Making Space for Whatever Comes

sunrise-over-water

Today feels hard. If I’m being honest yesterday and Friday felt kind of tough too. Not overwhelmingly hard but emotionally challenging. I was feeling annoyed and irritable by 10am yesterday and while venting with my co-workers and having a generally good day helped, I still went to bed feeling sad. This morning I awoke noticing that familiar weight and feeling of tightness in my chest, a telltale sign of sadness for me. I’m not sure why I feel sad, maybe it’s my hormones, maybe it’s thinking about the experiences of undocumented immigrants this week that is causing me to feel frustrated, sad, and worried, maybe its the gray and rainy weather we’ve had over the last few days, maybe it’s not getting enough sleep recently. Maybe it’s all of these things.

What I’ve been working on and what I encourage my clients to do is to make space for whatever comes. To not get caught in over-analyzing or trying to “fix” or push away whatever I’m feeling but to allow it. To make room for what I feel without judgement. This is a challenging task and through my own experience and guiding clients through this process I’ve found that it is worthwhile. Instead of struggling with what I feel this morning, instead of trying to figure out the exact reason for my sadness, I’m going to allow it to be with me. I’m going to be curious about what it feels like physically, to notice the thoughts that I have about it without buying into those thoughts. I may even try to welcome it as though it were a cute sad puppy that showed up and needed some comfort. I will be there for myself. I’m going to make room for my mood to change or not change and I’m going to do what I can. If you’re feeling like me today or whenever you’re having a hard time, I encourage you to do the same. See if you can make space for whatever comes. Instead of fighting against what you feel, allow it, and notice if it becomes easier to bear, easier to sit with.

The exercise below is one way that I’ve learned to make space for whatever comes. I learned and slightly adapted this exercise from Pema Chodron and it is a shortened version of an extended exercise that I frequently do in therapy with my clients. Next time you’re experiencing an uncomfortable emotion guide yourself through this exercise and see what happens.

FEAR Exercise

Find it in your body

  • When you feel activated or upset scan your body from head to toe and notice where the physical sensations associated with the emotions are located
  • Observe these sensations with curiosity

Embrace it

  • Don’t try to change or get rid of the emotions or physical sensations
  • See if you can breathe in and make space for these feelings
  • Allow the feelings to be there
  • Place one hand gently over the part of your body where you notice the sensation, send some comfort and love to this sensation as though it were a distressed baby or puppy.

Allow your thoughts to dissolve

  • Whenever you notice yourself getting distracted by thoughts see if you can let them go and come back to observing the feeling
  • You might find your mind pulling you to analyze the feeling or figuring out how to get rid of it. Just see if you can keep bringing your attention back to the physical sensations you’re having right now.

Remember all the other people in the world experiencing the same feeling

  • You are not alone in this feeling
  • You are having this feeling because you’re a human being and you care about something
  • Think of all of the other people who might be experiencing something similar right now.
  • Let this feeling help you connect with your humanity and people around the world.
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