Social distancing directives continue to confine many of us to the walls of our homes. Many of us also feel confined to the walls of our minds.
Within this space lies an opportunity. In the midst of COVID-19 we can practice the virtue of being still. Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually still.
Stillness is an uncomfortable position for many of us. It requires us to confront ourselves fully. To be in a state of awareness and acceptance of what is. Stillness requires us to observe and listen as well as to reflect and contemplate. No longer relying on our favorite excuse to run away.
Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh offers guidance here:
If we're not calm, we can't listen deeply and understand. But when our mind is calm, we can see reality more clearly, like still water reflecting the trees, the clouds, and the blue sky. Stillness is the foundation of understanding and insight.
Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh
So how do we do this? How do we reconnect with the aspects of ourselves that we might have been avoiding?
It starts with allowing our own thoughts and feelings, no matter how turbulent, to arise without judging them, creating a story about them, or pushing them away.
This week take time to pause and become more aware of your emotions.
- Notice when a strong emotion is present and turn towards it with openness. You can give the emotion a name (frustration, anxiety, sadness, guilt).
- Be Still and allow yourself to fully feel whatever is coming up and not pass judgment on it. Refrain from distracting yourself with social media or work. Take a few deep breaths and deeply feel the sensations in the body.
- Acknowledge that your emotions do not dictate your response. They are internal signals often carrying some deeper insight or wisdom. And how you respond in the moments you feel them is entirely up to you.
Uncomfortable thoughts and emotions are part of the human experience. By allowing them to come up, and creating space to observe them, they loosen their grip. What we gain is more clarity around the true needs of the present moment – and trust in ourselves to skillfully respond to them.
Unlikely Insight: Ignoring your emotions is bad for your health
Suppression of emotions actually requires tremendous energy, causing physical stress in the body which can affect things like blood pressure and memory, and lead to a host of problems such as heart disease, headaches, autoimmune disorders as well as anxiety and depression.
So even though allowing room for painful emotions isn’t easy, it ultimately supports our overall wellbeing.