As exciting and fun as the holidays can be, we all know it is typically also quite emotionally stressful… Getting more than a typical month’s work done in only three weeks… Trying to be all things to all people and find the perfect gifts without being consumed by consumerism… Keeping an open heart and not becoming a Scrooge when our family pushes our buttons… Coordinating the logistics of travel and time with loved ones and finding time for ourselves in an already overcramped schedule… and on and on.
So what do we do? BREATHE! Sounds too simple, but it really helps when done mindfully and with a clear intent.
Now there are two types of breathing I will go into in this article. The first is a simple exercise to help relieve stress, whereas the second is a very powerful method for unlocking and releasing deep repressed emotion… not so simple. But very worthwhile.
Let’s keep it light to begin, and start with the first stress relief technique, which is very simple. Anytime you notice tension building within you, do this:
1. Take a deep inhalation through the nose while clenching the fists and and shrugging the shoulders up into the ears. Also tighten all the muscles in your body.
2. Then, exhale completely through the mouth while shaking the hands as if you were shaking water off of them. To increase the benefits of this release, you may also wish to jump up and down and make an “AAAHHH” noise during your exhalation
3. Repeat 3-10 times.
See, I told you it was simple. You have probably heard it before, but we can all use reminders to breathe. Not exactly something you will be inclined to do as you wait in line at the department store, but you can modify it as appropriate. Now let’s talk about the deeper stuff.
Although there are many factors that influence our wellness and absence thereof, disease is often caused by energetic blockages resulting from unprocessed emotions. These unprocessed emotions generate energetic and chemical disturbances in our systems that ultimately manifest on a physical level. I am not by any means suggesting that any pain or disease is rooted in emotional issues. However, in my experience as a healer and in my own personal healing, I have witnessed many powerful positive health transformations take place after an emotional letting go, sometimes after a protracted period of little progress despite great efforts at healing.
So, what are unprocessed emotions? They are feelings that begin to surface from within that make us uncomfortable. The feelings that result from past pain that has not been fully felt, but rather has been repressed. The feelings we quickly numb with sweet rich foods, TV, overwork, drugs and alcohol, and countless other distractions that prevent their full expression. We feel angry, but we don’t yell, we feel sad but we don’t cry, we feel scared but we don’t tremble and run away. Then our emotional armor grows so thick that we begin to feel dead to the joys that the world offers us everywhere. It takes more and more intense stimulus to really touch the joy within us, yet our emotional pain is triggered at the drop of a hat… someone looks at us the “wrong way”, or takes too long to respond after the light turns green… and we explode, or implode. Intellectually understanding our neuroses doesn’t help us to feel better either… it makes us feel worse as we judge ourselves and feel hopeless. So what do we do? How do we access and process these emotions effectively?
The process I am about to suggest for accessing and releasing emotions is working for me. I say “is working” rather than “has worked” because I am not an expert in the area of emotional awareness, but rather am currently deep in the process of exploring this process for myself. To summarize this process, it is simply to be receptive to the emotions arising from within and then to breathe deeply, allowing the emotions to be released. This opening results in feeling lighter, more open-hearted, and more connected with ones true self.
Below, I detail a specific meditation that has helped me in this process, and I hope proves to be of value to you. By all means modify it to a way that works for you. The way the process is detailed below is very linear and methodical and need not necessarily be followed in this way. Pick and choose elements that feel right for you and that yield the results that you seek.
1. Find a comfortable place where you will not be disturbed.
2. Sit down either on the ground or in a chair with your feet planted firmly on the ground. It is important to make firm contact with the ground, as this connection creates the energetic conduit through which emotional charge is dissipated into the earth. I think of stuck emotions like “energetic fertilizer” for the earth to be received and transformed. Manure stinks and is toxic to the animal who created it, yet provides nutrients to the soil to create healthy new plant life. Likewise, your released emotions, though no longer serving you, are powerful vibrations filled with life energy that the earth can utilize. However, these energies have become deranged, and only mother earth can transmute these disordered energies into functional and nurturing ones. If you don’t plant your feet, your emotions keep circulating within you, making you “emotionally constipated” and toxic, while robbing the earth of the energies it needs to create new and positive emotional energy.
3. Spend a few minutes opening your heart. This process happens differently for different people at different times. Sometimes visualizing a loved one and wishing them peace and freedom from suffering helps to enter a heart space. At other times, visualizing oneself as a child and asking the inner child to speak his or her truth helps. Still other times, listening to a very special song that opens the emotional body will help. Or, simply rubbing the chest at the area of ones heart. Or visualizing oneself as small enough to enter into one’s own heart and exploring its terrain. These are just some examples. Feel free to experiment and play with it.
4. Set the intention to connect with and release that which is holding you back. Please use your own words here and be as specific or general as you are guided to be.
5. Energetically open to and set the intention to receive guidance from the universe. If you practice a particular faith or feel an affinity for a particular deity or spirit guide, ask for help from these sources. When performing this step, you might feel an energetic opening on the top of your head, or crown chakra, or may simply feel a sense of greater receptivity. Turn your palms up to receive the guidance and energies from the universe.
6. Inhale deeply through the nose, expanding the lower abdomen. You may wish to place the hands over the abdomen following the practice outlined below for several minutes until you acclimate to breathing into this area, then return the hands to an upward-facing orientation. Place your hands over the area just below the navel and gently push the hands inward as you push back with your belly and inhale through the nose, creating a full expansive breath into your lower abdomen. Although you are pushing into the front of the abdomen, expand the belly to the sides and back as well. Much of the emotions are stored in the lower abdomen. In fact, a special acupuncture meridian called the Dai Mai, or girdle vessel encircles the lower abdomen and is considered in Chinese medical theory to be a reservoir for unprocessed emotional content. The practice of expanding fully into the abdomen begins to break up gripping in this area, freeing emotional energy. We actually use muscular energy to compartmentalize emotional material in the connective tissue of the body, and by recruiting the breath we gently perfuse these areas of contraction, softening and loosening them.
7. Exhale completely through the mouth. It is important to fully exhale such that the energies that have been released into your system are then released into the earth.
8. Repeatedly cycle through the deep breaths described in steps 6 and 7. As you practice, keep the body as relaxed as possible and let go of any tension you notice. Emotions may begin to emerge. As they do, allow the tears to come, or the anger to boil, or laughter to erupt without focusing on any object of the emotion, such as the event or person with which you associate the feeling. Instead, remain focused on your breath, and releasing into the earth. If no particular emotions arise, this is fine too. Continue to breathe deeply and allow energy to travel through your feet into the earth, while reaching your energy high into the heavens and allowing the energy to enter your energetic system from on high. You may wish to visualize and possibly sense an infinity pattern of flowing energy pouring in from above, out through the feet, and circling around back through the top of the head.
9. Once you feel a sense of completion, or the time allotted has passed, open your journal and write anything that wants to express. Completing the meditation with this step can allow the deeper wisdom that you have invited to emerge to express itself in words. I often find that it is not until this step in the meditation that the emotions really come flooding out. Do not be so much concerned with the content of what you are writing as the spirit of inquiry that you are invoking as you write.
As you explore the process detailed above, keep in your awareness that you may feel worse for a while (possibly a long while) as deep repressed emotions surface. This process is not easy. It is challenging to face emotions that have been held in for so long… after all, if it weren’t challenging to face these feelings, you wouldn’t be holding them in. This is a practice that is not for the faint of heart, as you are opening a doorway to strong emotions… and emotions can be unpredictable. I say this not to create fear or reluctance to try this practice, but as a caveat to allow you to decide if the time is right for you to enter this exploration.
Doing this work will create disruption in areas of your life that are misaligned with your deeper purpose. In other words, personal relationships, jobs, habits, activities that do not fully serve you may begin to become increasingly problematic as you move more deeply into exploring your emotional landscape. Why? Because, as you shed your emotional baggage, your energetic vibration changes and no longer resonates in the the way that originally attracted those things that are currently in your life. Thus, the status quo is disrupted and those things with which you are interacting either must adapt to meet your new vibration or move out of your life. And this process is typically turbulent and challenging. Also, as your body adjusts to the change in your vibration it may create fevers and other immune responses in order to purge toxicity that has built up on a physical level as a result of emotional toxicity. Old pains may flare up before ultimately releasing. So in short, if you want the truth no matter the cost, proceed. If you feel you are not at a point in your life to deal with that which will come up, maybe the time is not right.
You may ask at this point why go through the hell of dredging up these emotions when they create such upheaval? Simple. To reveal the truth of who you are. And then to be guided and moved from this higher wisdom. To this end, a critical element of this process is to LISTEN. Yes, you are listening to what the emotions are revealing as they emerge. However, there is a calling for deeper listening as well. As we tap into that which is happening within our energetic beings on a deeper level, we attune to receiving information from a place beyond the mind… call it what you will… the Source, God, the Universe, Spirit, etc. This is why journaling after the breathing process is so important. When we open to listening, we are guided to what will best support us in moving through the emotions that are arising. Do we need to go for a walk in the woods? Or call an old friend? Maybe go breathe some more? Go to sleep?
Listen and you shall receive the guidance you need exactly when you need it. However, listen discriminately, and notice that the ego will try to co-opt this process in order to prevent the emergence of the new consciousness. When you journal that you are being guided to eat a quart of mint-chocolate-chip ice cream and watch the home shopping network, consider the possibility that it may in fact not be your higher self talking to you 🙂 In writing the last sentence, I am reminded that another important aspect of this work is not to take yourself too seriously. Yes, the work is difficult and painful. But, this is part of life and we must learn to smile and soften in the face of difficulties. Not only does having a sense of humor make the process more tolerable, it also expedites the opening. After all don’t you feel more open and relaxed after you laugh?
In conclusion, I find this work to be of immense value in helping me to remove blockages with which I have been grappling for years… blockages that have prevented me from feeling fully alive and engaged. Discovering the power of exploring my emotional landscape through the process described above is a new path for me. However, although I am not an expert or in any way a master of this path, I feel it is important for me to share it with you, as I recognize its immense value. I sincerely hope that it is as healing for you as it is proving to be for me. I wish you an ever deepening discovery of the real you.
Joe Curcio, L. Ac.