For years I found myself moving too quickly through mornings. The alarm clock would sound and start the daily race and it would be lunch time before I noticed my surroundings again. Sound familiar? If we look at each day as a single life existing on its own then the problem we find with this lifestyle is that it completely hinders the natural rhythms of growth. Specifically, we are ignoring those first few hours – or the “childhood” of the day – and not giving ourselves the space and the care we need to adequately prepare for what’s ahead.
Not long ago I stepped outside of myself a bit and became more aware of how quickly I was responding to experiences with negative reactions like fear, anger, and judgment. As we continue like this, I realized, we allow ourselves to fall into the trap of seeing these emotions and reactions as normal. Have you ever heard someone use the excuse “I’m not rude/angry/heartless, I’ve just grown up and seen the real world.” Well, that’s the trap – the cynical idea that we are a canvas on which the world can choose to paint whatever it likes. My belief, however, is that while the world does in fact contain the paint, we most certainly hold the brush.
So, I naively think that the world is full of hope and positivity? Absolutely not. I am aware that humanity is full of pain and loss, but we individually are not solely those things – nor are we forced to react to them negatively. We have control over our perspective and reactions, and it merely requires some re-conquering of our brains to see it.
Each morning, take ten minutes and practice this exercise. It can be done peacefully, sitting with your eyes shut – or, if you have less time as most of us do, it can be done while dressing, making breakfast, or any other time you find suitable. I first began the practice on my commute to a previous job, though I will caution that if you find your mind drifting too greatly you should stop immediately and continue when you’ve finished driving.
- Breathe in deeply and focus on the breath. Let it in through your nose and seep into your lungs.
- Release it, letting it leave freely back into the world.
- Choose a negative emotion – even one that you don’t feel you’re holding onto. I usually start with anger.
- On the inhale, say in your mind, “I release all anger,” while imagining yourself pulling the emotion out from the inside of your legs, and your arms, and your chest. See it as a wax that coats and suffocates the inside of your body, and you are scraping it away and gathering it into your lungs.
- When your lungs are full, release the gathered emotion with the breath on your exhale. Let it go freely out of your body – you don’t need it anymore.
- On the next inhale, repeat the actions again – and again until you feel you’ve let go of the anger (or whichever emotion you choose) for the time being. You may feel some resistance in the form of thoughts quickly appearing to remind you that you “don’t have time” or that there are more important things to be focusing on. You may possibly feel tension in your muscles as well. This is all okay, and is simply your mind’s addiction to negativity digging in deeper. You are allowed to push against this.
- When you are ready, move along to another emotion. They are completely of your choosing, as you know yourself best. What hurts? What are you exhausted from carrying with you all day long? What is affecting your ability to live freely? I continue on to things like fear, judgement, hatred, worry – any that seem to come to mind.
The exercise is completed when you choose for it to be. You may now wish to fill this empty space with positive emotions like love, patience, and understanding, which I do on days when I’m feeling a little heavier. This can be done by reversing the previous exercise – repeating “I accept” rather than “I release” and allowing that energy into yourself. It is completely okay, however, to leave this space as it is, without judgement or expectation of how it should feel.
While this may seem odd, what you are doing over time is rewiring your brain to place YOU in control of the lens through which you see the world. You are being brave and acknowledging the negativity within yourself by saying “I see you, and I no longer need you in this moment.” The more often you practice, the less likely you become to greet challenging or painful experiences with knee-jerk reactions. Remember, it is okay and healthy to feel sadness, grief, anger, and disappointment – and the intention is not to rid yourself of these emotions entirely. The goal, always, is to get to a place where we can simply sit with the events unfolding around us, rather than prematurely react – and, when we do react, that it comes from a place of love.
Good luck, dear friends, and keep at it! If we all work toward more thoughtful days then we slowly build a more peaceful world.
Michael F. DuBois is a writer, filmmaker and artist living on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He has a deep love for the ocean and is interested in stories of peace, introspection and personal growth.