Last week, we looked at creating a mindful middle ground for working with our emotions, which I call channeling. This week, we’ll look at a specific channeling exercise from my book, The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You.
When you can channel your emotions, you’ll discover something most people don’t know, which is that your emotions don’t disappear when you’re not feeling them; instead, each of your emotions moves through you at all times, and each one endows you with specific gifts and abilities. Let me show you what I mean.
Channeling Your Emotions
Let’s start with a simple flow-inducing exercise. You can be sitting, standing, or lying down.
Please take a deep breath and fill up your chest and your belly so you feel a little bit of tension – not too much. Hold your breath for a few seconds (count to three), and as you breathe out, make small, gentle spiraling movements with your hands, your arms, your feet, your legs, your neck, and your torso. Move your body in gentle, easy, relaxing ways.
Now, breathe in again, expand your chest and your belly until you feel a little bit of tension, hold for three seconds – and breathe out with a sigh as you spiral your arms and your legs and your neck. You can even hang your tongue out. Just let go. You’re a ragdoll. Let it go.
Now breathe normally and check in with yourself. If you feel a bit softer and calmer, and maybe even a little bit tired, thank the emotion that helped you release some of your tension and restore some of your flow: Thank your sadness.
That’s what healthy, flowing sadness feels like, and that’s what it does – it helps you let go and it helps you bring some flow back to your system. Each of the emotions has this free-flowing state that brings you specific gifts and tools. We’ve learned to identify emotions only when they move to an obvious mood state, but that’s not all they are.
You don’t have to cry to be sad; you can just let go. Sadness is about releasing things and relaxing into yourself.
Take a moment to notice how aware you are of your body. Sadness is a very internal emotion that brings you back to yourself and makes you aware of your interior state. And that’s why we tend to avoid sadness in our everyday lives. It’s not the right emotion to walk around with all the time, because it doesn’t protect your boundaries – and it doesn’t make you focused or ready for action. That’s not its job – it’s not supposed to do those things.
Sadness brings flow back to you, it calms you, and it helps you release uncomfortable things you’ve been grasping onto – like muscle tension, fatigue, lost hopes, or disappointments. Sadness helps you let go of things that aren’t working anyway.
It’s important to use the skills your sadness brings you, because it’s necessary to let go regularly – you know, before everything piles up into identifiable emotional distress, muscle pain, or misery. Maintaining your flow and letting go is an easy thing to do – now that you know what sadness feels like.
Whenever you need to, you can consciously welcome your sadness and restore a sense of flow to your life by breathing in and gathering any tension, and then breathing out gently as you make spiraling movements with your body, shake yourself off, shimmy, yawn, or sigh (maybe when no one else is around). It’s that simple. To channel your sadness, you just relax and let go.
Running from Sadness and Losing Your Way
Though sadness is not the correct emotion to walk around with at all times, it’s an incredibly important emotion. If you run from it as a matter of course, you’ll have a very hard time, not just with tension-release and relaxation, but with moving forward in your life and making healthy changes.
Your capacity to change and grow is connected to your capacity to let go of the past and things that don’t work. Sadness is the emotion that gives you the skills you need to let go. What’s interesting about sadness — and so many of us don’t realize this — is that it bring us two gifts: Release and Rejuvenation.
Most of us link sadness only to loss, but as we just experienced, sadness also brings us relaxation, which is necessary for clear thinking and clear action. Sadness helps us clear out the unhealthy, unnecessary, or unhelpful things we cling to so that we can make room for something new.
What fascinates me is that many meditation systems have co-opted sadness without realizing it. Nearly every meditation system I’ve worked with utilizes the gifts sadness brings: the relaxation, the bodily release, and the sense of letting things go — of being non-attached. But because the sadness is not being used in its mood state, almost no one realizes which emotion it is!
What’s nice about knowing sadness more clearly is that you can access it any time you need it, instead of having to be in a time-consuming meditative state (and instead of waiting until you need a full-on crying session). How cool is sadness?
Sadness is a wonderful emotion, but all of them are! They’re like an amazing toolkit, full of magic – which is why it’s so crazy that we’ve been trained since childhood to distrust our emotions.
Next Saturday, we’ll learn to channel the emotion that brings us the gifts of intuition and instincts. Yay emotions!