One of the benefits of mindfulness is power. Once you’re able to focus your attention, you’ll be able to work efficiently, interact affectively and most importantly you’ll be able to control your emotions. At Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, we don’t want you to shut off your emotions (we would be really boring without them!). We want you to understand that your emotions don’t control you (unless you’re The Hulk, and in that case, you could really use some mindfulness too).
We usually think of our emotions as being us. This is reflected in the language we use to describe them. For example, we say, “I am angry” or “I am happy” or “I am sad,” as if anger, happiness, or sadness are us, or become who we are. To our mind, our emotions become our very existence.
With enough mindfulness practice, you may eventually notice a subtle but important shift — you may begin to feel that emotions are simply what you feel, not who you are. Emotions go from being existential (“I am”) to experiential (“I feel”). With even more mindfulness practice, there may be another subtle but important shift — you may begin to see emotions simply as physiological phenomena. Emotions become what we experience in the body, so we go from “I am angry” to “I experience anger in my body.”
This subtle shift is extremely important because it suggests the possibility of mastery over our emotions. If my emotions are who I am, then there is very little I can do about it. However, if emotions are simply what I experience in my body, then feeling angry becomes a lot like feeling pain in my shoulders after an extreme workout; both are just physiological experiences over which I have influence. I can soothe them. I can ignore them and go get some ice cream, knowing I will feel better in a few hours. I can experience them mindfully. Fundamentally, I can act on them because they are not my core being.
Let’s take this concept to work. If you’ve had stress in the morning, say you new puppy has chewed up your favorite pair of shoes, you can take a mindful minute to refocus your energy. Once you can say “I am feeling anger in my body”, you can choose what to do with that emotion. You can go into work without a cloud of anger hanging over you. Your emotional stress won’t affect your work.
If you start to feel stressed when phones start ringing, take a mindful minute to examine the emotion and choose how to respond to it. Say to yourself, “I am feeling stressed” and take a second to understand that you control the emotion rather than the emotion controlling you. By refocusing your energy, you’ll be able to move on quickly and efficiently.
A little mental training, and you can turn yourself from the Incredible Hulk to the Incredible worker. Think of the money you’ll save on pants.
SIYLI Suggestion: This week, try to experience your emotions as you would any other body stimulus. Label your emotions clearly (ie: I’m experiencing sadness) and understand that they don’t control you.