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How to tackle with negative emotions

Lesson for mindfulness – part 6:

How to tackle with negative emotions

Siri Sudassanarama
sadaham senasuna
Ven. Dr. Mirisse Dhammika thero

As a first step of Bhavana, when students are mindful of their breath, it helps them to calm the mind and the body. This calmness of the mind and the body helps them to be aware of emotions and feelings with a greater clarity. Whenever feelings arise, students can become aware of these feelings and how they change.

For instance, if students are aware that their anger is rising up, and they can bring mindful-attention to that fact, then they will have the opportunity to control action out the anger. Also, in mindfulness one becomes aware of how anger arises, stays awhile and disbands, and that it is not permanent. This may lead students to calm their minds. Many students gets stressed or troubled or become violent due to uncontrolled anger or ill-will (Stilwell, Galvin, Kopta, Swick). Itseems that they may not be “aware” of their anger before they express it in an outburst, and that they only realize it after they express it. Clearly, this type of self-observation cannot be practical for most small children, say around five- years-old, due to an undeveloped cognition at this stage (Crittenden,) but it may help restless teenaged students get rid of uncontrolled negative feelings as I mentioned above.

Although an individual may control their negative feelings in a particular incident, those same feelings may arise again when the environment or situation changes. When that person is mindful of the impermanent nature of those negative things, and that these negative emotions can be harmful to oneself as well as to others, one may remain calm, regardless of the specific situation, environment or the people involved. Gunaratana notes: “breathing is a universal process. All vertebrates breathe in essentially the same manner. All living things exchanges gases with their environment in some way or others.” Therefore, breathing

Bhavana can be used by everyone to help them to observe their feelings mindfully. Teaching the ‘mindfulness on the breath’ technique as a first step of Bhavana may help students to practice self-discipline.

In the beginning, one will find that it is not easy to bring the mind to concentrate on breathing even for a few seconds. Students will be amazed to see how the mind becomes distracted, by external sounds and internal conditions such as racing thoughts. They may be frustrated and disappointed by these disturbances and distractions. Even so if they continue this practice at lease once daily, morning or evening, for about five to ten minutes at a time, without giving up their effort, they will gradually begin to concentrate the mind on their breathing (Santina). After a certain period, depending on their own ability and determination, they will experience a fully concentrated and peaceful mind.

Although they still have to go on practicing this regularly, and it is important to know that they must have determination and persistence to achieve the goal. This practice of mindfulness of breathing is one of the simplest and easiest techniques for students or anybody at the beginning (Kabat-Zin, Gunaratana). At moments when they are nervous or excited, such as when taking exams or giving a speech, they can practice mindfulness for a few minutes and they will see for themselves that they become calm and better able to deal with difficult situations

(Segal, Williams & Teasdale, Rahula).