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July 1, 2010 / Jenny Ann Fraser

Practicing The Power of Now: Part 2

You can read Part 1 of Practicing The Power of Now right here:

Dealing With Emotions

As I have mentioned before, I have ADHD.

My head is a mass of swirling, overlapping thoughts that run so quickly, I have to speak or write in order to slow them down to a speed that I can comprehend. The result is that I talk to myself incessantly.

If you are walking down a street in Winnipeg, and see a nice looking small woman with long curly hair (despite the picture on her banner)  rapidly talking to herself under her breath like someone who is suffering from dementia, say hello. I would love to meet you.

I used to live in a continuous state of shame and embarrassment over my compulsive talking to myself. Thank God I’m finally over it and have learned to laugh at myself. This is the way that I am made. Take it or leave it. I can only choose to accept.

I have however, just discovered, that when I am rooted in my body, present with what is in this moment, I can think clearly, without moving my lips. It only took 40 years.

Most of the time, when I am playing the role of the woman with dementia, I will find myself rehashing the past, or imagining some future event or conversation that will somehow solve some past hurt. It doesn’t solve anything. Even the most pleasant imaginings of the future seem to be born out of an unhappy past. It is a waste of precious energy and it doesn’t help me to achieve my goals.

The problem is, what to do with the emotions that accumulate inside of us from these past hurts and disappointments? This for me is the next frontier. I think I’m finally beginning to understand.

First of course, is the practice of staying rooted in this moment so that I am aware of the thoughts that create the emotions as they happen. It is our lack of awareness of these thoughts that cause us to fall into the emotional pits in the first place . Whether it’s out of control anger, serious depression or anything in between. It is why we self-medicate, it is why we relive the same events and act out the same patterns over and over. It is the basic cause of our suffering.

For quite some time, I have been extremely unhappy with my career and most specifically my job. I don’t wish to go into the details here, since I would like to remain employed until I can get my business going, but let’s just say I’ve spent a lot of time being resentful of the way the organization is being run and how it is unfairly and adversely affecting the lives of many of us who work there and have contributed for many years. Ruminating over everything that is wrong oddly enough, has done nothing but make me feel worse… and yet I persist.

Whenever we are faced with a problem, no matter what the problem is, we have 3 options. We can pick one option, or combine the options in any way we see fit.

  1. Change the situation.
  2. Leave the situation.
  3. Accept the situation.

However, that is often not what we do. And by we? I do mean the Royal We because I am just as guilty as everyone else even when I know better!

Complaining, either out loud to a friend, (or an empty sidewalk) or inside our own heads is not one of the options and yet we often make ourselves miserable ruminating over what should have been or should be, even though it isn’t.

In regard to my work, I have finally figured out a few things.

  1. No amount of bitching and whining will change this situation. Trust me, I’ve been doing it long enough to finally stop banging my head against that wall.
  2. I cannot leave the situation… just yet, but I have plans in place to see that happen. Focusing on what I need to do today, in this moment to make it happen is my best chance.
  3. I need to accept the situation as it is right now.

Now, what to do with all of the anger, frustration and disappointment?

Continue to work to grow in awareness of each moment.

When I become aware of the old familiar negative emotions regarding my career, I need to stop, and come back to the present moment. I’ve developed some capacity for this over the past couple of years, but still have a long way to go to become consistent with catching the cycle right at the beginning.

The goal is not to stop the thoughts entirely and ignore the emotion. This is something that I have been trying to do for many years, but it doesn’t work. Emotion has to go somewhere, so it’s likely to eat out the inside of your stomach, or damage your body in some other way. It has to be dealt with, but thinking about it isn’t going to fix it.

Focus the attention on the physical sensation of the emotion, coming back to the moment, rooted in your body but don’t think about it. It is after all the thinking about it that caused it in the first place.

Accept that it is there without judging or analyzing it as that would be thinking again… Observe the thoughts rather than feeding them.

Watch what happens.

When we have a thought that creates an emotion, cells in our brain flood our bloodstream with chemicals that create the physical sensations we feel. If we stop the thoughts, and just observe what is happening, it takes 90 seconds for these chemicals to flush out of our bloodstream. Unless we continue to feed the thoughts.

I first learned about techniques to recognize and change destructive negative thoughts years ago when I was in therapy for my depression and anxiety. They saved my life, but now, there are further steps to take. This is a variation on what I have learned.  Taking it to the next level so to speak.

Still there is always room to grow. Not being paralyzed by depression is a great thing, but lasting peace would be something else indeed. I think I’ll go for it, and if it takes a lifetime, I’m ok with that.

The key of course is to stay in the moment.

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16 Comments

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  1. Emily Jane / Jul 2 2010 7:55 am

    What a powerful post – I can’t wait to sink into The Power of Now (it’s my goal to finish A New Earth tonight!), because it can be LIFE CHANGING to really practice living in the present moment, and asking yourself “can I control this?” and give yourself one of those three choices. Kudos to you for a continued journey of growth, and thank you for sharing this with us 🙂

  2. jennyannfraser / Jul 2 2010 7:55 pm

    Yay Emily! I hope you manage to finish the book tonight. I plan to start re-reading it on Monday.
    Thank you as always for your lovely words. It has been a joy to share… it is something that I would have been terrified to do if it weren’t for Tolle, (and a few others).
    Yep. It sure is life-changing!

  3. TheIntentionalSage / Jul 2 2010 8:21 pm

    Hmmm, I read through your first post (part 1) and then this post and I felt compelled to say something, but I wasn’t sure what that was going to be… until I got near to the end of this post and read:

    “Accept that it is there without judging or analyzing it as that would be thinking again… Observe the thoughts rather than feeding them.”

    … and it became very clear to me what might be important to mention.

    ~~~

    Byron Katie – ever heard of her? She has a wonderful, excruciatingly easy way of questioning thoughts/belief systems. You can google her or “the work” and I’m sure you’ll find her website. Anyway, she makes things quite simple.

    One would start out with a ‘judge-your-neighbor’ worksheet, which is designed to help one elicit a singular thought or belief system and then they have someone (you can even call the hotline, which is free, or do it through a chat online, also free) ask them the four questions.

    1. Is it true?
    2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
    3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
    4. Who would you be without the thought?

    And then there’s a turnaround. Here’s a link to the 4 questions (http://www.thework.com/thework-4questions.php) where you can also find the turnaround and the judge-your-neighbor worksheet.

    ~~~

    My partner and I seem to be in agreement that Eckhart Tolle is the ‘what’ and Byron Katie’s “The Work” is the ‘how.’ Meaning, how to get there (to where Eckhart seems to be).

    ~~~

    With Love and Gratitude,

    The Intentional Sage

    • jennyannfraser / Jul 5 2010 7:54 pm

      Hello and thanks for dropping by!
      I am somewhat familiar with Byron Katie’s The Work. I haven’t read much of her writings but have listened to some excellent interviews with her. I’ve been trying to find a link for the March 28th podcast of Tapestry on CBC which was an excellent interview. You should be able to find the podcast through Itunes.
      I really do love her simple straight-forward approach. It really is a beneficial way of looking at this.

  4. shiona / Jul 3 2010 7:34 am

    Hi Jenny,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and expereince, I thinks this is very helpful to me.
    The mistake I usually make is I try to numb emotions. Sometimes I’m aware of the thoughts that create them, but I still find it very difficult to handle the emotion and that’s where my eating disorder steps in. I also find it hard not to think and analyze. In fact, I hadn’t realized that was what I did most of the time when I really felt miserable….

    • jennyannfraser / Jul 5 2010 7:59 pm

      Hello Shiona,
      I am so touched that you think this might be helpful!
      I too am an analyzer, as well as someone who tends to “stuff” my negative emotions. It definitely doesn’t solve anything.
      The key I think, is to practice presence on a day to day basis so that we are prepared when those difficult emotions arise. It’s a very difficult thing to start trying to be present when we’re under stress and in pain.
      Best of luck on your journey! I’d love to hear more!

  5. Belinda Munoz + The Halfway Point / Jul 5 2010 5:58 am

    Hi Jenny, this is another insightful post. Thank you for sharing.

    From reading your posts, I’ve deduced that you’re a very creative person. I’m interested in hearing how creative outlets/pursuits/hobbies have helped you with channeling/expressing emotions and staying true to the present. For me, it has been a tremendous help.

    • jennyannfraser / Jul 5 2010 8:01 pm

      Wow Belinda! I think you have just opened an interesting can of worms! 🙂 Thank you!
      I will have to ponder that. I seriously haven’t looked at it from that perspective before.
      I am going to consider that this week as I work at designing more bags for my business… I feel a blog post coming on!

  6. tobeme / Jul 5 2010 12:41 pm

    Jenny Ann,
    You are on a beautiful path of awareness which has and is leading you to living in the “now”. Very good post. I wrote a piece on living in the now today. One of the great questions to ask your self to help create awareness is “Where do I go when I am not here”.

    • jennyannfraser / Jul 5 2010 8:02 pm

      Thank you Mark, and what a beautiful post.
      I love the question! I’m going to keep in mind as I go through my days.

  7. Chris Edgar / Jul 5 2010 7:44 pm

    Hi Jenny — thanks for this — I’ve found that to be a great practice as well, noticing how what I’m calling an emotion manifests in the body. There’s always some sensation there that tells me “how I’m feeling,” but when I realize it’s just a sensation it doesn’t seem like quite a problem anymore.

    • jennyannfraser / Jul 5 2010 8:09 pm

      Ah Chris you are so welcome! I think that focusing on the sensation in our bodies really does diminish it. We’re stopping our mind from telling us what we are feeling and experiencing without judgement.
      I am quite good at doing this with physical discomfort such as being cold when I’m outside in the winter, or pushing my body through physical exercise. What I need to learn is to be more present with my emotions.
      I’m hoping to have a happy progress report sometime in the near future!

  8. Ollin Morales / Jul 6 2010 10:53 pm

    Eckhart Tolle is a wonderful man. I need to read both of his books again! I always forget. Have you heard of John Kabit-Zinn? His book “Full Catastrophe Living” has been a life savor for me. For me it’s like you read Tolle for the theory and your read Zinn for the practice in every day life.

    You are right, we all need to remain more present. My mother suffered from depression (well she still suffers from it but she is now better with medication, meditation and therapy) but as a person dealing with someone with depression I really had to reach out to Tolle and others like him to teach me how to live in the now and not let the world drive me crazy.

    Thank you for the great post! It is always important to remind everyone to live in the present. Thanks for the (literal) wake up call. 🙂

    • jennyannfraser / Jul 7 2010 3:37 pm

      Thank you Ollin, both for stopping by and leaving such a great comment!
      I have not read Full Catastrophe Living… yet, but I absolutely loved his book Coming To Our Senses. I also have some of his guided meditations which I really love.
      My blog consequently is named the same as one of his books. The title comes from the poem Love After Love by Derek Walcott. (this was a slight oversight on my part. oops).
      I hope soon to get back to reading more of his books. They really are great for learning the practical skills required for mindfullness.

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