Our emotions can rule our lives. Imagine wearing a backpack full of rocks. Each rock has an emotion written on it that ranges in size and significance. This “mental satchel” may carry resentment, anger, anxiety, fear, despair or embarrassment – emotions that create stress and tension and can manifest in the physical body as headaches, tension, stomach issues or worse. 

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If these emotions are stuffed away in one’s backpack for too long, residual harm to ourselves and potentially others may occur as we navigate this human experience.  

As children, we may remember walking with a lighter and more carefree essence. There was more time to play, imagine and dream. We can return to that lightness by developing some “mental feng shui.” As Rumi reminds us in his poem “The Guest House,” we can invite these emotions into our home and “entertain them all.” 

The following strategies can help us return to our inherent lightness and regain emotional sovereignty:

Step I: Take each rock out of the mental satchel and hold it. Take each emotion out into the light and hold it with compassion. This act of loving kindness and taking stock of what is in your backpack moves the process from denial to acknowledgement.

Supportive activity: Journaling to arrive at the heart of the matter is a cathartic process. Displaying the emotion on paper has the potential to expose what Carl Jung referred to as the prima materia – a spark of raw material we may find to expose the deeper callings of our heart. 

Step 2: Release the rock. Merely realizing that all our rocks are thoughts and thoughts are transitory (they come and go), can be reassuring. When insight towards an emotion turns to supportive realization, the weight of our backpack changes. 

Supportive activity: Meditation allows us to observe the transitory nature of the mind. By going inward and imagining that we are cradling a sensitive emotion, and in the next moment, releasing it without harm, we create personal agency. 

Step 3: Make time for play, rest and use of the imagination. What activities drop awareness right into the present moment? Is it taking time for tea, partaking in a sport, dancing or being in nature? When we start to engage the mind in a creative way instead of a habitual way, we move away from a fight or flight response and in a direction of emotional bandwidth, which creates a stronger ability to manage one’s emotions.

Supportive activity: Become familiar with what brings you joy by making a list and ensuring these activities are part of each week. This personal list will be unique to each individual.

By exposing, feeling and releasing emotions that weigh us down, we grow exponentially. As the Rumi expressed, “Even if they are a crowd of sorrows who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.” 

It is difficult to imagine that uncomfortable emotions might not be the obstacle on our path; however, they could indeed be the beginning of a path towards growth.  

Jennifer Di Francesco is a wellness explorer and desert adventurist and can be reached at www.coachellabellaboho.com.

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