to walk around the block to calm down our anger. We have this choice, despite how difficult is the situation.
Let’s take the example with the boss once again we can explode and let him know how upset we are with the new changes; we could say politely that we would set up the new policy differently, or we could excuse us and go out of the room for a while. Either way is a choice that we’ve got. There are pro and contrast for either choice, but the most important are that there is more than one way to deal with our feelings.
There is also the situation that we are overwhelmed from our feelings and not able to make any choice. In this case we are just aware that we are overwhelmed and don’t do anything.
Having a choice and making a decision means to have the responsibility for our action. It is much easier to put the blame on someone else or something else and say: This anger makes me so furious that I have to scream at everyone around me.
No, the truth is the the anger is our own feeling and if we shout at our colleagues, friends, partner or children, we are the people who do this and none else. None force us to shout around, only our anger.
It could be hard to get the responsibility but on the other hand thinking of the responsibility could help to make a choice that avoid further difficulties, problems and even more anger.
How the exercise works
During the day in a quite minute become aware of your body: how is its position, the does the contact with the surrounding feels, how does the body feel. Now get the attention to your feelings, get aware of you feel and give it a name. Then, bring the attention back to the body and focus on the way how your current feeling makes the body feel.
Try to find out if you rate this physical sensation as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Again – don’t judge them, just be aware of how the feeling in the body can be rated.
After a while, bring the attention back to the body, its position and how the environment around it does it feel. This is the end of the exercise.
And step by step guide from the original The ABC of Mindfulness:
Be aware of body Be aware of feeling
Be aware of feeling in the body
Be aware of judgement – Be aware of body
When you’ve done this a few times, you will see that you get closer to your inner world, to your feelings and yourself. You will see the connections between the way you feel and the way you act. You will start to understand yourself. This was for me the greatest experience while learning those exercises. Once you understand why you are doing what you are doing it becomes very simple to get clear of what you want, or not, how you’d like to act or not, how to communicate with others. You become aware of yourself and the world around you, which is a great state of your mind and body.
Enjoy your practice and stay aware!