This week I have been reminded of the unhelpful habit I can have of suppressing my feelings. I was aware I was dong this when I received some beautiful photos from a friend holidaying in Europe. The feeling that popped up for me was jealousy. Of course I did not want to feel jealous of my friend, so I attempted to suppress or bypass the feeling, trying to pretend I was not feeling jealous. But I was! Jealousy was certainly happening!
It was helpful to remember that our feelings come and go, just like the weather! An analogy I often use in yoga is that our thoughts, feelings and sensations are just like clouds arising in the clear blue sky, as pictured above. The clouds pop up, last for a while and then pass on by, leaving our clear blue sky unaffected.
However, THE FEELINGS TEND TO PERSIST if I attempt to......
1. Try suppress the feelings
When it comes to suppressing feelings the image I like is, one of play dough that we squeeze down and down only to have it ooze out eventually. It is never helpful and often harmful to our health and well being to suppress our feelings.
Being honest with myself (and with others too, and sharing where appropriate). and accepting that 'jealousy is happening' is important.
What helps is to remember that it is never useful to give myself a hard time and that I am human, and because I am human, I am capable of a range of emotions.
2. React and feed the feeling or thought with a whole storyline
When we feed the feeling with something like "I am so jealous, angry, or right' and create a whole storyline of justification, blame and entitlement our peace of mind is disturbed and we are likely to react in unhelpful ways.
So I receive the beautiful photos of the Italian alps and jealously pops up, what are some helpful things to remember?
1. Accept the feeling - be honest with myself.
Avoid trying to suppress the feeling of jealousy or to feed it. It is not helpful to feed it with a storyline like - 'I should be there, I need a holiday, It's not fair that I am stuck here, I want to be there too!' Oh my funny mind can take me all sorts of crazy places!
2. Try not to identify with feeling
We identify with the feeling when we think or say a statement like I AM JEALOUS. Infusing the feeling with the 'I' gives it extra staying power.
Rather, that identifying with it say something like JEALOUSY IS HAPPENING, to yourself is much more helpful.
3. Feelings come and go.
So Jealousy is happening - Remember it will come, last awhile and then pass on by - so BREATHE it out. Take 3 mindful breaths (HOWEVER MANY TIMES IT TAKES) and when you feel the feeling has passed you are free to act with a wise response.
So what is a wise response?
A wise response is to remember to apply the 'antidote' to that particular feeling. As I understand it, the antidote to feeling jealousy is to be content with what you have.
I find it helpful to remember the difference between jealousy and envy because, I often get them confused. As I understand it jealousy is wishing you had what someone else has. In my example I was wishing I was in the Italian alps.
Envy on the other hand is not being happy about someone having something good going on. I honestly asked myself what I was feeling and concluded I was jealous and not envious because I was happy for my friend and wanted her to enjoy her holiday. Interestingly, the antidote to feeling envy is to be happy for the other person. So, no need to apply that, it is already applied!
So, how can I practice the antidote of being content with what I have?
Many years ago now Lama Marut taught a mantra he called the 'contentment mantra'. It went something like this 'Om, I have enough Ah Hum'. He also taught a caption, I have embroidered on many tea-towels - BE RADICAL BE CONTENT. I find it very useful to remember these in situations when jealousy or desire come up. To remember to be content with where I am instead of wishing to be where someone else is a choice I can make. This is liberating.
It was funny, this morning I went for a run in the rain. It was cold, drizzly and very cloudy! I passed a poster of a couple walking on a beach with the caption 'This is winter in Brisbane'! Jealousy came up and I remembered to be content! I love running in the rain! The air is clean and fresh and I am so fortunate to live in such an amazing place. I am very thankful to the kind woman who took this shot of me and the poster and to my friend who sent me this beautiful photo of the Italian Alps to enjoy and to give me the opportunity to 'be radical be content' with where I am right now.
In appreciation for you all. Have a great fortnight!