- The Facts:
Day and night exist; so too do joy and sorrow, anger and sadness. Yin and Yang comprise our wholeness.
- Reflect On:
Consider that the night has as much to offer as daytime, and is just as necessary. What new version of wholeness can we be crafted into when we embrace and skillfully work through all of what we feel?
Before you begin...
“Each of our feelings or attitudes, no matter how negative, can evoke compassion and lead to transformation. We then joyfully realize how every negative experience has positive, growth-fostering potential, how every liability is a resource, how every shadow trait has a kernel of value, how every disturbance or mistake can deepen our spiritual consciousness . . . there is an energy of light frozen in our confusion, a luminosity we can release, if only we do not give up our mining.”
—Dave Richo, Ph.D.
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Positive emotions satisfy the immediate gratification style of modern culture. They pay dividends right away. We try to keep up with pleasure, joy, and bliss in their ever-more-enticing forms. Difficult emotions, however, take patience, and require delayed gratification. The result of this gratification is a deeper sense of fulfillment that can’t be gained by direct experience with positive emotion.
Through the lens of Chinese medicine, our positive emotions are considered Yang (positive and quick) and confer Yang power. Our negative, dark, or difficult emotions are Yin. They take longer to release their nectar, as we slow down to meet them. We might have to look like outcasts for a time to reap their hidden, subtler power. These Yin experiences deliver a quieter, inner power, gradually.
A balance of Yin and Yang power is crucial. If we over-feast on Yang emotions, we can burn out and fall into an exhausted or depressive state once we can’t keep up with all the excitement. This corresponds with the modern epidemic of adrenal exhaustion. If we over-feast on negative emotions and ignore the lighter side of life, we can also end up in the pits. Sojourns into grief don’t count because they often deliver great rewards.
When Yin and Yang are in balance and healthy they mutually support one another. When we find balance between Yin and Yang emotions, we can reap the benefits of both positive and negative states. It’s not difficult to see the benefit of happiness, joy, positivity, exuberance, and inspiration—all Yang experiences. More difficult is to glean the good reasons to embrace our dark and difficult states.
When we understand, even if just intellectually at first, why and how difficult states are absolutely crucial to our well-being, this gives us incentive to stay present and open to them and override our knee-jerk tendency to shut down and go away when they surface. What’s more, when we attune to and are patient with what’s difficult, that darkness transforms us little by little into more light, a light we cannot attain from Yang states alone. Only by staying with what’s dark can we create more love and light from what seems rotten and miserable.
So, this writing is dedicated to understanding the unique benefits that come from our difficult feelings and why it’s a good idea to stay close to them, when they visit.
Just like beauty and the beast, beneath the ugly exterior of our difficult emotions is a tender core of inspiration, soulfulness, and renewal. They return us to what really matters by revealing and empowering what we care about. If we sit with these feelings long enough, which is to welcome and let them have their way with us (at least in good part), we can reap their hidden riches (note: this is often not the case for mental illness, such as anxiety and depression).
Paradoxically, this process of staying close to difficulty eventually fills us up, quenching us with fulfillment. I’m convinced that if we don’t milk and allow ourselves to be transformed by these emotions, we live fractured lives. And as a result, we fracture the lives of others, including the Earth.
In being with painful feelings and letting them change us, they recede. The more we allow ourselves to be changed by them, the more they dissolve. In fact, they recede in proportion to how much we allow them to change us, as if their purpose were to get us to pay attention, to surrender, and to transform. From being with and working through our anger, sadness, fear, remorse, and envy, we develop genuine compassion, courage, creativity, inspiration, meaning, purpose, empathy, and greater love—qualities I call our finer jewels of being human.
We don’t transform difficult emotions as much as they transform us. For this we must surrender and become vulnerable; we must have the faith and courage, humility and strength, to be changed in ways not in our control, shaped by the wild ways of nature expressed through our emotions. This way we get to become more than what we can control, or even imagine. So, if you want to live a passionate life close to nature, give way to your heart and its storms of wild wisdom come to revolutionize you.
To be changed by difficulty, we have to be vulnerable, pliant, brave, and strong enough to weather the shape-shifting of our sense of self. This requires having a strong enough core sense of self, our functional ego, one that can handle the adjustments, or in some cases, the dismantling of our sense of self. For this reason, the support of loved ones, and a therapist, is virtually essential, or at least makes the journey more productive and smoother.
Our dark, uncomfortable, or downright terrifying emotions are the other side of love. They are love’s underbelly, the deeper regions of our heart. In fact, we can often sense when someone has not entered this sacred chamber inside themselves and met their life-renewing shadow because they are generally uncomfortable around the emotional struggles of others.
The Way Out is Through
While offering nuanced suggestions for precisely how to navigate our difficult emotions is beyond the scope of this article (I offer more of that here), I want to briefly speak to the popular adage, “Don’t wallow in negative emotions.” Ironically, this might be an outsider’s perspective, coined and perpetuated by folks who haven’t entered their shadow in a significant way. For, when we do, we learn that we don’t really have much say for how long we are beset by life’s downturns.
We in fact must endure periods of what seems like wallowing and obsessing because we don’t have control over these states, nor do we have to. Nor do we have to fit in to the horse and pony show of modern living, rife with sickness, dysfunction, and obsessed with productivity and positivity. Other times, however, we will be able to snap out of a funk. In these cases we have at least some say in mitigating difficult states, apart from how they might ultimately benefit us.
We experience emotion in two primary ways. The first is in response to troubling environmental factors, events, or circumstances. In these cases, it’s usually safe to heed emotional signals at face value. Another way is to experience difficult emotions due to an imbalanced physiology such as illness (including mental illness) or another stressor. In these instances, it’s better not to listen to the voice or message of emotion and its distorted reasoning, or at least not take their perceived impact and significance to heart. For example, if you’re in a spat with your partner and irritated because you need to eat, get to sleep, be alone, or just chill out, it’s often wiser to just focus on taking care of yourself and not get into it with someone else. We might also need to grab the reins of our mind and control our negative thinking, which is absolutely appropriate during rough times—especially, for example, when we are looping negative thoughts.
All these self-help actions help “skim the surface” of feeling bad, which is to clear the superficial and temporary stress that contributes to circumstantial emotional flareups. After we self-care this way, our troubles usually seem smaller and less painful. Whatever emotional charge or realization left after skimming this top layer of stress, we can embrace and more confidently take to heart. To not self-care to relieve everyday stress is to suffer unnecessarily.
Exercise, appropriate diet, and how supported we feel. all significantly influence our physiological state and therefore the duration and intensity of difficult emotional states.
The idea is to try to stay close to, and be with, our core emotional responses to real life events and to manage and discharge the extra energy these emotions generate due to mental obsession and physiological imbalance. For example, I might feel sad that I lost my girlfriend. I might feel extra sad if I lie on the couch all day and don’t force myself to get up and take a walk, eat something, or talk to friend. We have control over the latter, and not the former. In fact, we might not want to control our grief too much (so it can work on and change us), unless it’s unnecessarily physiologically generated and/or exacerbated by too much inactivity and stagnation.
To get in touch with our core emotions, we can activate and express them (Yang), or slow down and gently embrace them (Yin). This is where the jewels are—if we dig, or better, let ourselves be unearthed! Taking a break from digging and feeling tough feelings, however, is also crucial. This is healthy denial, when we focus on other things to give ourselves a break and so we can return to the inner work refreshed and with clearer perspective.
Lying around feeling sad all day might be helped by taking a walk, venting and being heard by a friend, or getting out to get out of our own head. Feeling angry for hours might be appropriately curbed by going for a run, pounding on some pillows, or finding genuine cause for laughter. But longer stints of grief, for example, might stay with us for months or years. Often, we don’t have much say in this. We can therefore surrender and be changed into what we can’t imagine by this wild wisdom of our deeper hearts.
An unfortunate alternative to embracing our difficult feeling states is turning to drugs, addiction, and excess avoidance, which usually create more suffering. What’s more, we miss out on the nourishing qualities hidden in challenging emotions—our finer jewels of being human—which we harvest by embracing them. Handled skillfully and with support, difficult times can be immense opportunities for growth, finding meaning and purpose in life, and reckoning with our demons. How we approach and handle difficulty is just as important, if not more so, than how we deal with easy times.
Jack Adam Weber, L.Ac., MA, is Chinese medicine physician, having graduated valedictorian of his class in 2000. He has authored hundreds of articles, thousands of poems, and several books. Weber is an activist for embodied spirituality and writes extensively on the subjects of holistic medicine, emotional depth work, and mind-body integration, all the while challenging his readers to think and act outside the box. Weber’s latest creation is the Nourish Practice, a deeply restorative, embodied meditation practice as well as an educational guide for healing the wounds of childhood. His work can be found at jackadamweber.com, on Facebook, or Twitter, where he can also be contacted for life-coaching and medical consultations.
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New Moon In Aries: Taking Bold Action
Before you begin...
We are having a New Moon in Aries during the later hours of April 11th in the Americas and on the 12th everywhere else in the world. This is initiating a 29.5 day lunar cycle and new wave of energy for the coming month; however, the astrological configurations mentioned throughout this article will be more prominent over the following two weeks. This cycle will include a Full Moon in Scorpio on April 26th/27th.
Aries season began at the Equinox (on March 20th globally this year) as it always does, as per the framework of the Tropical Zodiac. Being the first of twelve signs, and initiator of a transitional season, it begins the Astrological New Year. However with this New Moon actually occurring in Aries as well, it will crank up the energies of this sign even more so in comparison to the previous weeks that were part of a lunar cycle initiated by a New Moon in Pisces.
Aries is the domain of self, independence, and individual needs. As a Cardinal Fire sign ruled by Mars, it is assertive, courageous, direct, pioneering, and leading. It is initiating, quick, bold, energetic, and warrior-like. Negatively, this energy can be inconsiderate, selfish, hot tempered, combative, restless, impatient, aggressive, and overly competitive. Aries lacks thoroughness due to its quick forward energy.
New Moon Conjunct Mercury & Venus In Aries
This New Moon is close to both Mercury and Venus. This can reflect a period in which our social interactions and engagement with others can be more lively. Both Mercury and Aries have a busy moving type of energy and we may feel more active, physically and/or mentally, as a result.
The conjunction of both of these planets with this New Moon also means it is tied into cycles that each of those planets have with the Sun. Venus recently joined the Sun in the last week of March and it is now travelling ahead of it in zodiacal position.
In recent weeks this has been a time in which we experienced shifts, developments, endings, beginnings, or more clarity around Venus areas of friends, love, social dynamics, values, worth, or financial matters in some cases. This New Moon and the weeks following can continue this process, especially when it comes to beginnings or newer ways of expressing ourselves in these areas.
Mercury is now approaching the Sun as they will make their conjunction on April 18th/19th. At that time we may experience developments, which may be significant, connected to what has transpired during its previous retrograde in February and how things have unfolded since then. From there, these things may develop further with a better perception, or circumstances may indicate lack of sufficiency, not what was anticipated, or that something needs to change.
Planets In Aries Square Pluto & Sextile Mars Trine Jupiter
This New Moon, along with Venus and Mercury, are in a square with Pluto and sextile with Mars and Jupiter. Pluto combined with Aries and Mars energy can reflect a period of intensity. However, it can also play out as issues around power, control, manipulation, jealousy, insubordination, or subversion. It can also be revealing, psychological, compulsive, transforming, and purging.
The sextile with Mars in Gemini adds to the lively, assertive, instinctual, and energetic expressions of Aries. The Aries’ planets sextile to Jupiter, which is also trine Mars, can be good for applying ourselves in a way that is expansive, optimistic, educational, philosophical, explorative, freedom seeking, or centered around beliefs. New doors may open up and it can even be lucky for some people.
Uranus square Saturn (mentioned here in a previous article) is still in the backdrop as it will be throughout the year. Although it’s not in one of its strong periods, themes of ‘freedom/rebellion/revolution being at odds restrictions/limitations/traditions are still playing out. This may get activated in different ways by this new lunar cycle and the Aries energy that has already been present over the previous weeks following the Astrological New Year.
Making Intentions & Things To Consider
How would you like to grow and expand and what do you need to change to get there? In what areas do you need to be more bold or courageous? What have your relationships shown you in recent weeks? What is important for your individuality? What are your personal needs? What do you stand for and should you be fighting for it? Do you need to be a leader in any aspects of your life? Are there any new things that you want to explore?
These are just some examples of what to consider or focus your intentions on at this time. However, it is good to reflect on anything else that is coming up for you. It is generally best to make any intentions within the first 24 hours following a New Moon. The exact moment it will occur is 2:31am Universal Time on April 12th. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.
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A Symbiosis of Humans & Technology – Changing The Conversation
Before you begin...
Have you ever noticed that discussions about transhumanism tend to focus on technology more than humanism? The journey to reaching our highest potential as a species is usually focused externally on the technology rather than internally on our conscious evolution. This is probably because people assume that conscious evolution is more about spirituality whereas technology is more having to do with the things humans create. The two paths are interdependent so we need more conversations between experts in each of these fields. It will only be through a recognition of the symbiotic nature between humans, their technology, and the environment that we will avert self-destruction.
trans·hu·man·ism (n.) 1. A belief that humans should strive to transcend the physical limitations of the mind and body by technological means. 2. A movement of people who espouse such a belief.
Standing at a Crossroads: The influence that technology has on society and culture is called, technodeterminism. Most of us carry mini supercomputers in our pockets called smartphones. These devices act as external brains which seamlessly integrate into most aspects of our life. Most of us are completely dependent on them for travel, work, communication, entertainment, and beyond. Take a moment to consider the future implications of augmented reality, artificial intelligence, machine-learning, mass surveillance, automation, genome editing, nanotechnology, and their potential influences on society, culture, and our environment.
When I think about these things, I can’t help but ask:
Why aren’t people like the Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra, and Dr. Andrew Weil conversing more with people like Ray Kurzweil, Elon Musk, and Steve Mann?
Ancient Futures: It will become increasingly imperative for our most advanced technologies to be informed by the natural ethos of indigenous people blended with the emotional-intelligence of our enlightened spiritual masters. We must remember that the first humans who captured fire to light their cave, stay warm on a cold night, or cook their food were using technology. Anthropologists proudly call us humans “tool-makers” as one of the attributes that make us distinct from most species.
Paradigm Shift: Conscious evolution will require a concerted effort to communicate across silos and disciplines. Cooperation and collaboration towards collective goals will need to take the place of competition for personal gain. What are we hoping to accomplish, and at what cost? We are a risk-taking species and that drives us to exceed all our limitations. Let’s make these be calculated risks because with our technology also comes a great responsibility.
Start Within: Even our most sophisticated technology does not possess the complexities of organic systems. Computers and machines can do many things for us but they will never be able to feel for us. The realm of emotion is central and unique to our human experience yet it is only now starting to be recognized as a valuable form of intelligence.
“Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognize one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.” -Andrew Coleman A Dictionary of Psychology
Research in multiple fields of study shows that curiosity, creativity, taking initiative, multi-disciplinary thinking, and empathy are skills that will redefine traditional beliefs about intelligence. The ability to accommodate new information requires a certain level of mental flexibility, humility, and ultimately character. It is through our ability to feel and process our emotions that our higher intelligence flourishes.
SuperHumans: Any sports fan knows that there are individuals who possess superhuman gifts. Think of popular sports stars like Michael Jordan, or any of the various extreme sports heroes who somehow manage the seemingly impossible. We also have the various musical or art prodigies who express the skills of a master before the age of 10. We have seen humans walk on red-hot coals with bare feet, walk a tightrope between skyscrapers, and exhibit mind-boggling feats of mental-focus, and will-power. Did you know that Wim Hof ran a half marathon barefoot on ice and snow, with a time of 2 hours, 16 minutes, and 34 seconds? Humans are capable of amazing things when they channel discipline, practice, creative brilliance, fearlessness and focus. We have barely scratched the surface of what is possible!
Global Meditation: This simple practice of quieting the mind, and bringing presence to one’s breathing has a long list of documented benefits that include enhanced neural connections, deep feelings of connection and well-being, as well as a strengthened immune system. When we compound this focused intention to include tens of thousands of people all over the world, we begin to literally shift planetary magnetic resonance. The science does not lie, we are potent electrical beings with the ability to focus consciousness and create beyond our wildest imaginations.
Everything technology offers is a reflection of the technology that we, as humans are. Learning to laugh at ourselves a little while delving into our emotions and to make room for possibilities beyond our currently held beliefs is essential for this journey. In order for us to create technology that is aligned with all of life and our planet, we must first become aligned with ourselves and each other. Global meditation is where we practice together!
We can no longer claim that a technology is advanced if it is destroying our skies and rivers or perpetuating harmful practices like war and domination. These are examples of misguided technologies. Our DNA has been informed by countless generations of evolution. It is time that we focus our consciousness towards the natural wisdom kept by indigenous people, while embracing the presence of enlightened spiritual masters. This will allow us to infuse our science and highest technological advancements with ecological and emotional intelligence for the benefit of all life.
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A Proven Technique To Neutralize Draining Emotional Reactions
- The Facts:
We'll explore a simple scientifically proven technique to help neutralize emotional reactions that often drain our energy and reduce our ability to think clearly and make effective decisions.
- Reflect On:
How often do you check in to how you're are feeling? Do you feel you are able to self regulate your emotions easily?
Before you begin...
Do you notice that you sometimes feel tired or fatigued but are not sure why? Maybe you can have a restful sleep and still wake up having a sense that your energy is not quite there? Maybe you notice yourself being reactive, having a short fuse and feeling unclear about what decisions to make? Maybe you say things to friends, family or people online that you later regret or didn’t truly mean. Much of this can have a lot to do with how we’re feeling emotionally on a regular basis. Emotions that are happening just a touch outside our conscious awareness.
Let’s just do a very quick check in to see what I mean. If you stop a take a moment right now to ask “how am I feeling?” What do you notice? Are you feeling good? Energized? Do you have a background tension? Are you a bit stressed? Annoyed? Are you relaxed and calm? Are you perhaps relaxed yet feeling blah? When we do these check ins we bring awareness to how we might be feeling. This is something we typically don’t do that often and thus are simply not consciously aware of how we feel. If we were a bit more consciously aware of how we felt, we’d have a greater understanding of what we could do to feel better as we know where we’re at.
This is important because one of the greatest unrecognized sources of prolonged stress, fatigue and physical wear and tear on our bodies comes from living our day to day lives in a state where we consciously or subconsciously experience what we might call ‘draining emotions.’ These are emotions like worry, fear, anger, resentment, or sadness etc.
For each of us, we’re likely going to experience these emotions at some point in life, and this is normal. Typically when we experience these emotions, we’re getting an insight into ourselves. Since what triggers these emotions can often be subjective, we can learn something about our current self by paying attention to these emotions. For example, someone might cut us off while we’re driving on the freeway. On one hand, one person might react aggressively and become very angry, while another might simply see it as a mistake on the part of the other driver and move on with their day.
Why some of us react and others don’t typically comes down the the story we’re telling ourselves about why that person cut you off. Perhaps they take it personally, perhaps they see it as an attack in some way – who knows? You. Only you know, and you can get closer to knowing what that is so you don’t harbour that draining emotion for the rest of the day, and even remove the trigger to begin with so you don’t necessarily have to go down that angry road every time something small like this happens.
I want to be clear here, we’re not looking to avoid emotions or never experience them, we’re looking to gain awareness around why they come, and ultimately have the choice over what gets us bothered and what might be better to simply let go. There is a difference between momentarily feeling an emotion like this, and letting it become a ‘background state’ of being that slowly begins to shape our attitude towards unhealthy and draining tendencies.
We can likely go on all day about where we should ‘honor’ some emotions in some situations or stand up for ourselves in others – I’ll let you decide that within yourself for each situation, but what the focus here in this piece is to simply look at how we can neutralize an emotional experience so we can stop it from draining all our energy and gain greater clarity on why it might be happening.
The exercise below is geared towards improving our self awareness around situations and how we feel, so we can learn to self-regulate emotions at anytime, as well as turn off triggers that might not really be the greatest to have to begin with.
Remember, we’re going to stick with a situation where we are cut off in traffic, but you can use these steps for anything. Maybe you realize you are fearful about a situation. Maybe you notice ongoing worry about something that’s happening or may happen – whatever it may be, the steps can be applied.
A Quick 3 Minute Exercise
We’ll go through the steps, this might seem long at first but it’s actually very short once you get the hang of it. This method is based on decades of scientific researching involving the heart and the benefits of creating coherence through good heart rate variability. You can learn more about that here under the section “Coherence & Optimal Function.”
1. The first step is becoming aware of the fact you’re having the emotional experience. What we’re doing here is by reading this we’re setting up a bit of an increased self awareness in our minds that can help us remember to check in when we next have an emotional reaction to something. Perhaps the car cuts us off while driving, and we react, but then shortly after we remember that we want to have a closer look at that emotional reaction and perhaps choose a different response instead of going down an energy draining rabbit hole. So the first thing we want to do is become aware that the experience is happening.
2. The next step is accepting the experience that’s happening. What this means is, if the person in front of us cuts us off while driving and we get angry and realize we’re angry, bring to your awareness that this is OK. We’re not looking to create a judgement about what happened or what we’re experiencing, instead we simply want to see it for what it is, an experience that happened and we’re now aware of and sitting as an observer of it. What this does is it empowers us to be able to look a little more closely at what we’re feeling and why. After we become aware, take note of the emotion you’re experiencing and name it. Is it anger? Is it worry? Is it fear?
As a small kicker to this, just imagine that the intention here is to turn down the intensity of the emotion so we can go in a take a look at what’s going on in the same way that a firefighter will spray water onto a burning house to stop the fire and cool it enough to go in and assess what the source of that fire was.
3. Next we’re going to take a moment and place our hand or a couple fingers over the areas of our chest, around where your heart is, and use the placement of your hand as something to focus on. With your eyes open, take some comfortable yet slightly deeper breaths. Feel your breath moving in and out of the area of your heart (where you hand is). To do this, don’t worry too much about how perfect the breathing is or whether it’s exactly going in and our of your heart area, just sit with a gentle focus that your breath is moving in and out of the area of your heart. Our goal here is to bring awareness to the physical heart and begin to influence its rhythms ever so slightly. Breath into your heart for about 30 seconds.
4. Next we want to continue our heart focused breathing while also imagining the feeling of calm or ease enter into our bodies. Spend the next 2 minutes or so breathing in the feeling of calm or ease into your heart with comfortable breaths. Notice the calm and ease come over your mind and body. What this stage does is it shows us that we have the ability to produce our own emotional regulation by creating a physiological state that is more synchronized and favorable for introspection and clarity.
After step 4 you should feel a lot more neutral in your feeling, but it may be possible you’re still annoyed or upset about the situation, this is great and in many ways the point of the exercise. Remember the firefighter analogy.
If it’s a really small situation, this awareness might already help us choose to simply let it go. If it’s a larger situation, this exercise helps us reduce the intensity so we can gain a bit more clarity about what’s going on and stop us from simply circling the experience over and over again in our minds, potentially increasing our anger and draining our energy.
Now as a final step, you can take a moment to just assess, what is the story you have been telling yourself about the situation? What might be a more effective way to approach or think about the situation? In the case of getting cut off in the car, was it really personal? If so, how do you know? If it was a mistake, is anger helping you or just providing an undesirable experience? If you had the freedom, would you choose anger at the other driver or to just let it go and maintain better health?
The point here is that with awareness we get clearer on who we are and how we function. This inevitably gives us a choice in how we choose to react.
For more information on this and to build a bit of a deeper practice, you can check out a short course I produced in our members area called CETV. The course is called Improving Daily Self Awareness, Presence & Connection.
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