If you have not read Part 1, you can read it here.
“When we protect ourselves so we won’t feel pain, that protection becomes like armor, like armor that imprisons the softness of of the heart.” ― Pema Chödrön
When I look back on my life, I remember many times that I ran away and hid from feeling the feels, and times when I allowed myself to move through them. My most intense experience of this was the grief and trauma I felt after the death of my mother in 2012. I had been taking care of her and my father since she was diagnosed with cancer. When I finally returned to my home, I consciously walked into the feels. There was no way for me to escape it, so I surrendered.
It really hurt. I felt alone. Nobody could possibly know what I was going through. I lay in my room in a foggy haze for hours at a time. I knew I needed to rest and recover from months of traumatic survival training. Rest, floods of tears, snuggling with my dog, and exercise were my key daily practices that got me through.
During that time I also faced fears that had been holding me back for years from connecting with people (especially men) in social environments. It seemed that the fears I had no longer applied to my life. Within the sadness I felt so deeply for months, a shift was happening that opened up space for new patterns and belief systems. My fear of not being loved was no longer present, and in its place was the realization that everyone wants connection and love, just like me. This made it easy to approach people differently, and I made connections that I never could have before.
After my mom died, I remember saying “I feel like my DNA has shifted.” I was becoming a different person. The void was like a cocoon where I went to feel what was real, and emerged little by little with new wings to fly.
I cannot imagine the physical pain and sickness that would have manifested in my body if I had not allowed myself to feel all the feels. After about 8 months of serious grieving, I started to experience joy again. It was so relieving. The following 4 years have been a wonderful blend of feeling deep sadness and longing with ecstatic joy and gratitude for the life I have. I have made choices for my well-being, and manifested some of my wildest dreams. I have learned to surrender to waves of emotion as they come, and allow them to move through me, teach me, and wake me up.
In the modern world where we have to “hold it together,” sadness, fear, grief and anger can be extremely hard to handle and process on our own. But there are tools that can help us through.
In Part 1, I talked about how to add things into your life to create a lifestyle that supports feeling the emotional body. Now I will offer advice about what to do when you experience an emotional release.
Step 2. Tactics. How do you approach feeling the feels?
1. Lie down, relax, and get comfortable.
Imagine you are bringing more life into your body when you inhale, more presence, more awareness. Allow the breath to make more space in your actual body for movement of energy and emotion.
3. Say “yes” to whatever is there.
Let it change and move you. The easiest way to cause more suffering is to resist the hard feelings, to wish it were different and to harden and tense against it. Instead try saying “yes” to the pain without judgement of it. Let it be there. Welcome it and allow it to move through you.
4. Seek support.
Snuggle with a pet or call a human friend. Ask to be held or just listened to. If nobody is available at that time, hold yourself. Practice compassion and self-love and try not to judge.
5. Make sounds and/or move your body.
Whatever you do, don’t get stiff. Sounding and movement can help you move the energy and emotion. When you exhale, allow sighs, sounds, and vibrations to come out. Move in an organic way that encourages your body to open.
6. Give it time.
Take the time you need to relax and open into this new space. Hold yourself in loving kindness like a mother holds a child.
When you feel able to complete your session, practice self-care. Check in with yourself. What do you want/need now? Eat a nourishing meal, go for a walk in the fresh air, or hang out with a friend for a bit. Tenderly come back and feel how it is to do normal things. Be gentle with yourself, and observe.
Note: If you have a busy or stressful lifestyle, and you finally let yourself relax and feel, you may feel a huge relief. You might realize that there are a lot more feels to feel inside than you thought. It might feel like the floodgates have opened and the tears are endless. Don’t worry. Trust yourself and let it flow. Be careful of confusing the need for down time with getting depressed. If you notice yourself getting addicted to the darkness, try to do something that brings you back to your life. A small task or act of kindness can help you direct your attention away from depression when it gets all consuming. The feels can give you insight to make small changes in your life or to the situation that is causing your pain. Listen to them, but don’t get addicted to the pain itself. Seek help from a friend or therapist. Asking for help is a sign of courage and self-awareness.
Be present, and keep moving. We can only move forward from where we are with the tools we have collected. Life is a practice, and we can practice together. Share yourself. Open up to your true potential. Create space in your lifestyle and your body to feel the feels. Your quality of life will improve and you will be free. Face every sunrise as a new day, a re-birth of infinite possibilities.