Designing your Mood
This week’s practice is to intentionally declare a “mood for the day” and then specifically engage and practice that mood throughout the coming week. I like to write down my “mood for the day” on a post-it note and put it on the bathroom mirror. I've practiced engaging "acceptance," "patience," "listening," "joy," there are endless positive emotions to practice engaging. I often end up practicing the same mood many days in a row or even for the whole week (apparently I require a lot of practice). Or, pick a different mood for each day.
Moods and emotion are contagious like the flu. When we feel emotionally upset, we also feel it deeply in our bodies. How does upset show for you? Does your stomach clench? Or your jaw tighten? Does a flush of heat rise to your face, or your shoulders tense up? It is different for everyone. Sometimes we keep the mood reinforced by continuing to repeat a ‘story of upset’ over and over until it becomes further ingrained; each time triggering anew all those emotions and physical responses. Chronically, emotions of upset can become trapped in us and cause dis-ease.
As it turns out, science is discovering that even when we “fake an emotion” it triggers changes in the brain. As many masters of meditation will often invoke us to imagine smiling gently while doing a favorite meditation, or on a walk, or just whenever. Popular literature often touts the benefits of repeating positive self-affirmations to ourselves (Jeffers, 2007). We can now see from brain images of mediating monks, that they have a very different brain activity. So practicing engaging a positive mood is overall beneficial for our brains, for relaxation and an effective way to transform “upset.”
To start with ... first one has to recognize the moment we've gone into this upset mood. This would be the moment, if we can ---rather than letting go into it, instead allow your inner "observer" to come to our rescue and notice-----“ah ha! Yes, I am in upset. I will take a breath.” Then breathe in again. Now engage the mood you set for the day with another deep breath. Breathing is a physical act that brings in oxygen and physically gives space to transform the negative experience and act differently. It provides us a moment to engage a choice. Throughout the day, It can be helpful to repeat your mood-word as a mantra as you walk or at a stop light or listening to someone who is driving you nuts.
Be easy on yourself. You may not catch the upset until well into it or even not until after it is over. Even practiced spiritual masters such as Pema Chodron still feel anger and upset just like any human being. They are just well-practiced in transforming it quickly and taking note that “oh that is interesting. Hmm I wonder why I’m in upset about this?” Again…it takes practice. I certainly have much to practice in this regard too. We are all works in progress.
Cheers and wishes that you do something today that inspires you.