Cultivating a Base of Emotional Tranquility
Recent posts have suggested tools of focused processing to help you attend to and make sense of your emotions, to manage and rewire difficult negative emotions, and to use positive emotions to shift the functioning of your brain and to shift your moods and states of being. You can continue using those tools whenever necessary; you’re building new neural circuity in the brain that will support a deeper emotional equanimity and thus resilience.
This post offers a tool to come to that emotional equanimity using the spaciousness of defocused processing – the default network of the brain. You learn to let your emotions “dissolve” into a peaceful, easy tranquility – the home base of emotional well-being that all of these practices return us to.
You may have experienced moments of well-being when you feel centered, grounded, at peace, and at ease. These result from the positive activation of our parasympathetic nervous system when there is no danger. We are calm and relaxed, able to REST – relax and enter into safety and trust. “God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the [inner] world.” You can deliberately evoke that sense of well-being with the exercise below and, with practice, sustain it over time.
Resting in Well-Being
1. Lie down on a bed, a couch, the floor, or the ground, somewhere you feel comfortable and safe and won’t be interrupted for five minutes. Slowly let your body relax. Let the weight of your body drop, feeling supported by the surface beneath you. You don’t have to “carry” yourself for a moment.
2. Breathe slowly, gently, and deeply, taking slightly longer on the exhalations. Breathe in a sense of ease, calm and tranquility. Breathe out, one by one, all the worries, thoughts, and feelings you might still be carrying. Breathe in and breathe out, as many times as you need to.
3. Notice a spaciousness inside your body, even inside your skull. Feel the space between any lingering tension, any lingering thoughts, any lingering feelings, like the space between notes of music. Notice the ease the calm of the spaciousness.
4. Begin to gently focus your awareness on the presence of the spaciousness more; notice the absence, the emptiness around the feelings, thoughts, and tensions. Rest in the presence of this spaciousness for a few moments.
5. Name this feeling of spaciousness to help you evoke it later. Call it peacefulness, tranquility, calm, ease, or well-being – whatever works for you.
6. Return to your focused awareness and reflect on your experience of this exercise.
We often notice the storms of emotions in our lives, but we don’t always pay attention to the blue sky of well-being they are blowing through. Cultivating and deepening an awareness of that background equilibrium is a way of strengthening your resilience. The spaciousness allows your brain to hold bigger, more challenging, more difficult emotions as you move through your life.