Indeed, if we totally skip daily emotions monitoring 🔬🕗 , dive exclusively into external routines — ignore one emotion, two… twenty-two… We may eventually feel the weight of the emotional background that creeps in and accumulates. Some of the obvious victims of such interference: our mood, balance, empathy, critical reasoning, etc.
Less-known collateral damage is our emotional regulation practice. Secular or spiritual instruments like meditation, the practice of compassion, prayer, etc. become “like water seeping from a leaking jar”.
“Vigilance” chapter of “The Way of the Bodhisattva” by Shantideva,
a famous Buddhist text often quoted by HH The Dalai Lama.
How much vigilance, self-awareness “coverage” do we actually need? It is hard to imagine a person being 100% mindful 24/7. However, we can certainly try to cover all the important bases: triggering events, pre-scheduled “mindfulness time”, etc.
Ease into a habit of “self-checks”
It took me a while to habituate state-of-mind checks, looking inside more or less regularly. Two reminders initially: morning (as soon as I wake up) + evening (before getting asleep). 15-minutes or so scans of emotions, thoughts, body sensations. Plus occasional, “on-demand” checks during the day:
- during breaks, walks, personal free time
- right after important contacts, situations (while the feelings are still fresh and obvious)
Alertness and motivation for self-checks come naturally as we start observing the advantages of increased self-awareness.
Even a glimpse inside means we switch our attention from an external context. Enjoy a little bit of extra “centering”, stepping back from the situation.
Talking a brief pause to look inside doesn’t just improve our awareness of what is going on emotionally, enhancing our ability to act with consideration. Emotions we have successfully processed before are losing their power as soon as we become aware of them. If not, we can always make a note, put them on the “to-do” shelf to address later. Which, by itself, reduces our dependence on this emotion. Every little bit [of extra balance] helps.
Compassion “litmus test”
What’s the temperature of my emotional involvement with the situation? E.g. I received this email with a client issue… Am I balanced, content, feel a lightness, and ease about my choices, have the energy to engage? Or am I angry, irritated, overwhelmed by emotions, unable to act constructively?
Self-check reveals the ecology of our interaction and intentions. Are we ready to act gracefully, based on reason and compassion? Or follow our animal instincts? Should we take a time-out?
The more we look the more we may find… If we do nothing about all kinds of undesired reactions we shelve during the day, it may only add to the stress. However, if we address the causes of emotions, and witness positive changes, monitoring becomes a rewarding process. We register harmonic, compassionate responses arising naturally and expand the range of situations we are cool with.
Let me try this now… 🔬
OK, just before I hit “Publish”: breath-in… Taking a look inside makes my eyes lose the external focus for a bit. If I feel something minor “stuck to the bottom of my vessel”, e.g. a thought or emotion I processed before, I will try to just let it go. Breath out… If it is more than “minor”, e.g. “the anchor got stuck”/some tension persists, — I better postpone the publishing until the anchor is free and warm feelings of lightness and joy are restored. 🤓☀️