Adapted from “Yoga and the Quest for the True Self “ by Stephen Cope
When it comes to regulating emotion and physical feelings there is almost complete agreement that the key to success lies in learning to “ground” our awareness in the present moment. This concept is supported in Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” and Jon-Kabat-Zin’s work on with Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.
But, as those of us who suffer from chronic pain, stress, anxiety or other types of emotional and physical discomfort know, it is not easy to become grounded when any of these things are actually happening to us. As both Tolle and Kabat-Zin emphasize, we need to practice regulation techniques on a daily basis, to the point where they become second nature, if we wish to effectively manage negative physical or emotional experiences. There are many different techniques for achieving awareness of the present moment, and I would be hard pressed to say that one is better than the other. I think, as with so many other things in life, the effectiveness of each is different from person to person, and you owe it to yourself to try several, until you find the one that works best for you.
Personally, I find that the writings and ideas of Stephen Cope resonate with me, and I like his concept of “Riding the Wave” as an effective way to experience what is actually taking place in the present moment. It consists of five simple steps: Breathe, Relax, Feel, Watch, and Allow. Here’s how it works.
Riding the Wave. When you notice a wave of “feeling” arise begin to fully and consciously breathe, focussing your entire awareness on the simple act of respiration. As your breath settles into its own rhythm, shift your awareness to your physical body. Perform a simple body scan, mindfully encouraging each part of your body to relax. It may help to remember how relaxation feels for you. It could be a sense of softness, a sense of openness or a feeling of spaciousness. Maybe it seems like warmth. Some people experience relaxation as heaviness or sinking, while for others it is lightness or floating. Just notice what relaxation feels like for you, then breathe it in to every single part of your body. As you do so, begin to notice any physical and emotional sensation that might be present and actively feel what is taking place within you right now, at this moment in time. Rather than trying to suppress or avoid these feelings, see if you can become aware of them. As you observe, see if you can move from “living” these sensations to “witnessing” them, to just watching them happen. From this witness perspective know that it is not necessary to choose for, or against, the feelings. Simply watch. Finally, know that it is OK to allow the wave of sensation to happen. Watch as it rises, as it moves, and know that you can use your awareness and breath to stay with it, to experience it, to “ride it out” until it eventually, but certainly, subsides on its own.
While this technique is often used to help us move through difficult experiences, it can just as easily be used during pleasant experiences. Give it a try! See how it works for you.
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Full Catastrohpe Living by Jon Kabat-Zin
Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope.