Argh, another trip to the dentist! Sitting in the chair. I thought, “This is a great opportunity to practice mindfulness”. So as the dentist was drilling away I was noticing my breathing and my body. Mindfulness really is about being aware of the present moment. As the dentist was digging into my mouth I wanted to be mindful of my body, my breath and my reaction to the uncomfortable feelings I was experiencing. It was interesting, I found that with each breath I’d breathe out the tension, and by the time I’d breathed in again my body had tensed up in response to the dentists work. My shoulders rose, my stomach clenched, my toes even curled. What I found interesting was that even though I was conscious of all these physical reactions and I could choose to relax, my body kept reacting physically in exactly the same way.
The best part of mindfulness is that it really isn’t about changing your emotions, it’s about noticing what’s actually going on and making room for it. I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned in the last few months, we can’t actually control our emotions. We can guide and direct them, we can choose to think and focus on different things, but at the end of the day sometimes we simply feel a certain way. (I think the Dentist thing is probably pretty deeply ingrained in most of us!)
Mindfulness gives us freedom to feel all of those things without judging them as wrong. It’s not the emotion itself that creates problems it’s the way we try to make them go away and control them. Sometimes we even get upset about feeling upset, and that’s the secondary pain that comes from not allowing our emotions to be. Often we find ourselves doing anything (eating, drinking, gambling, doing drugs) just to make negative emotions go away for a while, and it works… in the short term. But in the long term it leads to another mountain of problems and even more emotional dramas.
So rather than judge your emotions this week, I challenge you to notice them, try to name them, (Yep, that’s definitely frustration I’m feeling right now) be curious about what you’re feeling and allow it to be what it is. Even try to open up to it and make room for it. When you drop the struggle with the negative emotions you take control of your life again and can choose the actions you want to take based on the values you have rather than the emotions that have hold of you. If you feel like you need a little help why not drop me a line and the next time you head to the dentist, try a little mindfulness.