red rag bull reaction

Here in Castril, Spain, in a couple of weeks time, we have a fiesta which includes a bull run. If you haven’t a clue what that is, I’ll describe it as politically neutrally as I can…

The streets are closed and firm fencing is erected. One or more bulls are taunted to run fast after lots of very courageous men through the streets while everyone cheers at them. It’s a tradition which has existed since 1853 which of course justifies it’s continuing existence.

Who am I to argue? It’s not my country. I only live here…

This blog is not about the upcoming bull run or my opinion about it. I’ll save that for another blog! But I want to discuss is the metaphorical ‘red rag.’

An Emotional Turmoil

Can you see how hard it was for me to describe something that I felt strongly about without getting a little emotional?

My journey on this spiritual path has many twists and turns. Sometimes it can feel like I’m really getting to grips with the meaning of my life and fulfilling its purpose. Other times I can feel like I’m back where I was when I left my ‘high life’ in the city of bankers and before I decided to pack myself off on a yoga teacher training programme on a beach in Mexico. I realise that the moment I think I’m evolving, my ego has spoken and I’m way back in the achievement realms of existence.

Of course, observing this is the journey. This is mindfulness!

But what about those old reactions? It seems I can go for months and months feeling relieved of destructive emotions. Then BOOM! they’re there again. And, in the heat of the moment, I really believe I have no power to let go. Why is this? I will explain further on…

In the spirit of the drama these reactions create, and living in a culture where drama and negativity win friends, sell newspapers and get TV viewings, it is so easy to share the feelings with anyone who will listen.

But is it always the best way?

I guess it depends on how well you know your people:

Some will offer you sympathy.
Some will offer you empathy.
And some will offer you a solution.

Sympathy Or Empathy?
emotional eating

In the middle of the fire, the heat of the moment, the last thing you need is sympathy. This is someone telling you to look on the bright side, that at least you’re not homeless, hungry or unhealthy. That your worries are not valid and you have no right to them.

Empathy is different. It is a way of offering someone the chance to express themselves, to vent their feelings and for that to be acceptable. It’s holding the space and that really helps! A release that can be extremely nurturing. It allows someone to really be in the fire for a while and observe and identify their feelings.

And we really don’t want a solution either. In counseling, solutions are a no-no because we have to work it out by ourselves. I agree with that up to a point. But there may be a time when advice is needed. And we will ask for it. But in the middle of the fire, the advice is a bright, fierce, red rag! We actually want to be told to “Let it out!” not “Let it go.” We really can’t let it go until it’s out.

In some Indian traditions, on the death of a family member, a special person is employed, who comes to the house of the relatives and literally encourages them to cry. To vent their grief. Why? Because it is healthy!

It is true that some of our greatest teachers are the ones who press the most buttons. They allow us to see our reactions very clearly. But that too can be very damaging, taking us away from the original crisis and replacing it with another, based on someone else’s opinion. That can often leave us feeling powerless and resentful.

How Are Emotions Recognised?

All of these reactions seem to come from nowhere (well, the unconscious mind) so what hope do we have?

In yoga, we are taught to watch the mind but it’s not all always sweetness and serenity. Kali, a Goddess archetype features a lot in yoga. She teaches us the way of expression, to release the unreal aspects of our ego. There are traditional mantras which help us to let go of this fire energy. And none of them is melodious, tuneful or sublime. But their effects are profound. There are also pranayamas (energy restraints) which offer incredibly beneficial ways of releasing those emotions, tensions and reactions which don’t serve us. The Lion’s Breath is one such practice, which I will share below.

In shamanism, emotions are recognised in much the same way. They are allowed to flow. It is usually impossible to release something if we don’t know what it is! They are honoured and then expelled, much like an unwanted spirit. In the Andean tradition, they don’t recognise negative emotion in the same way we might. It is considered heavy energy that Mother Earth deems as nectar. So they have several practices to offer this energy back to the Earth. Very often we recognise these emotional tendencies coming from our parents and grandparents. Shamanic practice has a way of healing these back up our ancestral lines.

So we need to find an acceptable way of getting them out and quick.

What can we do?

Here are eight suggestions for those moments when all seems to be out of control. Moments when someone telling you to go and meditate on your pain or take a deep breath just don’t cut it. These have all worked for me in times of strife!

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1. The Lion’s Breath – a yogic practice (click link below). Sit quietly take a deep inhale and exhale forcefully with as much noise as you want to make, leaning forward, looking up at the centre of your eyebrows and sticking out your tongue as far as possible! Yes really! Lion’s Roar – Simhasana

2. A good moan/rant to a friend or partner
3. A flower remedy – (Bach’s Rescue Remedy) is a magic potion!
4. Emotional Freedom Technique – simple tapping on various points, mostly on the face
5. Loud music – your favourite, dance if you like
6. Get out of the house! Go for a power walk, music optional
7. A good roaring cry
8. A glass of water – sounds lame, but it helps to put the flames out!

I promised I would explain about the power to let go. Emotions are part of our human essence and experience. They are meant to be felt. It is true that they can be very harmful. But there are no emotions more harmful than the ones that are suppressed. I have experienced this in myself, so many of my friends, family and clients.

I’m not saying that it’s OK to be angry, upset or negative all of the time and continually release it. Some people get stuck in negative thinking for weeks, years or even most of their lives. Depression, for example, is very different to spells of short-term emotional reactions. We live in a society where it is inappropriate to release emotions and very often help is not available in the early stages. Allowing oneself the opportunity for expression can avoid the build up of emotions which can cause many of the psychological problems we have in our society today. These deserve specialist help and healing.

And I’m not endorsing venting your emotions onto the first unsuspecting person you see after the event, unless of course, they agree to allow it. This is always your stuff. No-one makes you feel the way you do or react the way you do. At the same time, there is always a reason why. It’s in your conditioning you see. These reactions, however unhelpful, are trying to protect you. Some are learned as we grow up through our experiences, some we pick up from our parents and some are just natural instincts. All of them can be retrained for example through meditation, but we have to clear the mayhem out first!

What Are Emotions?

Emotion is actually three words – energy in motion. It is meant to move! Retention of emotion is dangerous and can lead to many physiological and psychological problems. On tough days, let your emotions come up and out. They may come back over the following hours or days. This is normal and is part of your healing process. Just keep purging them until they have no power.Expressing Emotions before Eating

Express Yourself!

Please add any questions, comments, observations below…

Until next time – Om Shanti 🙂