90 seconds.

Did you know it takes 90 seconds for you to process the emotional onslaught of a strong emotion? Strong emotions are, well, really overwhelming, and probably unavoidable. These are the emotions that hit you like a giant tsunami and leave wreckage in their wake.

These uncomfortable emotions manifest from a surge of hormones let loose by the limbic system that turn the sympathetic nervous system on high. This ancient part of our brain is responsible for emotions, making memories and reacting to instinct.

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Particularly strong emotions feel like they will last FOREVER– anger, fear, anxiety, frustration– they don’t just feel like a passing storm, they feel like they may drown you.

But guess what? Your body deals with the physical hormonal imbalance of the strong emotion, washing it away into residual memory in 90 seconds.  

90 seconds.

This gives a whole new power to the act of sitting, breathing through our emotions.

If I can manage to stay with my breath for 90 seconds, then the emotion will subside. Sure, just like a stormy sea, another wave may roll up on me in a few minutes. But that wave will resolve itself too, in a mere 90 seconds.

Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön, author of When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult writes this:

“The problem is that we have so little tolerance for uncomfortable feelings. You try everything to escape them, but if, somehow, you could stay present and touch the rawness of the experience, then you can learn something. Connect with the physical sensation in your body. It always feels really bad; it’s usually a tightening in the throat or the heart or the solar plexus. Stay with that and say to yourself, ‘Millions of people all over the world have this kind of discomfort, fear – you don’t even have to call it anything – this feeling of not wanting things to be this way. This is my link with humanity.’ Just connect with the idea that this moment is a shared experience all over the world.”

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“…connect with the idea that this moment is a shared experience all over the world.” – Pema Chodron

I published my Ocean Breathing for Strong Emotions in spring 2016 and received amazing feedback. Please read it here: “thoughts like a calm ocean.”

This time around I’ve got something special for you: your very own Audio Guided Meditation Audio. Any time you experience a particularly strong and uncomfortable emotion remember: you only have to manage to dog paddle for 90 seconds. Sit, breathe, imagine yourself floating in the center of the calm ocean. You can, and you will swim your way out.

Ocean Meditation

            1.  Dive in: Watch your thoughts come and go.  Do not control or manipulate.  Do not change or rush.  Notice that the thoughts are like waves.  They arise out of the ocean of consciousness and then dissolve right back to where they came from.  They were never separate.

2.    Get Wet:  If there is one wave that is particularly strong, big, or threatening, do not turn your back on it. Allow the wave to wash over you.  Even if the wave crashes on you, as if the emotion is particularly strong, stay with it.  Do not swim away.  Let the wave crash and the water droplets re-join the ocean.

            3.  Float:  Whenever new thoughts arise, like waves raised by the wind, watch them dissolve back into the ocean.  Allow yourself to float in the center of your experience.  Eventually, your thoughts will be like a calm ocean.

When you feel ready to integrate back into your daily life, do so slowly and mindfully. Take a few minutes to vacation from worrying and then float through your day.

Happy Floating,

Much love-

lisa


Guided Meditation Teachings

Love these Resources? Consider partnering with Lisa to continue providing valuable teachings that promote hope, health and happiness here:

$4.00

may the force be with you. #MeditationThoughtMondays

not our thoughts, viveka

I was all snuggled up on the couch, ready to brave the stormy night with Star Wars. The iconic yellow text retreated into the star field and I felt completely safe from Dark Forces; without warning the thunderstorm seethed and the sound of hail bashing our house drowned out the opening refrain.

“Oh DEAR GOD my plants! I’m going to LOSE EVERYTHING! Forget about finding Luke Skywalker and restoring the Balance of the Force. I have to do something!

My garden wasn’t in a galaxy, far, far away, it was just down the road being pummeled with frozen marbles. I temporarily lost my mind; my adrenaline revved up to run to the rescue. I imagined myself darting out to the car, driving four blocks in a flash flood, sprinting to my garden plot… and then… what?

What could I possibly do to protect my baby spinach and my unborn beets?

Nothing, I realized.

No rescue plan would be successful. If the storm was going to flood my seeds and pulverize my kale then it was going to do it whether I was on my couch or whether I was fighting my way through mud, losing my mind trying to stop it. This wasn’t Star Wars and it wasn’t a real disaster. This was just a Midwest thunderstorm.


Sometimes during meditation, the mind does this ‘overreacting’ bit like it’s trying to win an Academy Award. The mind identifies a small problem, turns it into a disaster and then creates an elaborate rescue plan. It’s exhausting. 

The script:

Thought: I’m feeling sad today.

Erroneous catastrophe: If I’m feeling sad right now, then I must be sad ALL the time and I must be depressed. Something is inherently wrong with me.

Rescue Plan: I need to call a doctor immediately, check on my health insurance plan for covering anti-depressants and eat a bag of Ghirardelli chocolate chips while I’m on hold.

Thought: I’m feeling tired right now.

Erroneous catastrophe:  There must be something wrong with my metabolism and I probably have cancer of the thyroid. 

Rescue Plan:  I’ll start planning my own funeral so my cousin won’t feel entitled to play a Prince cover as my eulogy.

Thought: I’m feeling annoyed at this person.

Erroneous catastrophe: This person is the bane of my existence and I’ll never be happy if I have to stay on the same project team as him.

Rescue Plan: I’ll devise a way to get this person fired so I never have to work with him again. Then, I’ll rule the world.


The tool that yoga philosophy and mindfulness meditation gives us is discernment.

This is the ability to realize that we are not our thoughts; we can have a thought without being defined by that thought.

As Sharon Salzberg writes, “Most of the time, we think we are our thoughts. We forget, or have never noticed, that there’s an aspect of our mind that’s watching these thoughts arise and pass away.”

The Sanskrit term for this ‘keen discernment’ is viveka. This is when we hone our ability to consciously discern ourselves from the rescue plan of anxiety and instead exercise clear judgement, which can help us avoid unnecessary suffering. We don’t always have to rush to the scene with a rescue plan. Very often, it is a better choice to watch the movie and story unfold.

One impressively simple and effective way to become the ‘watcher’ and engage in viveka is to use the technique of ‘naming your thoughts.’

When you are meditating, your mind will wander.

Don’t create a rescue plan. Instead, simply notice what you are thinking. Categorize it: plan, worry, remembrance, distraction, anticipation, new idea. Then watch the thought trickle away.


“Naming Your Thoughts: Developing Discernment Viveka”

  1. Find your meditation seat and set your timer for 8 minutes.
  2. Take 3 cleansing inhales and exhales.
  3. Sit with only breath awareness for a few minutes, just notice your breath coming and going without changing it.
  4. Notice what thoughts are present in your awareness.
  5. When a thought arises that is noticeable enough to distract you from your breath, label it ‘thinking.’
  6. If it is more distinct, then you can label it more specifically: ‘planning, worrying, anticipating, remembering, ruminating.’
  7. Return to your easy breath awareness; remind yourself: you do not need a rescue plan.

At the end of the 8 minutes, take a few cleansing breaths and notice how to you feel.


Try it. “Thinking Meditation”

May the Force Be With You,

-lisa


Guided Meditation Teachings

Love these Resources? Consider partnering with Lisa to continue providing valuable teachings that promote hope, health and happiness here:

$4.00

how yoga helps us love ourselves. #MeditationThoughtMondays

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Real-talk confession (read: moderately judgmental but totally honest statement): I cringe when I hear anyone equate ‘taking a yoga class’ to ‘going to the gym.’  Something along the lines of, ‘Oh, I’m not going to pay for a yoga class because I already have an unlimited gym membership and I work out there all the time.’

I mean, I’m glad you’re moving.  Sitting is the new smoking, so please, run and bike and walk and jump around on boxes and over tires and in front of swinging kettle-balls-of-death during your gym-rat time as much as you want.  But please, don’t equate that workout to yoga. 

Yoga is not an exercise routine, it is a path to finding freedom from self-inflicted frustration and a path to uncovering your heart’s desire.  It is a science that requires deep introspection and examination of all the mental patterns which generate your daily reality and create the lens through which you see and understand the world.  It is a path to understanding yourself, your habits, your behaviors and learning to love yourself through that understanding.

“Understanding is love’s other name.  If you don’t understand, you can’t love.”  -Thich Nhat Hanh

Through yoga, I’ve learned to understand and love myself despite my tendencies to be self-judgmental, anxious and worrisome.  I’ve learned to understand and love myself even when I’m not perfect and feel inadequate.  I’ve learned to understand how I automatically respond to guilt, shame, and fear, and love myself into being more vulnerable and forgiving.  It was a lot of work.  It required commitment, daily practice, and trust in my Teachers.

The meaning of yoga is ‘to become whole’.  We only become whole when we are truly capable of understanding.  Understanding how we came into this world, why we are here, what life is for, and how we can love ourselves.  Then, we get to love others with abandon… and that’s the fun part!

I challenge you to understand yourself better.  I challenge you to move into becoming whole and by learning to love yourself.

Meditation Challenge:

  1. Set your timer for 10 minutes and have a journal and a pen nearby.
  2. Find a comfortable seated position
  3. Speak your intention aloud. Ask: “How can I love myself more fully?”
  4. Sit quietly and listen. When the timer goes off, write down whatever you are thinking.
  5. Repeat for ten days. At the end of ten days, review what you have written in your journal.  Make a new habit, a new thought pattern, and start loving yourself more… immediately!

Happy Understanding,

-lisa