“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh.
Recently I was meeting with a client on Zoom and could see that he was trying to keep himself composed while trying to get a handle on some intense emotions that were coming up. In the coaching session, he tapped into something powerfully that was asking to be released. Sensing he was open, I calmly asked if he was willing to go on a journey with me.
Looking down, he slowly nodded his head up and down. “I call this the sixty to ninety-second waves of emotions exercise”, I gently said. I asked him to get comfortable and close his eyes. He settled in and closed his eyes. I asked him to become aware of his breath and to allow the emotions to completely flood his mind and body. “The only way is through and the emotional intensity will last for a short period of time. Continue going back to the breath”, I said. “Soften the belly, soften the forehead,…”
A few moments later, tears streamed down his face. As I repeated the words, “continue to breathe, allow the feelings to flood, soften the belly, soften the forehead…”, tears continued to flow.
Research confirms that the ebb and flow of emotional intensity can peak for sixty to ninety seconds before receding. Our bodies are designed to release unprocessed emotions that are stuck. Physical manifestations can show up in the form of a headache, stomach ache, or tight shoulders. Sometimes our head or logic gets in the way of the process of release, especially if it is something that happened a long time ago.
A washing machine that gets shut off halfway through the cycle has to be started over again to allow the clothes to be fully laundered. Our emotions operate in a similar way. When stopped, emotions can stay stuck in mid-cycle, too.
To hold space with a person who is in their most vulnerable emotional state is a privilege. I have been in that state myself, riding the waves of emotional intensity. It takes an immense amount of courage to allow the body to do what it is meant to do, to let go.
By accessing the breath and surrendering to the flood of emotions, we allow the body to do what it is designed to do, i.e., to let go of trapped emotions and other emotional baggage, which lightens our emotional load. By letting go and feeling, we are able to be more fully present in the here and now.