Think of a time when you experienced joy in relationship with another, or a time when you made a significant accomplishment or achievement. As you remember that time, perhaps complete with an image of the moment when you felt the joy of connection or the satisfaction of completion, see if you can notice the internal bodily sense or felt sense of it as you recall it in this moment. What happens if you press the “pause” button on that scene, and just allow all the cells in your body soak up the feeling like they were little sponges, letting your entire body fill up with the sensation of that experience? Just set any judgments or critical thoughts about this exercise to the side while you fully engage in noticing what your body feels like.
Just pause, and take time now to engage in the exercise described above…
As I understand things, if you fully engaged in the exercise above, you just increased your neural connections that allow you to access this type of experience. If that doesn’t seem significant enough, then try this exercise the next time you’re feeling some sort of emotional disturbance or challenge. It’s powerful medicine if you allow yourself to fully engage such positive feelings in times of distress.
The biggest challenge to an exercise like this is the mind. It may want to come in and say all sorts of downer things like:
- this is stupid, or irrelevant
- I want proof this will help,
- I won’t do it unless I know how it works,
- it’s not real, it’s just make believe,
- I’d rather hang onto being ______ (sad, angry, whatever) right now
That last one’s a doozy, because we sometimes have a flash of awareness of wanting to continue to suffer when there’s the option to shift out of it, but few of us dare admit it openly. It’s true, though, and I’ve had all of these thoughts at one time or another, and my clients admit that they do, too. My advice is to be curious about the thoughts, set them aside, and do it anyway, as your own personal experiment. What have you got to lose except suffering? This is you being in charge, finding out for yourself on your own authority, what is true, rather than letting the mind bully you or keep you from exploring your own frontiers. You could also just imagine doing both, and remember that no one’s making you stop also feeling sad or angry at the same time as doing this exercise.
Here’s another simple SE exercise you can use right away: pausing. When you notice you’re stressed or in distress of any kind, or rushing from one thing to the next, pause and feel your body. Feel your feet in your shoes, and the solidness of the ground beneath. Feel the chair you’re sitting in, or the clothes on your body. If you can, pause until you feel the worked up feeling settle or come down, even a little bit, before moving on the next thing. Think of it as giving your body a chance to catch up to where your mind is in that moment.
It’s easy to underestimate the power of something so simple. I know I used to. But, think about it. We rush through our days, trying to be as productive as possible, rarely stopping to breathe, and by mid-afternoon, we’re reaching for coffee or some other pick-me-up, and then suddenly we’re too tired to cook and poor choices for dinner seem to make themselves – alcohol, or overeating, fast food, or blowing off exercise or activities we know we want to do, or being cranky or unavailable to connect with loved ones. And no wonder! Our nervous system has never had a chance to digest all the transitions during the day, and finally, it just has had enough and gives out, or we just turn it off by numbing it with our potion of choice. Five days in a row of this, and we’re left wondering why the weekend is rarely enough time to recover.
See what happens if you give a little extra space for transitions, no matter how short. Take in the feeling of having a breather, a tiny break…fully feel the sensation of it, the goodness of it, and let the comfort of it soak in. If you’re really busy and just haven’t reached the point where you can rationalized minutes or seconds of this pausing, then use your walking or driving between places as a way to become really present and just notice what your body feels like, slowing the pace or the driving speed slightly, if at all possible. You’ll be increasing the overall resilience of your system, as a bonus for this effort.
Find out what happens when you give this gift to yourself. If something won’t even let you try, then that just lets you know where you are right now, and that is the place to start, just noticing that. Leave a comment with the results of your experiment below.