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Breathing in emotion, breathing out emotion

I read ‘No Mud No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering’ by Thich Nhat Hanh before Christmas. I was struggling to come to terms with the fact that an important person’s opinion of me was atrociously poor and, from my perspective, wholly inaccurate. The fact I even valued their opinion by that point, let alone why I had expended so much energy trying to ensure they looked upon me favourably, is a matter for another post. But I was plagued by the calamity of this revelation, and I could not find peace.

So I read No Mud, No Lotus and, in some magical way, the very first passage brought together all the work I’ve been doing for the past five years or so and tied it up with a bow. And I was exalted. I moved from misery to bliss with no effort at all.

And something really did fundamentally shift for me then. But of course, peace didn’t endure unchallenged. I am but human, after all.

But there was a very simple practice given in the book that I have carried with me since, and I am floored by how effective it is for me every single time.

Essentially: Breathing in, say ‘I am feeling __________’ and, breathing out, say ‘I smile to my __________’. Like, breathing in I am feeling lonely, breathing out I smile to my loneliness.

This is such a memorable, flexible, simple, ENJOYABLE practice that it has revolutionised my emotional regulation game. Breathe in your emotion, whatever it is, breathe out your emotion, whatever it is. And SMILE. Fucking yes.

Now, I have been playing with spirituality, mindfulness, meditation and inner work of many kinds for a long while now. I was very receptive to this book and I genuinely don’t know how effective it would be for others. But for this tiny practice alone it’s close to, if not at, the top of my list of life-changing books.

So much so that I gifted a copy to the important person whose opinion of me was so tarnished. I don’t think it was well-received.

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