I woke up yesterday morning thinking about a small (but ongoing) conflict I have had with a friend. It is nothing big, nothing that threatens to splinter the friendship, and yet there I was with a pit in my stomach, a sense of heaviness and grayness, replaying conversations in my head, getting nowhere.
I couldn’t seem to shake that heaviness as I started my day. Then I remembered something I had learned some time ago: “draw your feelings.” You can see the result of my reflection in the image above. I found that this practice helped me clear the sensations in my body that had built up from this experience.
You can use this practice to review your day, or at any time during the day when a sticky emotion arises. All you need is a piece of paper (scrap is fine) and a writing implement (pen, pencil, marker, etc). Here’s how it goes:
- Start by noticing your feet on the floor and paying attention to your next three inhales and exhales (or more, if you feel so moved). Gently invite your body and mind to relax, invite your body and mind to experience even just 5% more ease.
- Pick up your pen and roll it around in your fingers for a moment. Pay attention to the physical sensations of what it feels like in your hand.
- Choose a starting place on the paper and mark it using an x, a box or another symbol (in the example above, the starting place was the small square).
- Close your eyes, and sense into what your body is feeling, and then just move your pen along the page as you feel moved to. We are not making art here – we are letting the pen help us move emotion through our bodies. When you are aware of a stronger emotion or a feeling of stuckness, stop your pen and “spiral in.” Without looking at the page, let your pen spiral inward.
- As your pen spirals in, spiral your attention in to the center of the physical sensation of the emotion, letting go of thoughts about the emotion, letting go of trying to analyze it, judge it or make sense of it. Just allow yourself to be with the physical sensations, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant.
- Rest and allow what is to be.
- When that feels complete for now, “spiral out.” With your eyes still closed, let your pen spiral back out and then move along the page as you feel moved to, until you come to another place of stronger emotion. “Spiral in” to that emotion, with both your pen and your attention. Let go of thoughts, and rest in the physical sensations that are present (pleasant or unpleasant). When you feel complete, spiral back out.
- Repeat as you feel led, and then mark your stopping point with an x or another symbol, word or phrase. In the example above, the heart marks the end and the sloppy TY (marked with eyes still closed) represents the words “thank you.”
- Open your eyes, lift your pen, and take in the visual representation of this slice of your interior world. Rest a moment longer, noticing how you feel, noticing anything that wants to be noticed.
- Notice your breath.
- Spiral in.
- Spiral out.
- Repeat until you feel complete.
After you’ve practiced this a couple of times, you may find you can use it “in the moment” without needing the paper and pen. You can spiral in and out with your finger (under the table if you’re in a meeting) or just in your imagination.
I invite you to try this out, and let me know your experience. Hint: don’t start with your most intense emotion – try it on a smaller one first.
This practice was inspired by one I first learned from Rachael Rose at workshopmuse.com