The steps in dealing with feelings is to recognize each feeling as it arises. So, the first step is detecting it, giving it your attention. This is called mindfulness.
There are three sorts of feelings; pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral. When we have an unpleasant feeling, we usually try to get rid of it as soon as possible. But it seldom works, because the more we fight or try to get rid of it, the more it grows and can even consume us if we not careful.
A better, more effective way is rather to return to your conscious breathing and just observe it, identifying it silently to yourself: “I know there is an unpleasant feeling in me.”
Calling a feeling by its name, such as “fear,” “anger,” “sorrow,”” joy,” or “happiness,” can help you identifying it clearly and recognize it more deeply. And then by using your breathing to be in contact with your feelings, you and accept them. Why?
Because when your breathing is light and calm—a natural result of conscious breathing—your mind and body will slowly become light, calm, and clear, and your feelings will follow suit.
It is important to remember that mindful observation is based on the principle of “non-duality”: your feeling is not separate from you or caused merely by something outside you; the feeling is you, and for the moment you are that feeling.
In each of us the feeling of anger arises from time to time, for example, so when you detect anger in you, you need to bring out your mindful awareness, in other words you need to look at your anger, and recognize it as anger.
Off course, anger is an unpleasant feeling. It is almost like a blazing flame that burns up all your self-control and can cause you to say and do things that you’ll regret later. When someone is angry, we can see clearly that they are in hell. I mean anger and hatred are the materials from which hell is made.
Whereas a mind without anger is calm, light and sane. The absence of anger is the basis of real happiness, the basis of love and compassion. When your anger is placed under the lamp of mindfulness, it immediately begins to lose some of its destructive nature.
You should know that as anger springs from yourself so does mindfulness. They are both in you, not fighting, but one taking care of the other.
The second step is to become one with the feeling. It is best not to say something like: “Go away anger, I don’t like you. You are not me.” It is much more effective to say, “Hi anger, how are you today?” Then you can invite the two aspects of yourself, mindfulness and anger, to shake hands as friends and become one. Doing this may seem scary, but because you know that you are more than just your anger, you need not be afraid.
As long as your attention is there, it can look after your anger. The essential practice is to nurture your mindfulness with conscious breathing, to keep it there, alive and strong.
The Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, beautifully links to this in his book, The Miracle of Mindfulness: “Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
Although your mindfulness may not be very powerful in the beginning, if you nourish it, it will not be scorched by your anger. In fact, you begin transforming it the very moment you give birth to awareness in yourself.
The third step is to calm the feeling. As mindfulness is taking good care of your anger, you begin to calm it down. “Breathing in, I calm down.” You calm your feeling just by being with it, like a mother holding her crying baby. Feeling his mother’s tenderness, the baby will calm down and stop crying. The mother, in this case, is your awareness. Just as a mother holding her baby is one with the baby, if the mother is herself angry or irritated, the baby will not calm down. The mother should put aside these feelings and just hold her baby.
So, don’t avoid your feelings. Don’t say; “You are not important. You are only a feeling.” Come and be one with it.
The fourth step is to release the feeling, to let it go. Because of your calm, you feel at ease, even in the midst of your anger, and you know that your anger will not grow into something that will overwhelm you.
When you know that you are capable of taking care of your anger, it is already reduced to the minimum, becoming softer and not so unpleasant. Now you can smile at it and let it go, but it’s important not to stop here.
Calming and releasing are just medicines for the symptoms. You now have an opportunity to actually go deeper and work on finding the source of your anger.
The fifth step is to look deeply. You look deeply into your baby—feeling of anger—to see what is wrong, even after the baby has already stopped crying, after the rage is gone. Why?
Because you cannot hold your baby all the time, and therefore you must look at what the cause of his crying is. And by observing, you will see what will help you begin to transform the feeling. You will realize, for example, that his suffering has many causes, inside and outside of his body.
If something is wrong around him, you can tend to it, bringing tenderness and care to the situation, he will feel better. Examining your baby, you will see the elements that are causing him to cry, and when you discover them, you will know what to do and what not to do to change the feeling and be free.
This is a process similar to mindfulness couching. Together with the client, a mindfulness coach looks at the nature of the pain. Often, the coach can uncover causes of suffering that stem from the way the client looks at things, the beliefs he or she holds about themselves, their culture, and the world.
The coach examines these viewpoints and beliefs with the client, and together they help free him or her from the kind of prison they have been in. But the client’s efforts are crucial. A teacher has to give birth to the teacher within his student, and a mindfulness coach has to give birth to the mindfulness within his client.
The client’s “internal mindfulness coach” can then work full-time in a very effective way. The coach does not treat the client by simply giving him or her another set of beliefs. The coach tries to help him or her to see which kinds of ideas and beliefs have led to their suffering. Many clients want to get rid of their painful feelings, but they do not want to get rid of their beliefs, the viewpoints that are the very roots of their feelings.
So, coach and client have to work together to help the client see things as they are. The same is true when we use mindfulness to transform our feelings. After recognizing the feeling, becoming one with it, calming it down, and releasing it, we can look deeply into its causes, which are often based on inaccurate perceptions.
As soon as we understand the causes and nature of our feelings, they begin to transform themselves. Gradually we can transform anger completely into peace, love, and understanding.