(Image copyright 2004, Australian Myasthenic Association in NSW)
To continue on from Part I of Releasing Emotions, here is an example of how I typically become attune to my negative emotions and release them:
As I was commuting home yesterday I was drastically aware of my improved posture. No tugging on my shoulders to go forward. They were relaxed and back, which I attribute to just starting yoga again. I've only done yoga 3 times in the past 2 weeks, but I've been focusing a lot on my postures, so I was extremely happy at how strong my back is already feeling.
I was noticing my posture in particular because my "joy muscle" wasn't hurting. This muscle is located in your back, just alongside the shoulder blade. (Anyone know the name of this muscle in Western medicine and anatomy? I think it's the rhomboid muscles, based on The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook.*) As I got used to looking for patterns in my physical pain, I noticed this muscle in my back consistently hurting whenever I felt guilty for putting off work, so I started calling it my "guilt muscle." Well, much to my amazement, when I told my acupuncturist Regan about my "guilt muscle," he said, "Oh, your 'joy muscle'? Yeah, the joy muscle tightens when you're blocking joy." Hmmm. Well what do ya know. Chinese medicine calls it the joy muscle. Interesting, huh?
So anyways, my joy muscle's been hurting consistently the past few weeks, but on my drive home it felt great! It made me reflect on my day, which I then realized I'd really enjoyed. I'd slept in and missed my first class (yep, first week of school), but then it'd been a great afternoon with having invited community partners who work with the refugee population to come speak to our students—I love interacting with people and busily running here and there. Then I worked on my thesis a little bit, gathering SketchUp projects from boys on the autism spectrum who participate in our research, and then I went to my Theory of Attachment class, which is going to be deep and full of great discussion and self-discovery. I'm really looking forward to this semester.
Upon that happy reflection I thought it was no wonder my joy muscle was content and relaxed—I was allowing myself to feel the joys of my life. Then I glanced at the clock in my car—5:03 p.m.—and mentally scanned my fridge at home for food. I thought about making a veggie burger, but I knew it would take too long to cook the rice and then let it cool. I was starving and wished I had leftovers to eat as soon as I got home. This whole interchange of thoughts happened in seconds, and without me realizing it, my emotions were shifting downward. I wasn't aware of this shift until my joy muscle started to tense up again. It was incredible how fast it happened! Instantly, which isn't always the case with me, I stopped my thoughts and said out loud, "What just happened?" I back tracked in my thoughts and realized I was choosing to feel annoyed with my food situation. I was feeling like cooking was a drudgery and that I was dreading it. I was unhappy with my everyday circumstances. I was blocking joy from my life.
In that moment I canceled out all of those thoughts. Verbally expressing emotions literally frees your Mind, Body, & Spirit from the blockage these emotions can potentially create in your energy flow. So while I was driving I verbally released all feelings of my life being hard or a drudgery. Out loud I basically said, "I choose to release and let go of all annoyance at having to make my dinner because it takes so long. I release all frustration and anger at not already having food to eat. I release all feelings of not being worthy of feeling joy in cooking or enjoying my life." You get the picture. After I verbally released all of the negative emotions I was feeling, I tapped my thymus 12 times with my fingers. Your thymus is a gland located under your sternum. (To read more about the thymus gland, go here and here. I haven't done much study in this area, so feel free to share what you learn about the thymus's role in healing the Mind, Body, & Spirit. I know it has to do with its function with the immune system and stimulating the thymus to produce T-cells, but I don't know how it works exactly.)
After tapping my thymus, I put my hand on my belly and took a few long deep inhales and exhales. I won't get into the details of this now, but I do a lot of visualization while I'm doing this deep breathing to help me feel like I'm really and truly releasing this burden of negative emotions. Any way you choose, see yourself releasing a weight of emotions. It can be symbolic. It can be the first thing that comes to your mind. Then I put my hand on my heart and verbally replace all the negative emotions with positive "I am" statements. So in this case I said things like, "I am patient and love my life. I am grateful for the abundance of food that surrounds me. I am full of joy! I am creative and quick thinking. I am at peace with the flow of my life. I am worthy of feeling joy in my everyday experiences." So that is one way to release negative emotions, release physical pain, and get your energy flowing again.
When I start to feel my body tense up or my emotions shift downward, I know it's time to pause, reflect on recent events, and release negative emotions. The more you slow down, as I know you all know, the easier it is to be more connected to your thoughts and emotions. Even if you aren't currently experiencing physical pain from unprocessed/unexpressed emotions, releasing those emotions improves your energy level and mood, and prevents physical illness from happening.
Since this post became a lot longer than I thought it'd be, future posts are to come with more of my experiences with releasing emotions and seeing the physical pain disappear. This may be a lot of new information at once, so try it out for yourself and see how you see a difference in your life.
*"Trigger point muscles in the rhomboids cause an aching kind of pain along the inner edge of the shoulder blade, which becomes more noticeable at rest. A significant amount of pain at this site may also be coming from the serratus posterior superior muscle, which lies beneath the rhomboids, and from the middle trapezius covering them. There may be trigger points in all three layers. Other muscles that send pain to the inner edge of the shoulder blade include the scaliness, infraspinatus, latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior, and levitator scapulae," (85, The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook).