Meditation is a great way to make space — you close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and imagine yourself in a positive, soothing environment. You can light a candle, dim the lights, put some relaxing music on, and you can try (for a just few minutes) to give yourself an emotional break.
While going through therapy, meditation was often suggested as a way for me to make space, calm my mind, and try to let go of everyday stresses. And I can attest that it’s a wonderful habit that helps keep emotions in check.
Meditation: to escape or to solve
I once worked with someone who seemed to be in a constant state of panic. She said to me once, “I’m just told to breathe, but I can’t! I can’t do that. I have too much going on.” I know that feeling. And it made me wonder if there was a step we were missing in calming our minds. Maybe we were taking too big of a leap. Maybe we needed to do a bit of cleaning up first before we can attempt to let it go.
Or — before we attempt to “let it go,” maybe we need to find some answers; come to a conclusion. Perhaps we can’t calm down because our minds are desperately trying to problem solve; troubleshoot.
Traditional meditation is a great way to calm the mind, but is it going to help you organize the thousands of thoughts and feelings that are swimming aimlessly in your mind?
Philosophical meditation is a type of meditation practice that helps you organize the assortment of feelings rather than escaping from all of them only to come back to a mess of scattered emotions.
In the book, The School of Life by Alain de Botton, he describes philosophical meditation as: “Instead of being prompted to sidestep our worries and ambitions, we are directed to set aside time to untangle, examine, and confront them.”
Philosophical meditation: 3 questions to ask
Philosophical meditation is a mindful practice that consists of 3 questions. You can it do daily, weekly, or monthly. You can either take 5 minutes and jot down bullets of the first things that come to your mind, or you can take a deeper dive by journaling each answer.
Question 1: What are you anxious about right now?
The moment we wake up, we have a stream of random thoughts that seem mushed together, that if not analyzed or controlled, can bring on anxiety. By simply taking the moment to write out a list of all the things that are currently on your mind, some of the anxiety you may have been feeling subsides (or at least become less extreme), and you may feel a sense of control over your emotions and your actions, and more confident to take on the challenges of the day as they come.
Question 2: What am I upset about right now?
We oftentimes don’t realize how brave we truly are. Small bouts of disappointment, envy, hurt are simply brushed off quickly in order to get through the demands of the work day, to be there for our kids, to be a good partner, etc. Just like a full garbage can that’s waiting to be thrown out and smells after a while, without taking the time to audit our emotional weight that we carry, emotional relapses such as burnout, depression, and anxiety creep up quickly.
What I like about this question is that it pushes you to go deeper. Asking what is making you anxious helps to get the initial feelings on paper, but this question focuses more on the situation at hand and what may have triggered the anxiety. Here’s an example:
Q: What are you anxious about right now? A: Money
Q: What am I upset about right now? A: I’m disappointed at my employer for cutting our bonuses. I’m feeling unappreciated.
See the difference? The first question identifies the feeling on the surface, but the second question tends to identify the emotional trigger. This is important differentiator because it will help you pinpoint why you’re feeling the way you do, and from there, you can make a decision or take action on what to do about it.
Question 3: What am I ambitious and excited about right now?
It can be hard to tell the difference between excitement and fear. Fear oftentimes dominates the wonderful feeling of excitement, therefore when we’re anxious about something, we don’t allow ourselves to be excited about what we’re creating, achieving, and/or what’s on the horizon.
Allow yourself some space to distinguish between the two. That way, you focus more of your energy on what you’re excited about and give less of your time and energy to what’s making you fearful, angry, or anxious.
I encourage you to give it a try. Play around with what works for you. You’ll know it’s helping when you feel a sense of relief after getting your answers on paper. If you’re feeling a little scattered in the morning or you’re having a hard time going to sleep, this is a great way to decompress and allow your emotions to be heard so you can clear your head to focus and/or get some rest.
Clarity = Action
Emotional Management is covered in Tonia Moon’s EI for Women Class. If you’d like to learn more about how to manage your emotions, click here.