This is my final blog post of 2012, and I would be remiss if I did not share this valuable concept that will significantly improve your life. When you know how to ride the waves of stress and pain, you will shift from knee-jerk reactions to calm responses.
Everything contains a wave—there is a beginning, a crest, and an ending. Our entire life is a wave: you are born, you peak, and eventually die. It is the same with breath, sound, sensation, thought, hot flashes (yes, there is an end), emotions, and fatigue.
Riding the wave is a foundational concept in many arenas, because it is based in awareness, not reaction.
When you learn to track the wave, your attention remains in the moment-by-moment experience, rather than on your reactions. Riding the wave of stress is essential to transforming it. When we have a stressor in life, there is the actual problem we are dealing with, but then we layer our thoughts, feelings, and emotions upon it, setting off a spiral of anxiety.
How do you take the emotional charge out of your experiences? The answer is simple, but not easy—you stay aware of every part of the occurrence. In other words, you track what is happening and when you do this, it diffuses your focus and takes the personalization out of it, as if you were reporting the news or weather.
Let’s use a meteorologist’s report as an example: There will be rain and thunder tomorrow . . . oh my God, I was supposed to have my house painted . . . oh boy, now I have to reschedule and that is a real pain—I am so mad, my day is ruined! This is how it would be if the reporter layered his emotions upon his report. (Hmmm, it could make the weather report quite entertaining). In actuality, the weather report is based on specific information (at times, misinformation), not feelings. I do not promise that it will not rain, but I can assure you that it is your reaction that propels the storms of your life, not actual events.
To begin to learn how to ride the wave of your reactions and thoughts try this:
- Focus your attention on the problematic situation and watch it without taking it personally, the way you would watch a weather report.
- As you watch, notice what is happening. Become aware of your thoughts—this includes your emotions and feelings as they arise from thoughts.
- Follow the wave of thought, without any opinions and judgments. Notice its beginning, middle, and end.
- Continue to do this with each thought.
To begin to cultivate riding the wave of sensation, try this:
- To begin with, avoid classifying your feeling as “pain.” Instead, say “sensation.”
- Find a place in your body where you notice sensation.
- Without using words to judge it or categorize it, simply track it and notice what you are feeling. For example, it might be a burning sensation that shifts into stinging or throbbing. It might move down your leg and pulse or feel hot or cold.
- Describe it factually, as if you were reporting the weather.
- Notice the sensation from the onset, to the crest, and through to its decline. You might have many sensations but each of them has movement when you really pay attention, even chronic sensations.
- You can softly direct your breath into the area you notice.
The efficacy of this technique is based on evidence and as I said earlier, it is life-changing. You are in charge of shifting your reactions and it is not through force, but through your own awareness. Practicing this will save you from the negative consequences of stress and pain. I admit it takes time to integrate this practice, but it is worth the commitment. Imagine a life where stress and reactivity take a back seat to your full participation in a happier, healthier life. Ride the wave and guarantee yourself no wipeouts
Let me know in the comments below how you think this concept can help you. Give it a try in the next week and let me know what happened.