A Mindful Exercise for Accepting Distress

Please listen to this mindfulness meditation as often as you find helpful in the practice of accepting our emotions. I hope you find this helpful. Feel free to share with whomever you think will benefit from listening.

I welcome your thoughts and experiences of the meditation.

Script for a mindful exercise in accepting distress:

Sitting comfortably in your chair, feet flat on the floor, hands placed on your thighs or if you prefer on your diaphragm. Be aware that your chair is fully supporting you. Lower your head and close your eyes. Bring your attention to your breathing. Take a few moments now to connect with your breath and find a rhythm that feels calming and soothing for you.

Once you have settled into your breathing, gently guide your attention to how you are feeling emotionally within yourself at this moment. Notice whatever feelings are here within you, whether they are positive, neutral or negative, whether you feel them strongly or faintly. They are all just emotions. Just feelings to be felt. Remind yourself that it is okay to allow yourself to feel this emotion. Remember you are not your emotions, you are the observer of your emotions. Take some time now to observe your emotional experience, making no attempt to change how you are feeling.

To help you to stay with this emotion try now to label the emotion to yourself – for example you might say “there is fear,” or “there is sadness,” or “there is anger” or “there is frustration.” You might describe where and how you feel the emotion in your body. Take time to notice the physical signs that you are feeling the way you feel. Note these signs like an observer. You may say to yourself, “I feel tension in my forehead” or “I feel butterflies in my stomach” or “I feel heavy in my chest”.

Watch as the emotion changes in intensity and nature. Bring whatever image to mind that helps you to be the observer of your emotions. For example, seeing your emotion like an ocean wave, allow the wave to carry you over its crest and down the other side, or you might choose to surf the wave allowing it to carry you into the shore and onto the beach.

Or you may prefer to view your emotions as an express train, watch the train as it comes towards the station and through the station without stopping. You may picture the carriages as carrying your emotions. You are observing this train from the platform as it passes, watch it as it leaves and continues on its track into the distance for as long as it takes to go out of sight, as you stay on that platform. 

Or you may try watching a cloud floating in the sky or a leaf floating on a stream, you can imagine each cloud or leaf as your emotions. You can’t stop the cloud being moved by the wind nor the leaf from being moved by the flowing water. You can just watch your emotions floating by you in their own time, eventually passing out of sight.

You don’t have to get caught up in your emotions and get swept up in them. You don’t need to change your emotions, fight them or get rid of them. You are just here to watch, observe and experience what is going on right now. See if you can make some space for the emotion, seeing it as part of a broader landscape within you that contains lots of things like other feelings, thoughts, memories, body sensations. Your emotions are just emotions, your feelings are just feelings, nothing more and nothing less.

When you have fully experienced whatever emotion is there, and the experience has run its natural course, bring your attention towards your breath. Breathing in and breathing out. You may want to bring your attention to the rise and fall of your diaphragm as you breathe. Notice the sensations in your body as you breathe in and then out again. Take some time now to allow your breath to be your anchor to the present moment.

If your mind wanders away from the breath or from your image to another feeling, or thought or sensation. That’s okay, that’s what our minds do. Congratulate yourself for noticing, and give your mind the time to again observe and watch what you are experiencing at that moment. Use your image to observe your experience and once that observation has run its natural course, again gently bring your attention back to the breath as your anchor to the present.

I’m going to be quiet now for a few minutes to allow you to continue your practice between being the observer of your emotion and anchoring with the breath, allowing the time for each emotional experience to pass. I will let you know when we are bringing the exercise to a close……

So now we are going to gently bring our attention to our breathing, if you were already with your breath, stay with your breathing for a few more moments, if you are observing your emotion, acknowledge this emotion and gently let go of the image from your mind’s eye and bring your attention back to your breathing. Take a slightly deeper breath. Feel your body, your feet on the ground, wriggle your toes and gently stretch, you may want to circle your shoulders or move your head slowly from side to side. Now you can gradually open your eyes, bringing this mindfulness exercise to a close.

Thank you.


For more information on Accepting Distress please see blog by clicking Accepting Our Distress and Pain.

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

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