'Get Some Headspace': How to Be Aware of Your Feelings

Author Andy Puddicombe talks about fleeting emotions and how to get your feelings under control with meditation.

Excerpted from Get Some Headspace by Andy Puddicombe. Copyright © 2012 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin

Fleeting Emotions

Often we’re simply unaware of our feelings. Sure, we notice them when they’re raging out of control, at either end of the spectrum, but the rest of the time it’s as though they’re just there in the background coloring our view of life. But also the speed at which our emotions change, one feeling morphing into the next, can make them seem impossible to separate and define. Think back to the last time you felt happy, do you remember when it began? Take a minute or so to see if you can pinpoint the very moment the emotion of happiness came into being. And then when did it end? What about the last time you felt angry? You might remember the situation or context for the anger, but can you remember when the feeling of anger began and when it finished? And what caused these emotions to suddenly vanish? Was it that they ran out of steam? Did something else more important grab your attention? Or was it simply replaced by the next feeling?

For something that’s so central to our entire experience of life, we have remarkably little understanding of emotions. Neuroscientists can tell us with amazing accuracy what’s happening physiologically, and behavioral scientists can interpret that data to give us a rational explanation for why we feel the way we do. But although this is helpful and interesting, does it change the way you feel? More importantly, does it alter the way you respond or react to the way you feel? I may know that I shouldn’t get angry because it releases harmful chemicals into my body and causes my blood pressure to rise, but that knowledge does little to stop me getting angry. Likewise, I know that taking it easy and being a bit more carefree will make me feel less stressed, but that is of little use if I’m going out of my mind with worry. Sometimes this gap between what we understand intellectually, and our actual experience of emotions in everyday life, can appear as an enormous chasm.

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Just as my teacher asked me to consider a life without emotions, good or bad, can you truly say you’d want to live without emotion? The way we feel is fundamental to our experience of life. Perhaps in those moments when we’re overcome by a difficult emotion we might wish that there was some way to get rid of all of them, but this is usually fleeting.

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Andy Puddicombe
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Related Topics: Emotions, Thoughts

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