I woke up on Monday feeling, as I mentioned, a bit glum. One thing I think we can certainly be curious about is our feelings. There is, of course, the kind of curiosity that asks “Why am I feeling this way?” and perhaps “What can I do to feel better?” but for this post I would like to stick with the kind of curiosity that is very close to mindfulness and simply asks “What am I really feeling?” and “How do I know that?”
A very simple exercise for this is to stop what you’re doing and go through the following list:
- Am I feeling a positive or negative feeling right now?
- On a scale of -10 to +10 where would I put my feeling? (-10 is “Couldn’t feel worse” and +10 “Couldn’t feel better”)
- What name would I give this feeling?
- How do I know that is what I am feeling?
- Recapitulation, and with it a kind of acknowledgement, of the feelings involved before moving on
I’ll try to recreate my Monday experience as an example:
- Positive or negative? Negative
- On the scale? -1
- What name? I’m feeling glum
- How do I know? Mild lack of energy and therefore no real desire to get up, face rather immobile, a sensation of weight on my body and face
- Recap: Negative, -1 or so, glumness, lack of energy, lack of desire to get up, little facial expression, and a sense of weight. OK, interesting, now let’s get back to life.
A few points:
- Some people may prefer to avoid the words “positive” and “negative”. In that case, how about “pleasant” and “unpleasant”? I propose “positive” and “negative” for this exercise mainly because of step two.
- Eckhart Tolle recommends using the phrasing “I feel … in me” as in “I feel glumness in me” to keep us from identifying too strongly with the emotion. I offer that up for anyone who wants it.
- For me one of the most interesting parts of this exercise is the fourth question, “How do I know that this is what I am feeling?” I believe that curiosity about how we recognize feelings or reactions–what the symptoms are, so to speak–is almost always profitable and at least interesting.