When a difficult situation or memory arises, your first priority is to calm and center yourself. Just notice the difficulty and refrain from editorializing. I call this “self-soothing.” Here is a meditation to help you self-soothe during an emotional emergency.
Go someplace quiet where you won’t be interrupted and sit comfortably.
Begin by acknowledging what’s true. Notice the unpleasant sensations and feelings that are present in your body and mind.
State to yourself, out loud if you can, “This difficulty feels like this.” For instance, “Having a broken heart feels like this.”
Recognize that in this moment you are suffering and have compassion for your suffering.
Notice if you are adding to your suffering by criticizing or judging yourself, or making up a story about what’s happening.
To calm yourself, take a few moments to focus your attention on your breath or one of your senses, such as hearing or seeing, or a part of your body that feels comfortable.
Observe that you are not just this difficulty and that you have other thoughts and bodily sensations. If it helps to calm you, name these thoughts and bodily sensations.
Now notice that these thoughts and bodily sensations are always changing. Seeing that this is true, this feeling of difficulty must also be subject to change and isn’t permanent.
Ask yourself, “Is there something I need to do and can do right now about this difficulty?” If there is, focus on your breath for a few moments and then get up and do it. If there’s nothing to be done or you don’t know what to do, then just sit there being kind to yourself.
Remind yourself that you can’t control all of the conditions of your life, but you can choose how you respond to those conditions. Ask yourself, “How do I want to respond to this difficult situation?” Sometimes this question is best asked while taking a meditative walk. You’ve now moved from your reactive, chaotic mind to being present and clear.
Excerpted from Emotional Chaos to Clarity by Phillip Moffitt. Copyright 2012 by Phillip Moffitt.