Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Learning Emotional Hygiene

Whew! A month bubbling over with emotion, with many reasons for anger ~ rage, even ~ from financial insecurity to holiday preparations gone awry to campaigning and election results to treatment of protesters and law enforcement personnel. People on all sides of every issue have legitimate reasons for that anger. No one is immune; no one is excluded; no one has the corner on outrage.

I've found myself in the midst of various moments of outrage, having difficulty maintaining my composure. I use many techniques, including deep breathing and counting to 5 before responding. Yet I still find myself flopping into bed at night, overcome by physical exhaustion.

So I went in search of advice. Even though I know the truth of what the Dalai Lama says, I've had issues maintaining my emotional hygiene. Several conscious actions have helped me improve:

  • Breathe deeply when outdoors. I find that so much more grounding than deep breaths in the house, the store or the local pub. It's been raining on and off in my neighborhood and the ozone rejuvenates me.
  • Write down my dreams, whether from sleep or my lucid mind. That provides a time ~ while writing ~ to recognize, acknowledge and release whatever emotions are bubbling below the surface. When I'm done writing, I consciously let go. Sometimes they return ~ and that's okay. It simply gives me a reason to once again let go. No judgement.
  • Limit my contact with social media that may incite the anger. No, I don't stay totally away from it ~ not even for a day. I skim stories or headlines or read comments from particular trusted people or sites. Sometimes, I choose to read the entirety of the article so I have a clearer understanding.
  • Take my camera with me on walks in the neighborhood and in nature. I can use my phone camera too, but what I do is focus on finding several images of interest: rain dripping from yellowed leaves, the moonrise, children playing on park swings. Creativity takes me out of that other emotional state ~ whatever other it may be.
  • Listen to music. Music plays in the background of almost everywhere we go that isn't outdoors. I take a minute or five to sit or stroll listening to what is playing. Generally, it changes my mood too.
  • Do my spiritual practice. We each have something. Even people who are agnostics or atheists have something they do religiously to keep themselves present in the world. For me, it's meditation ~ and writing. Sometimes it even includes art. Something I do where my focus can be soft and my brain allowed to wander without my mind paying attention.

I like what these practices do to keep my emotions awake in the compassion arena without being too overrun by anger, frustration and confusion. I'm not saying they're easy. As I said, I'm still often exhausted when I go to bed at night.

What practice/s help you release anger or resentment? Do you agree with the Dalai Lama about emotional hygiene? about compassion? How do you practice self-compassion? How do you support others around you in/with their self-compassion?

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