Mastery of emotional balance can be yours with a simple technique and plenty of practice
You’ve been there, buried in work with rapidly approaching deadlines. Or the car breaks down on the freeway. Or the furnace goes out in the dead of winter. Or the kids run screaming through the house, markers in hand as you trip over a toy, spilling groceries across the kitchen floor. Real life: raw, frustrating and painful.
I’ve spent a lot of years reading spiritual texts and practicing numerous meditative and contemplative techniques. I like the meditative frame of mind, I like the anchor it provides to deeper places and I enjoy the occasional transcendent experience, but life can throw you off balance.
Life is work and family and chaos. Every day my sanity is tested. Every day I need to reach in and find calm and emotional balance.
I integrate centering moments into my day with a technique I call Flash Mindfulness.
I started the technique years ago as a mason laborer.
I spent one hot summer carrying brick and bags of cement over job sites, mixing mortar and keeping a crew of masons supplied as they worked.
The job paid well but it was brutal. Every day was a physical challenge and an emotional gauntlet. From dawn to evening I had a gang of blue-collar guys screaming at me, cursing me and berating me in fantastically crude, imaginative ways.
When my anger and frustration rose toward an unmanageable level, I began a purposeful practice of taking several deep breaths and changing my perspective. It worked. Everyone lived through the summer. I never broke a shovel over anyone’s head, despite the daily temptation.
At the end of the season, the crew even bought me beers, toasting me as one of their best laborers. It was a hard experience but I walked away stronger and learned to stay calm one brick, one exercise at a time.
I kept working to control my temper. Every time I let anger overcome me, I later reviewed my failing and continued refining the technique. As the technique matured, I used it to combat stress, anxiety and other emotional obstacles.
The technique boils down to four simple steps:
The trigger is the most important part of the technique. Emotion tends to narrow the focus of your mind, blotting out everything but its focal point. You have to remind yourself again and again to pay attention to your emotions and notice a coming storm.
When you’re becoming angry, stressed or emotionally overwhelmed, note the moment by naming the emotion. Say Angry, Stressed or Worried to yourself. Naming the emotion gives you power over it. With that power you trigger the technique.
Take two or three long, deep breaths as you imagine your mind’s eyes rising through the air. With every breath, a single point of awareness ascends into the sky or to the ceiling.
From above, imagine yourself looking down on the scene. See yourself and others standing about small and fragile, squabbling and crying like children or bugs or bunnies or whatever little thing you wish.
See it for what it is: nothing in the greater world, nothing worth fighting, crying or worrying over, just tempests of emotion.
Exhale. Imagine the emotion blowing away,
Inhale. Imagine a cool stream of calm and strength flow in.
Imagine your mind’s eye descending, holding that higher perspective.
Roll your shoulders, shake your head and move on with the day.
Play around with the components. Find what works for you. If you learn to recognize the rise of an emotional storm and pull the trigger, you’re most of the way to mastery.
The whole exercise should take less than 30 seconds, yet with it you can remove the clutter of hampering emotion, regain your balance and earn more space for calm and happiness.
You might even save a few lives.