Let emotions flow like water

Let emotions flow like water

When we look at a river, we see that there is always a current. The water flows and can be guided without any resistance. Sometimes the current ripples gently, sometimes the water swirls wildly and crashes into boulders, then again there is a sea of ​​openness. The river itself does not resist that natural movement.

As humans, we often tend to go against the grain. Water symbolizes everything that flows in us: desires, feelings, ideas, thoughts, and emotions. Like water, emotions are calm at times and undulating and turbulent at other times. Emotions have to flow, just like water in a river. The moment there is resistance to an emotion, we block the natural flow in our bodies.

Difference Between Emotions and Feelings

There is a difference between emotions and feelings. Emotions are bodily responses to our thinking abilities. Feelings are also physical reactions but have no connection with thoughts. Feelings are set in motion by our senses: eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin for touch.

Love, gratitude, and joy are examples of feelings. When I see a beautiful sea, I am speechless. Without thinking, the sea is experienced. The sea touches me inside and my heart leaps with joy and gratitude.

Let emotions flow like water

Feelings are subtler and quieter in nature than emotionsEmotions always have something intense, something dramatic about them. If we look a little carefully, we see that emotions such as fear, anger and sadness have a connection with thoughts. Thoughts we believe and take personally. By ‘thoughts’ I mean any kind of thinking: stories, points of view, assumptions, wandering blanks, opinions, beliefs and also the images and mental videos that go through our heads – some think in images. To keep it simple, I use the term ‘thoughts’ as an umbrella term for any form of mental intercourse.

Thoughts can arise within ourselves, be copied from others or something we have read. Not all thoughts evoke emotions, only the thoughts we believe and take personally. The greater the belief in thoughts, the greater emotions become.

Suppose you were lying on the beach at a beautiful sea yesterday. Suddenly you felt the need to go swimming. While you were floating in the beautiful sea, someone stole your wallet. The thinker in your head makes a heated comment: ‘Where do people get the guts? Don’t touch other people’s stuff!’ The body reacts with emotions such as frustration, anger, and perhaps hatred. Your heart beats faster, your blood pressure and body temperature rise, your muscles contract and the steam comes out of your ears.

You probably wouldn’t feel any emotions if the neighbor’s wallet were stolen, or that of a resident on Texel. But because it’s  your  wallet, you react emotionally. This is not wrong, wrong or something we need to change. This is about awareness, to see how thoughts and emotions can feed and reinforce each other.

Oil on the fire

A thought is similar to a block of wood. When we set the log on fire, a fire is created. As soon as we believe a thought, we set it on fire, so to speak. The fire that arises is the emotion. When we leave the fire alone, by not throwing new wood cubes on it, the fire lasts as long as there is energy in the burning wood cube. But if we keep throwing new pieces of wood on it, we add energy and the fire can become a sea of ​​flames and last for days.

It works the same way with adding new thoughts to an existing emotion. ‘I don’t matter’, ‘How dare he!’, ‘This is my karma’ or ‘It will never be okay’, are thoughts that can arise when we are emotional. But, we don’t have to believe them. If we do believe them and take them personally, we will respond by looking for a fight, for example, calling someone and complaining, making a big drama out of it in our head or ranting on social media. This can sometimes keep us busy for hours.

Thoughts are unstoppable, but we can stop accepting and following them. Because of this, we don’t add mental fuel to the emotion and they are left alone. Then we feel the emotion completely and the emotional fire disappears in no time.

Stop the oppression

Emotions are part of human beings and are inevitable. Of course, we can suppress, deny, withhold, stun or explain them away, but we pay a price for that. Nor is this necessary at all, because emotions are not bad, good, or problematic. They are just there. Emotions do not make us sick, rather they suppress are the disease makers. Emotions that are suppressed have not disappeared, but become trapped somewhere in the body and cause a disturbance. They disrupt our entire system.

Let emotions flow like water

Long-term and systematic suppression of emotions has consequences for the body: chronic fatigue, unnatural posture, overloaded nervous system, exhausted immune system, stress, hunted feeling or numbness, stuck muscles, knot in the stomach, insomnia, teeth grinding, held back breathing, back pain, cramping in the neck-shoulder area or dark cloud (a mood) that hangs around us. In short: anxiety.

Unrest is a signal of unprocessed emotions that demand attention. And they continue to do so until they are fully seen, heard and felt. They are like children asking for attention.

You may now be thinking: why do we suppress certain emotions? That’s what we learned in our upbringing. When we were little, certain people – parents, teachers, relatives – told us how we should/shouldn’t behave.

As children, we often heard: ‘Stop crying, stop being angry, don’t be so afraid and stand tall!’ As a result, we learn from an early age that certain emotions, such as sadness, anger, and fear are not good and that we have to hide them. We can unlearn everything we have learned. We don’t need to learn to feel, because we already feel. The suggestion is to unlearn resistance to certain emotions. So be willing to fully feel and experience emotions that feel unpleasant.

What is feeling complete? When we think, we don’t feel completely. And when we feel completely, we don’t think. To feel emotions fully we don’t need the mind, just our observation. In addition, it is strongly inadvisable to simply believe thoughts, because when we are emotional we do not think realistically.

Live like water

Let emotions flow like water

Take the river as an example. The river does not think about the boulders it will encounter along the way. The water follows its own path and does what it has to do to continue flowing.

Letting emotions flow is natural, holding them back is unnatural. Just try to keep a ball under water. You will feel a constant back pressure. The restlessness we feel is nothing more than counter-pressure from an emotion that wants to move. However, we try to stop that movement if we do not want to experience an emotion and thus suppress it.

Moreover, our body does not want us to hold back emotions at all. If our body could talk, it would say, “Don’t meddle with emotions, that’s my job!” When an emotion could speak, it would beg like a child, ‘Don’t hold me back. Let me move. Let me go my own way. Accept me as I am!’

Give up control and do nothing

Okay, emotions want to be accepted. And then? Taking out emotions and giving them vent to others? No, venting emotions is also resisting. We have often been taught that there are two possibilities for an emotion: suppressing or venting. In both cases, the strategy is the same: we want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. There is a third option: doing nothing and just  being  with what you feel, without taking action (immediately).

Suppose you read something, someone says something, you believe something and suddenly you seem to be overwhelmed by fear, anger, sadness, despair, or any other emotion. Stop what you are doing, sit back and allow the emotion completely – as if you chose it yourself. Just watch and don’t do anything with it. By looking at the emotions from a distance, you become a spectator instead of a participant and this gives emotions the space and freedom to move. You are not a person for a while, but a quiet space  for  the emotion.

Let yourself be completely overwhelmed by the emotion. Without believing the thoughts, without taking it personally and forgetting what the emotion is called. Feel the nameless shivers and vibrations that ripple through your body. Without haste, intervention, plan or expectation. Without saying anything, projecting it out or taking action. And without meditating, working on it or anything. In short, give up control altogether.

Maybe your body will shake. This means that old traumas that were hidden away are starting to come loose now that you are no longer fighting. This is just part of it. So you don’t have to call up or dig up the old emotional pain pieces yourself. They will come up on their own when the time is right. All that is asked is to surrender to them when they arise and then not suppress them. From surrender, pain pieces from the past can be processed and cleaned up. And don’t believe thoughts like: ‘I’m going to explode’, ‘Can’t handle this’, ‘It’s too intense’ or: ‘I’m going to die’.

Breathe fully

Let emotions flow like water

Do you find it difficult to do nothing and give up control? Can’t you accept it? Then accept that you cannot accept it. Suggestion: follow the breath. And not from the intention to breathe out uncomfortable emotions, but to create a condition to be with them.

Follow the airflow from the point where the breath enters the nose to the lower abdomen. Feel how your belly expands. And then the movement back again: abdomen, lungs, throat, and nose. You may find yourself holding in your stomach. Holding the belly is often associated with holding back emotions. Relax the abdominal muscles and make sure that the abdomen also breathes. We do natural breathing with the whole body and it is necessary to provide all organs with oxygen. Put a hand on your stomach to see if it participates. Breathe in slowly, but not too deep, and don’t force anything. Now you can meet any emotion.

Is there fear? Go beyond the ‘fear’ label and make it shiver, excite and tremble. Feel present in it and do not try to get a grip or control over it. Is there anger? Acknowledge the anger and look behind the label ‘anger’ and immediately feel that boiling mass inside you. Be with it and let it pop and explode in your body. Is there sadness? Jump off the word “sorrow” and let yourself drown in it. Is there fun? Forget the term “fun” and notice the bubbling energy. Emotions are flowing through your body, so what?

Feel what wants to be felt

Accepting emotions is actually nothing more than feeling with surrendering to what wants to be felt. If we leave emotions alone, both pleasant and unpleasant, they lose their sharp edges. That’s what Lao Tze meant by:

If you leave cloudy water alone, it will clear up on its own.


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