Our world is overheating.
We face this difficulty both externally, in the form of global warming, urban sprawl, and armed conflict, and internally, in the form of stress, and the challenge of metabolizing difficult situations and processing the strong emotions they evoke. In the face of hostility and violence breaking out all over the world, it is easy to shut down, or feel that we can’t make a difference, or a big enough difference to matter.
But this is not true.
While we can’t necessarily intervene, personally, to mediate global conflict or bring back the polar icecaps, we can make choices in the way we manage energy in our homes and modes of transportation, and we can make choices in the way we manage our own emotions and intervene in areas of conflict in our own, personal lives.
In today’s Living Joyfully, I look at three different approaches to doing so, and I share some simple, easy suggestions for ways of releasing tension and returning to center. I also share a FREE guided relaxation practice to actively assist with the process of releasing “stuck” emotional energy in the body. I will say more about this below.
Click here to access the FREE Guided Relaxation audio recording.
Equine Facilitated Learning: The Power of Emotional Intelligence
In Equine Facilitated Learning, we emphasize the value of increasing emotional intelligence – part of this involves treating emotions as messengers, and working to understand and respond to the messages behind the emotion. This is very different from reacting to another person or event as if they caused the emotion. Although outside events and other people certainly do have the power to push our buttons, what happens next is our own responsibility.
In EFL, we work to raise tolerance for vulnerability, so that we can stand in a place of volatility, and still think clearly, from a place of center.
All of our emotions have value as messengers. But acting out of a state of emotional charge rarely brings about positive change.
The Dalai Lama urges us to look for the value in the situation or person with whom we’re experiencing friction. What is their positive intent? What would a positive outcome of the situation look like? How can I help us get there?
We don’t have the power to change other people, but we do have the power to affect the situation positively. The more we can stay calm in a vulnerable situation, without reacting or making it worse, the more positive effect we can have. This is true not only because keeping a cooler head leaves more of our mind available for creative problem solving, but also because of the power of mirror neurons.
Again, horses are great teachers here. They respond very immediately and visibly to our non-verbal cues – faster breathing, increased blood pressure and heart rate – these cues signal alarm to our four-footed companions. And,because 90% of human communication is non-verbal, our level of stress also affects the people around us. Their mirror-neurons fire a stress response when they perceive our stress level rise. The positive flip-side of this, is that
staying calm has a contagious effect as well.
You can literally improve a situation, non-verbally, without “doing” or saying anything, simply by remaining calm, and not getting drawn into a storm of emotions. Respond to the emotion’s message, without reacting to the emotion’s barbs. It makes a difference. How cool is that?
Yoga: The Return to Cool
If you’ve been practicing Ujayi breathing in Yoga – the one with the longer exhale that sounds like ocean waves – you’ve been practicing exactly how to cool your core, staying calmer and more centered, releasing tension through each gentle exhale, calming the mind, and opening up to the new.
As a Yoga teacher, I have seen and experienced first-hand the ways that emotional energy can become lodged in the body. We know that stress takes its toll on our minds, preventing us from enjoying the present moment – or even experiencing the present moment in the first place, because we’re so distracted – but stress also literally affects the physical body too, overloading the adrenals and causing fatigue, breaking down otherwise healthy cells, speeding the aging process, and leading to stiffness and soreness, particularly in the jaw, neck, shoulders and hips. If you’ve ever done a long series of “hip-openers” you may have been surprised at your grumpy, angry mood afterward, followed by a greater sense of freedom and lightness as the stuck emotional energy finally begins to discharge.
Spring is a great time to do some of this work, gently mobilizing each area of the body, paying special attention to the places where you tend to hold stress. The more you take care of yourself, clearing your personal blockages and releasing your stored-up “stories,” the more you become a radiant center of awareness and openness to the beauty of the present moment. Again, this will immediately benefit those around you, who will sense your calm centeredness and non-verbally begin to adopt a similar way of being.
Jin Shin Jyutsu
One of my favorite ways of clearing stuck emotional energy is through Jin Shin Jyutsu. JSJ is an ancient form of energy therapy, which works through the application of light touch. Our bodies are composed not just of physical, solid material, but space too, and within that space, a complex circulation of electro-magnetic energy. Called variously “chi,” “ki” or prana, the optimal flow of this energy can become blocked or disturbed by stress, injury, chronic postural imbalances, and – possibly most egregiously – by holding onto old emotions.
A flash of anger arises when we feel a boundary has been crossed. A moment of fear surges as a car approaches too near on the freeway.
These emotions are meant to alert us to action needed in the moment. Yet so often, in our stress-filled culture, we cannot take the needed action to address the problem, more stressors keep coming – and so the emotion goes into the body and “lives” there as stuck energy forms known in JSJ as “attitudes.” These attitudes disturb the circulation of our EM field.
Something goes wrong and cannot be made right. We feel it in our bodies, spirits and minds. You’ve heard the saying, “There is a great disturbance in the force.” You know exactly what that feels like.
When this happens, which is pretty much every day, to a greater or lesser extent, some kind of clearing practice is needed to restore harmony and balance to the body, and peace to the mind. (Believe it or not, peace is our natural state.)
Today’s free guided relaxation is a Jin Shin Jyutsu practice for clearing attitudes. I hope you enjoy it and find it valuable. If so, please pass it on.
Whatever kind of practice appeals to you is the one to use. This week, I simply urge you to remember that the self-care practices you engage in do make a difference. Taking time for your well-being is not a selfish act – rather, it radiates selflessly to those around you in a very positive and powerful way.
Our world needs each and every one of us. If we want to make a positive difference in these often troubled times, this work needs to begin within – with a willingness to clear and return to center in whatever way works for us. We can all make a difference – it begins when we take action to be the change we want to see.
Erin Menut, Radiant Energy for Life