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Slow Your Roll

Lately I've been driving on a four-lane route that has a sign posted which reads: "Slow Your Roll". Unrelated to that sign, I recently read a newspaper article that led with the headline, "Roll with your emotions". And I got to thinking.

The article turned out to be about happiness. More specifically, (as clarified in the sub-header), "Pursuit of persistent happiness can be exercise in frustration; contentment with range of feelings is more worthy goal" (emphasis added). Thanks for the wisdom!

Quoting a psychologist who studies emotion, the article advised that, "Emotions--these adaptive responses to situations--are relatively short-lived; they want to run their course. If we don't get in our own way by ruminating and creating this experience in ourselves again and again, they would pass on their own relatively quickly"--which is another way of reminding ourselves that emotions are visitors of the mind--some stay longer than others, but they're only visitors.

Mindfulness and meditation help us remember that emotions-- like thoughts--are visitors that come and go, often of their own volition. Obviously, there are plenty of times when emotion is the result of the actions of another person or an occurrence over which we have no control, but even in those instances, we are still the master of ourresponse.

As the holocaust survivor and Austrian psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, once observed: Between stimulus and response is a space, and in that space lies our ability to choose--to respond skillfully, or simply react. Mindfulness and meditation help us not only to find that space, but also, to expand it--so we can become curious about our emotions and turn toward them, rather than be averse to them, and reactively turn away.

Whether the emotion is positively felt or negatively felt, there is part of us that somehow needs to find some distance. That's obvious and most common with negative emotions, but--at least, for me--even positive emotions are something I feel the need to calibrate. Too much of a good thing, or whatever.

An old adage teaches us that the perfect is the enemy of the good. And lest there be any doubt, neither mindfulness nor meditation are about being perfect. By any definition, they are simply tools that can help us be as "good" as we can be--at living. Experiencing both the positive and the negative. And responding skillfully.

As the author of the article concluded, "What I realized, finally, is not to set goals for my feelings....Part of the joy of being human is experiencing all of our feelings, but we shouldn't hold onto any of them too tightly". Well said.

I'm going to resist the temptation to put an old 38 Special rock n' roll ear worm in your head, and simply conclude with one final thought: Slow your roll--take it way down. Find stillness, and you'll be on your way!


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