This Difficulty Feels Like This

Here's a great strategy for working with unpleasant emotional sensations in the body from Phillip Moffitt, the teacher who introduced me to the challenges and benefits of a daily mindfulness practice [over fifteen years ago]. He was the one who suggested I try a strategy for a couple of years to see if I noticed any impact.

I attribute the consistency of my practice to this longitudinal experiment approach. His new book is titled Emotional Chaos to Clarity. You can read the introduction or explore some of his other work which is always full of practical wisdom.

Self-Soothing During Difficult Times

When a difficult situation or memory arises, it is essential that you be able to self-soothe in order to respond skillfully.

1. Go someplace quiet where you won't be interrupted and sit comfortably.

2. Notice the unpleasant sensations and feeling that are present in your body and mind.

3. State to yourself, "This difficulty feels like this." For instance, "Having a broken heart feels like this."

4. Recognize that in this moment you are suffering, and have compassion for your suffering.

5. Notice if you are adding to your suffering by criticizing or judging yourself or making up a story about what is happening.

6. To calm yourself, focus your attention on your breath.

7. Observe that you are not only this difficulty and that you have other thoughts and body sensations.

8. Finally, notice that these thoughts and body sensation are always changing. Seeing that this is true, the feeling of difficulty you are experiencing must also be subject to change and is not permanent.