As we grow spiritually, our ability to maintain equanimity also grows. Slowly but surely, we learn how to control our ego, the part of us that wants everything to go our way. For the more trivial annoyances of life, such as getting cut off on the freeway or enduring an embarrassing moment, this is not too hard to accomplish. We can simply step outside the situation for a moment and realize that it is not really all that important. With practice, it is easy not to respond emotionally to these “triggers” at all. But what if our situation is not so trivial? What about when we have been seriously harmed or betrayed by another person? What if some random tragedy befalls us?
Feeling upset in such circumstances is perfectly normal. People are certainly capable of doing horrible things to each other, and it can be shocking and infuriating to be treated cruelly or unethically. And tragic events can happen without warning, such as terminal diseases or random accidents. Even highly evolved people are likely to feel anger or sadness in such cases. The goal, then, is to return as quickly as possible to a state of inner peace, and to avoid prolonged internal discord about the situation.
Here are five steps to get you back to your center as soon as possible:
- Realize “My emotions are not me, but mine.” You will have a hard time controlling your emotions if you are not first aware that you are the source of your own emotions. Often people say, “That made me mad” or “I’m angry because of that,” as though emotions come from outside of themselves, but that is not the case. From the broadest possible perspective, everything is neutral; events only becomes “right” or “wrong” in the context of your conception of how things “should” be. Thus, you are the one primarily responsible for your emotions, and, while emotional reactions are natural, you have the power to control your emotional reactions when facing undesirable situations.
- Watch patiently, without judgment. The first step toward gaining control over your emotional reactions is to observe your emotions honestly. Sometimes, people do not want to acknowledge darker emotions within themselves, such as lingering hatred or jealousy, which makes it difficult to get to the root of the problem. So, look at yourself very carefully and honestly, just observing yourself feeling whatever you are feeling. Do not make yourself wrong for feeling your emotions; just watch them as though from a distance, without judgment about what you are “supposed” to feel.
- Decide your emotion. Once you can see yourself and your emotions honestly, you can decide to change that emotion. What do you really want to feel? Choose an emotion, cheerfulness for example, then engage in activities that help you generate that emotion. For instance, to feel more cheerful, you can listen to upbeat music, talk to a friend, read inspirational quotes, watch a comedy show, or go for a peaceful walk in nature. Find actions that help you feel a certain emotion, and put them in your emotional toolbox to be used whenever you need them.
- Center your focus in your lower abdomen. Even if your head seems to spin with the emotions of a situation, use your body to help ground yourself. To do this, focus on the energy center, or dahnjon in my native Korean, located two inches below your belly button in the center of your abdomen. This is the literal center of your body, and simply focusing your mind on that place can help you feel more centered, like being at the center of buoyancy on a boat during a storm. This will also help bring energy down from your head, which is critical for reducing stress and anxiety in the brain.
- Breathe. Also, as you focus on the dahnjon, intentionally breathe deeply and fully into the lower abdomen. When we are stressed, we tend to breathe very shallowly. To change this, lay down, relax totally, and then breathe naturally, trying to fill the lungs with air. Then, as you relax more deeply, allow your abdomen to move as you breathe, making your breathing even deeper. Breathing in this way will help clear the mind’s obsessive thoughts about emotional situations, and it will help the body release muscle tension that comes with negative emotions.
- Practice smiling. Neuroscientists have discovered that the act of smiling releases “happy” hormones in the brain, even when the smile is insincere. So, whether or not you have a good reason to smile, try smiling for no reason at all to make yourself feel a little better.
- Meditate and visualize healing. Regular meditation practice of any kind is excellent for creating peace of mind and steady emotions. You can add to the emotional healing power of meditation by adding in positive visualizations. For example, you could visualize a golden shower of healing energy entering into the top of your head and cleansing your brain of negative and dark thoughts and emotions. If you try that, you’ll feel better instantly, like taking a shower on a hot and humid day.
- Accept and forgive. Ultimately, you have to be willing to let go of your negative emotions, or you will be reliving the pain of the situation endlessly. This means first accepting that whatever happened has happened, and there is no way to change that. You can seek justice where appropriate, but ultimately you cannot undo anything. I recommend seeing difficulties as a blessing in disguise, a chance to grow spiritually. In relationships with other people, this means learning to forgive, for your ultimate good, as well as for theirs.
If you practice some or all of these techniques regularly, you will soon find that most of them become very natural and practically automatic. Emotions, if we learn to manage them well, are a great gift, a way to experience life more deeply and completely. But, always remember—they are yours to use as you see fit, like colors you paint on the canvas of your beautiful life.
Learn more ways to manage your emotions and embrace all the ups and downs of life in a more mindful way in my new book Connect: How to Find Clarity and Expand Your Consciousness with Pineal Gland Meditation.