As I write this, I put my feet on the ground, and I feel tingling on the soles of my feet. Unexpectedly, a strong, emotional wave rises up from my belly, joins this tingle and moves through my entire body. I feel my heart try to squeeze around the feeling, and I have to take a few huge breaths to let the warm, watery wave pass through me. I have NO explanation for this vulnerable moment. Right now, there is NO reason why I feel “this” way, but I do.
And therein lies one of the biggest struggles we have with our emotions. They are unpredictable, and yet, we’ve been told they are supposed to:
- Make sense
- Be manageable
- Be reasonably expressed
- Not bother anyone else
- Be over quickly
- Not get in the way of our tasks
- Not be too much.
- Not be too little (just the perfect dose of empathy and reaction)
- And so on…
Unfortunately for us sentient, wild, intensely feeling beings, our emotions don’t fit into these rules of behavior so readily. And every time we try to follow the rules and minimize what we feel, we disconnect from our bodies. We give our emotional experience less time and space than it needs.
Our emotions are the element of WATER. Our bellies are the container of our emotional life.
Over the years, we’ve learned to tightly contract our bellies, in order to follow the rules of emotional behavior. The more we do so, the more we deplete ourselves of a natural source of energy; emotional energy. Eventually, we end up exhausted, overwhelmed, defeated, impatient, explosive and emotionally overwhelmed.
Emotions are vast, hold depth, and vary CONSTANTLY in their force, pace and flow. They can change according to the slightest interactions of our day (a glance, a sound, a song, a voice, an unexpected resistance) and are deeply moved by those ever-present, life altering happenings (a birth, menopause, aging parents, dying friends, world politics). They nourish everything in between.
Just like water, our emotions…
- change and adapt
- storm and purify
- calm and reflect
- contain unknown and mystery
- force change
- transport and guide us along.
Our emotions are not meant to be controlled, squeezed or compressed. They need time, space and movement to be spaciously and naturally expressed.
Learning to allow emotional flow, without the old stories or expectations, is a natural option of the body. We hold the qualities of water, of emotion. We are fluid, adaptable, forceful, calm, reflective, stormy, cool, soothing, cleansing. We are water.
Unifying your body experiences
Softening your belly, your emotional container, and dropping deeper into your body is simply a starting point. It is a way to expand your body awareness and begin to open space for your emotional experiences; to allow them to flow like water.
We cannot force a different experience than the one we have. We cannot predict how we are going to feel once we allow the flow and depths of our emotions to flow. When we stop wanting it to be different, and simply allow what is, as a physical, body experience, there is natural movement, and our emotions become a nourishing resource. With practice, this emotional flow, however gentle, subtle, or forceful merges with the rest of you. It stops being an enemy we have to control and rather enriches our experience, our intuition and our bodies.
Your inner movements are effortlessly held and expressed by your outer movements.
1. Start from where you are ~ If you are exhausted, overwhelmed, lost, on the verge of losing it, etc., that’s your starting point.
2. Let go of an end point ~ If you already know how you’re supposed to feel, you’re giving yourself a rule. Our emotions are an inner compass that when we give them space and time, they’ll guide us.
3. Go to your body
~ What pulls your attention?
~ What sensations stand out?
~ Where is there emotional movement or concentration? Where is there contraction and rigidity?
~ Can you be with what is, bring more curiosity and no demand for it to be different?
~ Take time just to be with your body, as a body. No story, just physical sensations.
4. Go deeper into the internal movement
Once you’ve expanded your overall body experience, now you can go deeper in. Even if you’re exhausted, there will be some movement in your body. Whatever movement you feel, simply follow it with your awareness. Get to know it better.
~ It it’s simply the movement of your breath, follow your breath.
~ If it’s agitation on your skin, let it spread all over and maybe shake your body.
~ If it’s bubbling in your low belly, soften into it, breathe and follow the sensation.
~ If it’s a warm, moving internal flow that feels like sadness or grief, follow it like you would follow a river.
~ (I could go on, but I sense you get the idea.)
5. External movement (optional) ~ If your body naturally wishes to move, have a few songs nearby and ready. You may wish to move just one area of the body in order to deepen the unification of your body experience.