Floating In Mindfulness
Feeling disappointed? It’s time to float.
The time-honored approach to disappointment generally involves a fair amount of wallowing followed by a concerted effort to move on. Okay, this can work. But a more mindful approach includes an interim phase between these two. It’s a unique opportunity to “float”.
When things don’t go our way–whether we’re talking about election results, a job interview, a proposal at work, or a relationship–we naturally feel disappointed. We had hoped for the best, even expected the best (hey, we know about human motivation techniques, after all) and this apparent failure hits us pretty hard.
So, the first step is to feel the emotion. Go ahead. Mad? Frustrated? Depressed? It’s okay to allow yourself to feel it. You can commiserate with others or wallow alone–it’s your choice.
Now, here comes the mindfulness part:
Take one giant step back. Step away from the swirl of thoughts and emotions and simply look at it in a sort of interested bystander way. It’s as though you have a clipboard and you’re taking note of your response.
1) Scan your body. How does disappointment feel physically? Is it affecting your digestion, your sleep, your movement?
Scan your body for pain and tightness. Notice how your forehead feels, your cheeks, your jaw, your neck, your shoulders. Take a look at your face in a mirror. What does disappointment look like?
Continue to pass over your body mentally, noticing any pain, discomfort, tingling or tightness. Be sure to check your own personal trouble spots, whether that’s your lower back, your knees, or your belly.
We tend to develop habitual physical responses to strong emotions. Make sure you are familiar with yours. Paying attention during mindful moments like this is your best defense against disease. Our hot spots can teach us a great deal, but during times of stress, we tend to focus on our thoughts instead of our bodies. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about yours.
2) Scan your mind. Watch your thoughts go by as though you are watching a parade. No need to jump on any float as it passes. You’re not the rodeo queen on a prancing horse, or the festival princess waving to the crowd. You’re a spectator. Watch.
3) Separate. Whenever we are disappointed, our past disappointments bubble to the surface. Things get stirred up, and our accompanying emotion often has more to do with the cumulative effect of our lifelong disappointments than this particular one. We tend to catastrophize and lump it all together into one big fat Disappointment Package.
Don’t let that happen. Look at this one incident as totally separate from the others. Each float stands alone.
4) Float. I call this the “Float between Floats” approach. Now that you are watching this parade of floats without climbing aboard any of them, turn your attention to that brief moment between them. Sure, you know another one is coming. It’s not quite in front of you yet. There is nothing you can do but wait. No sense spending your time or energy setting expectations that it will be spectacular. No point in worrying that it will be disastrous. Hold that space and float in it.
Settle into mindful watching–of your body, your mind, and the world around you. It is an opportunity to go beyond wound licking. Watch as your thoughts change from “Why?” to “What can I do next?” We often jump into action—-retaliatory, self-protective or simply distracting—-without gleaning our most important lessons from disappointment.
The ability to “Float between Floats” will provide clarity and comfort. Use this time to develop your awareness. It will help you recognize the power of mindfulness and the endless stream of floats that pass by.
All things considered, it’s one heckuva parade.