When talking about detoxing, we generally think of the physical body: focusing on eating the right food as well as reducing the impact on us of the toxicity of our environment. But, when it comes to our wellbeing, negative emotions can be just as toxic, if not more so. When we don’t resolve and heal our negative emotions they can lead to dis-ease. Today even the most conservative of doctors understands the impact that negative emotions, and stress in particular, can have on our health.
One of the main problems of holding onto negative emotions from the past is that they shape our current behaviour. While it’s important to learn from those past experiences, once any lessons have been taken on board, there is no longer any need to hold onto them.
So what’s the best way to eliminate those toxic emotions?
In NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), the simpler - ie the less steps it has - and the more effective a technique, the more ‘elegant’ it is considered. As a pragmatist who loves efficiency, I’m always looking for the most elegant of techniques!
In my experience, I’ve found that, for me a combined approach has worked best. That way I get the best of both worlds: harnessing the power of the conscious and the unconscious mind using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques or Tapping) and meditation.
I’ve been meditating for more than 25 years and from the very first day I noticed how it changed my life. When I meditated the day just flowed, everything seemed easier, my mood lighter. In fact it was so noticeable that I didn’t let anything interfere with my practice, which as a single parent was a tall order. But if I woke up late I was prepared to forgo everything rather than miss my practice: my shower, washing my hair, even breakfast (unthinkable or so I had thought) – my meditation practice made that much of a difference to my day!
With meditation it’s your unconscious mind that selects what you work on, sometimes you become aware of what that is but more often than not, you are just aware of the benefits as each day unfolds with more ease and grace. You can of course choose to set an intention for your meditation, but generally I prefer to allow my inner wisdom to be my guide.
It was on my first intensive ten day Mindfulness retreat back in 2003 that I became aware of just how radically meditation can detox your emotions. Much to my surprise and horror I noticed that I felt really very angry during some of my meditations. All the more surprising because I had never considered myself to be a particularly angry person (injustice or being told what to do were about the only things that could get me angry and very few people dared tell me what to do!) It was not until some months after the retreat that it dawned on me that since the retreat I had never really got angry. Even on the rare occasion when I found myself saying ‘I’m angry’ when I looked inside there was no emotion behind the words - what a result!
Why is meditation so effective at helping us detox our emotions? According to the findings of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), we can only sustain a negative emotion for just over a couple of minutes. To continue experiencing that emotion we have to feed it with negative thoughts. And this is where our meditation practice holds us in good stead as it trains us to allow thoughts to pass through our mind without focusing on them. As a result, after a couple of minutes of experiencing the emotion it just dissipates.
I particularly liked the metaphor used by Bhante Bodhidhamma, a monk on one of my later retreats. He said it was as if we had sacks filled with emotions inside us and each time we got angry for example, our anger sack got bigger; the bigger our anger sack then the quicker we were to anger. But that with meditation, when we were able to focus on the emotion as it arose but without feeding it with negative thoughts, the sack would start to shrink and as a result we became less quick to anger!
Begin by following your breath. Just sit comfortably with your spine straight but relaxed, eyes gently closed and become aware of your breathing. Notice how your body rises and falls with each breath. Keep your attention fixed on this movement. You may notice it in your chest or your stomach. Do not try to slow it down or change it in any way, just observe it without judgment. (Imagine you are a scientist watching an experiment - no expectations!)
Thoughts will come and go, just imagine they are like the clouds on the sky of your mind. There is no need to try to clear your mind of thoughts. The mind’s job is to think. Instead, choose to focus on the movement of your body with each breath. When you find your attention has wandered off on a thought (as it will, frequently!) gently but firmly bring your focus back again to the breath. (As you do, you can smile to yourself to reduce any irritation or frustration at not ‘doing it right’.)
It is really that simple, enjoy!
Even just five minutes of watching your breath is beneficial.
When you make Mindfulness a daily practice you will be amazed at the difference in your life as you start to notice that the stresses of daily life just don’t seem to affect you in the same way :)
If you want to learn more about Mindfulness join me and my partner David for our Autumn Cleanse http://costawomen.ning.com/events/autumn-cleanse-detox-your-mind-body-and-spirit.
Autumn Cleanse: a holistic detox for the mind, body and spirit. Enjoy a weekend of pure bliss in magical Tarifa with EFT, Mindfulness, energy exercises and simple healthy food and juices that will leave you feeling amazing! Just 150 euros for two complete days with full board accommodation and all activities when you book before 20 September. Only 8 places available for the retreat.
For more information and a full daily schedule http://www.getenergised.com/Autumn-Cleanse.html
In my next blog I’ll be looking at how to eliminate toxic emotions with EFT.