Has anyone seen the Jim Carrey film “Yes Man”?
In this film, he decides to change his unsatisfactory life by saying yes to everything.
While he ends up modifying his yes stance somewhat, he may have been on to something.
Mindfulness practitioners for many years have understood the effects that saying “no” can have on the body, mind and spirit, especially when we are saying no to our emotions.
And while we can’t agree to everything in life, the following exercise taken from Tara Brach’s book Radical Acceptance may help illustrate the effects of saying yes to our emotions:
“Sitting quietly, close your eyes and take a few full breaths. Bring to mind a current situation that elicits a reaction of anger, fear, or grief…The more fully you get in touch with the charged essence of the story, the more readily you can access the feelings in your heart and throughout your body. What is it about the situation that provokes the strongest feelings?..Be especially aware of the feelings in your stomach, chest and throat.
In order to see firsthand what happens when you resist experience, begin by experimenting with saying no. As you connect with the pain you feel in the situation you have chosen, mentally direct a stream of no at the feelings. No to unpleasantness of fear, anger, shame or grief. Let the word carry the energy of no – rejecting, pushing away what you are experiencing. As you say no, notice what this resistance feels like in your body. Do you feel tightness, pressure? What happens to the painful feelings as you say no? What happens in your heart? Imagine what your life would be like if, for the next hours, weeks and months, you continued to move through the world with the thoughts and feelings of no.
Take a few deep breaths and let go by relaxing through the body, opening your eyes or shifting your posture a bit. Now take a few moments to call to mind again the painful situation you’d previously chosen, remembering the images, words, beliefs and feelings connected with it. This time let yourself be the Buddha under the bodhi tree, the Buddha inviting Mara to tea. Direct a stream of the word yes at your experience. Agree to the experience with yes. Let the feelings float, held in the environment of yes. Even if these are waves of no – fear or anger that arise with the painful situation or even from doing this exercise – that’s okay. Let these natural reactions be received in the larger field of yes. Yes to the pain. Yes to the parts of us that want the pain to go away. Yes to whatever the thoughts or feelings arise. Notice your experience as you say yes. Is there softening, opening and movement in your body? Is there more space and openness in your mind?…
Continue to sit now, releasing thoughts and resting in an alert, relaxes awareness. Let your intention be to say a gentle YES to whatever sensations, emotions, sounds or images may arise in your awareness.”*
Exercises like this are one more tool that practitioners can use when helping patients review their past experiences so as to create positive future ones.
Would you like to hear more?
Then check out our mindfulness programs.
Please leave a comment, telling how you have used mindfulness to help patients accept their emotions.
*Used with the author’s permission.