So shutdown continues, and I keep hearing people trying *not* to say how bad they feel about it. We know it could be so much worse: who are we to feel terrible about being isolated, cooped up, or driven insane by our own beloved children? And what I notice is how much energy and effort it takes to suppress what we are feeling. Today, then, I encourage you to instead use that energy to feel and then let go of your strong emotions, using the pattern of The Welcoming Prayer. There are four simple stages.
Stage 1: Focus and sink in. When you realise you are struggling, it’s time to stop struggling and start feeling. Notice how the feeling is affecting you: not just emotionally, but physically. Let your awareness run through your body. Observe your posture, your breath. Which muscles are clenched? Where does it hurt? What physical sensations are affecting you now? Are you hot, twitchy, lethargic? If you can, bring a sense of curiosity to this exercise. Don’t try to change anything and don’t judge: just observe. Do this until you have really connected with the feeling, both emotionally and physically.
Stage 2: Welcome the feeling: Say ‘Welcome, [anger / fear / resentment / envy / whatever].’ Repeat this gently, until you experience a movement from fighting against the feeling to acceptance. This acceptance anchors you in reality, and it’s only from this grounded place that you can truly move forward.
Stage 3: Let it go: Say ‘God, I give you my [anger / fear / resentment / envy / whatever],’ and let it go. Alternatively, pray ‘God, I let go of my desire to change this feeling.’ If you are experiencing resistance, move back to focussing or welcoming as appropriate.
Stage 4: Open to God: Say ‘I open to God’s loving presence, and to God’s healing action and grace within me.’ These stages are not strict. That is, you might find it helpful to begin with this prayer, or end with it; to remain in one stage and let God’s loving presence work in that space; or to move back and forth between stages.
What this is not: You are *not* welcoming the circumstances which lead to this feeling. This exercise is about accepting feelings and emotions, not excusing the hardship or injustice which is triggering them. If one of the latter realities is upsetting you, first work out what emotion it is catalyzing, then go from there. For example, shutdown is making many people feel physically exhausted: but that exhaustion might be masking fear, resentment, or any number of other emotions. Identify, welcome and let that emotion go, because then you are freed to deal with the underlying issue, even if it’s just to recognise that things are out of your control right now.
Note also that this is about ordinary emotional responses. If you have experienced trauma, you will almost certainly need expert assistance at unpacking and navigating the powerful emotions which threaten to overwhelm you. If you live locally and need a referral, I can help with that.
There are many ways this exercise can be used. One approach is to step through it whenever you find yourself flooded by strong emotion; another, to begin each day by prayerfully committing to welcome all that will come your way, to let go of your desires, and to open to the love, presence and action of God within you throughout the day.
So the next time you feel overwhelmed by shutdown or other hardship, remember this method. Notice: pause: sink in: welcome: let go. And know that if something arises which you want to talk through, you are not alone. Contact me and let’s have a chat. And let’s give thanks to the One who bears our burdens and takes our fears away.
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