How to Meditate Your Emotions Away

by Ryder Johanson, L.Ac

There’s a growing awareness in our society that stress can wreak havoc on your health.  I’d be surprised to find a single health care provider of any flavor that wouldn’t suggest stress management is an important part of maintaining good health.

Meditation is something I’m seeing more and more health experts recommend as a potent tool for relieving stress.  Many people are aware that it’s hard to beat meditation when it comes to stress relief, but there’s often a hang-up when I suggest that someone try meditation.  The most common response I hear is something along the lines of: “There’s no way I could meditate—my mind is just way too busy.”  Many of these people have even tried meditation before and found it an amazingly frustrating experience because their minds just won’t shut up and the harder they try, the worse it gets.  I can understand, then, why meditation doesn’t seem like the most appealing tool for stress relief.

The funny thing is that that’s kind of the point of meditation: all of your baggage, the things you’ve been avoiding, your suppressed emotions are going to come bubbling up. 

That has definitely been my experience.  When I discovered meditation and was convinced of all the wonderful benefits and experiences that it could open up, I jumped in with both feet and meditated as much as I could.   I thought meditation was a tool I could use to escape all the stressful emotions in my life.  I experienced sublime periods of relaxation and moments when I forgot all my stresses.  And that relaxation often translated into the rest of my day.

But after that initial “honeymoon” period things got a lot harder.  It became more difficult to reach the places in meditation that had come much more effortlessly before.  And the anxiety and agitation bouncing around in my mind seemed to be harder to quiet down—maybe it was growing or maybe I was just becoming more aware of it.  My plan to meditate all my emotions away wasn’t going so well.

I came to realize that the only real way to release stressful emotions was to let myself fully feel them and even express them.  I started to let myself experience the anxiety and frustration of not being able to quiet my mind.  That would lead to memories of other things in my life that would bring up anxiety and frustration.  It started to become easier to express to people in my life the things that were frustrating me.  With that came relief—the relief of getting the weight off my chest—and a sense of empowerment: it was OK for me to stand up for myself and set my boundaries. 

After a while I started to realize that there was more than suppressed anger that was agitating my mind.  Underneath my angry, teenage self was a sad, fearful, ashamed childhood version of myself—some would call it my “inner child”.  And it was wounded.  I always knew it was there, but it was something I had rejected because it was too painful to experience. 

I was blown away at how powerful it was to let myself remember and re-experience all those childhood traumas and have it be OK that I was afraid and hurt.  And despite what I had previously expected, I didn’t wallow in depression and self-pity for weeks on end.  Letting myself fully experience those painful emotions started to neutralize the “charge” they had in my mind.

I’ve learned that this is a common experience among meditators.  After the initial peaceful and even blissful experiences in meditation, there comes a time when all of the painful thoughts and emotions you’ve suppressed come up to be felt and integrated into the new “you” you’re becoming.  St. John of the Cross called it the “dark night of the soul.”

Meditation didn’t turn out to be the totally relaxing and blissed-out experience I expected, but it’s also turned out to be better than I expected.  More and more I’m finding relief from stress not by avoiding it or through coping mechanisms (which even some forms of meditation can be), but by addressing the thoughts and the emotions underlying the stress.  It’s part of what people are talking about when they say there’s “no way around your problems but through them.”

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The Bud

I was recently at a women’s writing group where we watched a performance by Lizzo, a voluptuous, female pop-star, expressing an uninhibited freedom to the masses with her sexy, voluptuous body. She strikingly exuded self-confidence, unabashedly allowing her whole being to shine while she sang and danced on the stage. From her example, I felt a sense of permission to break free from my own limited body images formed early in childhood and the narrow images of beauty often displayed on TV, the front covers of magazines, and the modeling my mother demonstrated. I was taught early in life that thin was the goal and that it was going to be a struggle to reach that goal. Lizzo’s ability to comfortably inhabit her female form spoke to the capacity we each have within us to accept our unique body and genius–to let go of the chains of cultural conditioning, to stop comparing ourselves to other people’s bodies, and to claim our inherent “Bud” of beauty.

What is a Bud? 

One definition, is a form put forth in a small growth that develops into a flower, leaf, or branch.

Saint Francis’s wise words on a Bud:

“The Bud stands for all things, even for those things that don’t flower, for everything flowers from within, of self-blessings; though sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness, to put a hand on the brow of the flower and retell it in words and in touch that it is lovely until it flowers again from within, of self blessing.  As Saint Francis put his hand on the creased forehead of the sow, and told her in words and in touch blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow began remembering all down her thick length, from the earthen snout all the way through the fodder and slopes to the spiritual curl of her tail . . . the long, perfect loveliness of sow.”

How does this relate to your health?  In every way. 

The Bud cannot be, if we do not put ourselves beyond the limiting images and beliefs of our childhood, culture, and self.  If you have forgotten how lovely you are, let someone remind you.  You deserve to feel good!

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Healthy Herbal Coolers

Healthy Herbal Teas That keep You Hydrated in the Heat

Here in Southern Oregon the heat is upon us and the summer is just getting started.  In this post Oliver Leonetti L.Ac,  the owner of Inner Gate Acupuncture in Portland Oregon, shares two great tea recipes that use Chinese herbs to help keep you hydrated and healthy this summer.

Summer is a great time to be outside enjoying the landscape and beauty that Southern Oregon has to offer. Here are two natural recipes with Chinese herbs for real thirst quenching. These herbs have heat relieving and hydrating properties that are far better than over-sweetened commercial products.

These teas are great for hikes, workouts or just as daily thirst quenchers. These can be brewed at home and transported in reusable bottles to limit the environmental impact of plastics. These teas also provide electrolytes and minerals to replace those lost through perspiration and activity.

Mint and Chrysanthemum Tea:

Ingredients:
1 cup – Mint leaves – Dried or fresh.
1 cup – Dried Chrysanthemum flowers

Directions: 
Bring 4 cups of water to boil and remove from the heat.
Add herbs and steep for about 10 minutes.
Strain herbs
Add 6 cups of water or ice.
A natural sweetener or fresh mint can be added for taste.

Notes:
Mint is traditionally used to clear heat from the head and eyes. Its cooling nature helps relieve heat rashes and headaches.

Chrysanthemum is traditionally used to lessen allergy symptoms, reduce fevers, headaches and relieve red swollen eyes. 

Goji Melon Cooler:

Ingredients:

1 cup     Goji berries 
2 cups – Watermelon juice
2 cups – Aloe vera juice

Directions:
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer
Add goji berries and simmer for 10 minutes
Strain herbs and allow it too cool fully
Add Aloe juice and watermelon
Add 5 cups of water or ice
A natural sweetener or fresh mint can be added for taste.

Notes:
Goji Berries are a great all-around tonic. They have been used traditionally to strengthen the body and the eyes and they are full of vitamins and minerals.
Watermelon, especially the white rind part, has great cooling and hydrating properties. It is used traditionally to reduce heat stroke.
Aloe Vera Juice has been traditionally used for cooling the body and skin. It’s also great for constipation, and red eyes.

Enjoy!

Click Here to learn more about Oliver Leonetti L.Ac. and Inner Gate Acupuncture

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