Surf’s Up!

Post by Nikki Starcat Shields for the Kind Kindred series.

Riding the Waves of Your EmotionsBeing kind to yourself or others can be hard when you’re in the midst of an emotional surge. It happens to all of us. When you dedicate yourself to practicing unconditional kindness, it shouldn’t make a difference what type of mood you’re in. But that’s much easier said than done. It’s nearly impossible to be kind when you’re freaking out. You can’t see beyond the storm in your own mind and heart.

We’ve learned to view our emotions as a result of external causes. Feelings seem to arise in reaction to events that happen to us, the way we’re treated by others, and whether or not our expectations are being met. We might also attribute our emotions to physical causes, like hormones, or coming down with a virus. We have it backwards. In most cases, emotions come from our current frame of reference. This affects the way we react to whatever is going on around us.

Your reaction to a particular event is based on the way you’re feeling in that moment. Emotions that have built up over time and become stuck can exacerbate any given situation. Say you have a flat tire on the way to work. If you’re feeling good, you might shrug and calmly call Triple A, chalking it up to a random malfunction. These things happen. If you’re feeling upset, you might feel like it’s a bad omen, or ruins your day. If you’ve gotten stuck in a space where you’re looking at life through mud-colored glasses, you might believe that the whole universe is out to get you, and that you’ll surely lose your job.

See how emotions and moods can quickly escalate things, making an experience more dramatic than it needs to be?

Even our language around emotions tends to emphasize their power over us. When we’re in the grip of a powerful feeling, we assume it as our identity. “I’m really angry right now!” “I’m sad today.” “I’m so frustrated.” The emotions we’re feeling are not the whole story of who we are. It would make more sense to rephrase: “I’m feeling angry right now!” “I’m feeling sad.” “I’m experiencing some frustration.”

How can we move beyond identifying so strongly with our emotions? On a surface level, you might be tempted to distance yourself from the emotions you feel. That’s a really bad idea, though. Emotions are like a compass that shows you the way to your ideal self. They point out where you are being attached to thoughts of the past, worries about the future, or wishes that things were a certain way. When you deny an emotion or separate yourself from it, you’re essentially repressing that information. This means it will return to you again, possibly in a stronger form, until it gets your attention.

In the same way, paying too much attention to the emotions that arise can be problematic. In western culture, we are taught to (over)analyze our feelings. We dissect them, looking for a cause in our childhood, or a justification in our current lives. (“That’s right, she is treating me unfairly! I have a right to be angry!”) When we attach ourselves to a particular feeling, we can wallow in it, getting ourselves good and stuck. It becomes harder to move on, and we start to view other aspects of our life through that same lens.

How can we best handle our emotions then?

Let your emotions flow through you. Think of them like water. They might fall like a gentle rain, roll through you like a river heading downstream, or wash over you like a tidal wave. Even so, each feeling has an innate motion (it’s even in the name: e-motion, see?). When you let it flow, expressing it as kindly as possible, then it will quickly pass.

Accepting your emotions without getting attached to them is a matter of (yep, you guessed it) practice. The idea isn’t to become emotionless. That wouldn’t be any fun, and probably isn’t even possible. Besides, you need your emotions to help guide you toward your highest callings, and anchor you here in the present moment.

If emotions are water, then think of yourself as a sacred surfer, riding the waves with joy and grace. You can use the power of observation to stay on your surfboard even when volatile emotions seem to have you in their grip. Accept the wave of feelings, go along for the ride, and when you arrive at the beach, let the wave recede. You’re still you. Having emotions is a human thing. It’s neither bad nor good, it just is.

Once you’ve embraced the surfing life, your emotions might escalate at first. You’re learning a whole new way of being in the world. There could be sharks down there in the deep water, or storms that might toss you out of control. These are shadows of the big emotions you’ve suppressed, perhaps subconsciously, throughout your life. Think of them as deeper guidance, messages from your inner self. You might fall into the water, but you can swim. Get back onto your surfboard and keep riding.

Over time, allowing your emotions to flow can lead you to more kindness and compassion. When you do this inner work, you can more easily recognize how emotions affect those around you. Rather than being unconsciously triggered by another’s anger, you’ll be more likely to empathize with them, to feel compassion for them. This isn’t to say that you’ll become a blissed-out guru, but you’ll have a bigger perspective, and will be better able to forgive and let go.

If your emotions are not your identity, then what lies beyond them? The essence of who you really are: your wholeness. You’re an eternal being and you’ve come here for your own purposes.

When you’re not being tossed wildly by the waves, life becomes more fun. As the surfer, you can balance up there on your surfboard and get a good look at the beautiful view around you, right here and now. You can see how unconditional kindness, to yourself and those around you, helps uplift everyone. And when you fall off into the water, you’ll shake it off and get right back up on the board again.

Are you ready? Surf’s up!

Nikki Starcat Shields is a published author, Mom, Reiki healer, and licensed priestess. She blogs at Starcat’s Corner and shares her callings at Feline Dreamers. Get your copy of her book “Cultivating Self-Love: Your Path to Wholeness” on Amazon.


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