April 26, 2011

Being a guest house for feelings

Some emotions that might visit our house

I have not fully recovered from the arrival of spring. My mind seems to lose some function during this critical period - feelings seem to take over. Spring, I believe is a time for feeling. I have never been very good at understanding my own feelings. Thinking is my strongest card, by far. I sympathize with my good friend Raging Lion who although filled to the brim with feelings can't easily identify them. Once he had to fill out a questionnaire about his emotional life and the interviewer couldn't believe his eyes when Raging Lion took out a pendulum to answer the questions. Being a shallow thinking person the interviewer probably labeled Raging Lion as crazy right there on the spot. I thought that Raging Lion had found a very efficient way to aid himself in exploring his own feelings - he knew his own weakness and dealt with it.

When I was little and lived in America I used to love watching the Sesame Street Show. I watched from the floor where I sat enthralled. My mom also bought Sesame Street sheets for my bed, so I was steeped in Sesame Street and the beautiful characters. Later in life I could appreciate the elegant design and pedagogy behind Sesame Street  - the show nurtured both the cognitive and the emotional skills of children. The show was also free of commercials and consumptive pressures - at the end of each program a voice would say something like: "This program was sponsored by the letter K and H and the number 12." Well, today it is quite a bit tougher being a child and watching TV. Let me bring you back to some of my childhood TV memories:

Here you can watch Ernie trying to involve Bert in the "Feelings Game":

Here Kermit is talking about feelings and is serendipitously interrupted by the Cookie Monster:

According to the World Health Organization, depression will be the second leading cause of death and disability worldwide by 2020 (after cardiovascular disease). The scale of depression is already staggering.

A person who is depressed is often prone to rumination - self-critical, self-focused, repetitive negative thinking- driven by a desire to "solve" the unhappy state, and experiential avoidance -wanting to be out of touch with painful thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is increasingly used in therapeutic practice, as it is very effective and inexpensive. Mindfulness is simply about being aware of what is going on and attending events with curiosity and kindness instead of hostility and rejection. By increasing our ability to identify our feelings and by exercising tolerance and even curiosity and kindness towards our feelings, it is suggested that we will be able to see moods and thoughts as passing events and not a physical part of our identity.

I think one of the best poems ever written about how to deal with dark moods is The Guest House, by Rumi. I would like to share it here:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing 
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Jelaluddin Rumi,
    translation by Coleman Barks

1 comment:

  1. Those sesami street guys made me remind my childhood too. i used to love watching them. Good memories. Thank you