Ep. 24: How to Be With Any Emotion

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The Buddha taught that, to be free, we need to investigate every part of our human experience with an intimate and mindful attention. This includes emotions.

Emotions aren’t “bad” in and of themselves.

It’s what we do when we feel them – the thoughts that ensue, the actions we take as a result – not the emotion itself, that often causes our suffering.

Practicing a mindfulness of emotions helps us to learn about ourselves and our mind. It helps us not get hooked by a difficult feeling, or the buffers we turn to – like overdrinking, overworking, over-Netflixing…etc – to keep from feeling it.

When we can be mindful of our emotions, we can be less reactive 

And that is when we have true freedom – the freedom to choose how we want to respond, instead of slipping into our default mode.

For many people, the idea of being with an emotion can seem daunting.

Mindfulness enables us to take advantage of what Tara Bennett-Goleman calls “the magic quarter-second” – the space between an impulse and an action.

By being present with an emotion instead of indulging in the stream of thoughts that stems from the emotion, we can use this magic 1/4 second to create a different response than we normally would.

We can stop the spiral of thoughts that might exacerbate an emotion by simply being present with the emotion itself.

So how do we practice mindfulness of emotions?

The first step is pausing to recognize that we are experiencing an emotion.

The second step is choosing to be present with our moment-to-moment experience.

We need to recognize the emotions with an accepting, curious and kind attention, without getting hooked; without attachment or aversion.

The result of this presence becomes the capacity to release habitual reactivity, to respond to our life circumstances more skillfully, with a wise heart, and to step out of the looping thought patterns we fall into when we get hooked.

Because the thoughts are what create the drama, what keeps the emotion hanging around longer than it needs to, what keeps us stuck and spiraling.

Why is this important

Emotions occupy a lot of our energy and mind space. And the truth is, our feelings show up in our body – whether we are aware of this connection or not.

I see so many patients that have physical manifestations of their psychological and emotional experiences; people whose deep trauma has led directly to any number of illnesses or diseases.

Doing the work to be present with your emotions now can help you get to know your body and better manage your daily stressors so that you may be able to avoid other serious health issues down the road.

In reality, it takes a strong dose of courage to really be with your emotions. This work is not for the faint of heart, but you can do this

Remember: the point is not to get rid of feelings, or to have some notion of the “right” feelings.

Some people think equanimity means not feeling any emotion. But emotions are an amazing part of being human!

We get to feel joy and feel horny, happy, connection and joy.

We get to feel sadness and grief, anger and jealousy.

ALL the feels.

In this episode, I offer exercises for beginning to live in a more conscious relation to your myriad feelings, and give some tools for how to do this with loving self-awareness.

So I invite you to join me.

Learn to let your emotions season you, not rule you. Because when we can be with any emotion, we are truly free.

In This Episode You’ll Learn:

  • What the four foundations of mindfulness are
  • Why learning to be with your emotions will help you avoid unwanted habitual reactions – like yelling at a loved one, worrying too much, or buffering
  • How to break painful patterns of thought-looping and anxiety spiraling by taking advantage of the “magic quarter-second”
  • Why describing how the sensations of a feeling appear physically in your body is one step you can take to be more present with your emotions
  • Tools on how to pause and recognize whether an emotion you are experiencing is either pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral – and why doing this reflexively will help you stay unhooked from judgment, attachment or aversion to your ranging feelings
  • Why true freedom requires the ability to be with ANY emotion


// If you’re new here, grab the starter kit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll get access to the private Facebook group where you can ask me questions! Once you join, there’s also a weekly FB live called Wake the F*ck Up Wednesday, where you can ask questions that come up as you do this work – in all parts of your life.