photo: Karl-Ludwig G. Poggemann on flickr

photo: Karl-Ludwig G. Poggemann on flickr

If you’re reading this, you’ve already bought your ticket to the human experience.

As you know, it can be a fun ride. Food, sex, moonlight cruises. There are some great perks to this human gig.

But it can also be challenging.

We lose things – jobs, people. Stuff happens. We fall down and it’s hard to get back up.

I’ve been around a half century so far, and I’ve found that the best way to deal with everything on the human ride – both “good” and “bad” – is spiritual practice.

photo: Vinoth Chandar on flickr

photo: Vinoth Chandar on flickr

For me, that means daily meditation and affirmative prayer. Plus exercise and healthy eating. And a nightly gratitude practice with my wife Melissa.

Spiritual practice helps me keep everything in perspective. It keeps me tuned into something bigger than me, something so awesome and loving and expansive, it never fails to keep me on track.

Except when it doesn’t.

Like the other day, for example.

I was in a moooood. And I don’t mean a peppy, cheery happy-go-go mood.

I was pissed. Or sad. Or annoyed. Or something.

I wasn’t even sure what I was feeling.

photo:Vox Efx on flickr

photo:Vox Efx on flickr

Whatever it was, it wasn’t going away. It started soon after I woke up – for no reason at all. There were no specific thoughts associated with my foul mood, other than This sucks. Why do I feel like crap? No fun!! Did I mention how much this sucks?!

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of the work of Abraham-Hicks, aka Abe. I have used many of their techniques to change my life for the better.

When faced with the prospect of a human being in a foul mood, Abe has two main responses.

The first is: Look for a better-feeling thought. You trace down the thoughts that are causing your bad mood, and then gently and gradually shift these thoughts into a more positive direction.

I’ve used this technique frequently and gotten great results. A spontaneous burst of gratitude can work wonders to lift me out of a funky place.

photo: Scott Ableman on flickr

photo: Scott Ableman on flickr

The other day, however, was not one of those days.

I tried to find things to be grateful for, but it only seemed to make my mood worse.

Why are you trying to talk me out this? Can’t you see that everything sucks?

Which brings me to Abe’s second response to a human being in a foul mood:

Distraction.

Sometimes it’s just better to remove yourself from your current situation and/or thought process. You’re too stuck in negativity and it’s better to just shift your focus to something else altogether.

Take a walk. Or a nap.

photo: Hamed Saber on flickr

photo: Hamed Saber on flickr

Anything to break the negative cycle.

My favorite forms of distraction are sleeping and meditating. Both of these activities are great ways to help me shift to a more positive place.

Most of the time.

The other day, I tried meditating. When I was done, I had not shifted even an eeny weeny, teensy bit away from my bad mood. Which, of course, only made me even madder. Or sadder. Or whatever I was.

So I tried something else.

I stopped in my tracks and brought all of my focus into the present moment. In this case, my present moment was dominated by my funky mood, so I allowed myself to give into it. Completely.

I allowed myself to feel all of my feelings.

I felt the anger and the sadness and the annoyance. The emotions washed through me like a huge tide. And it was huge. Bigger than me. Bigger than anything. It actually felt great to simply feel it.

And that’s when everything shifted.

By allowing myself to simply feel, my energy was no longer stuck. In feeling the enormity of my emotions, I was somehow also feeling the enormity of the Divine.

I felt safe. And protected.

photo: eyeliam on fllickr

photo: eyeliam on fllickr

And I realized that what I had been feeling – the weird emotional state that was like anger and sadness and annoyance – was grief.

A friend of mine is really sick. He might not get better. And Melissa and I are finishing school and letting go of activities that have sustained us for the last several years.

I was grieving. And I just needed to feel it.

Melissa worked with don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, for several years. When I told her about my experience the other day, she said that this was exactly what she had realized after her work with Miguel:

If you’re feeling like crap, it’s because you’re telling yourself a lie.

That’s why processes like distraction or finding a better-feeling-thought can work so well. They can help shift your thoughts to a more positive place, thus shifting your mood.

The one exception to this rule, Melissa said, was grief.

Grief just needs to be felt.

photo: binu kumar on flickr

photo: binu kumar on flickr

I love Abe. Like I said, they’re my current go-to spiritual teacher. But in this case, I had to go beyond Abe’s tips and techniques and rely on my own inner wisdom.

In fact, Abe is such an awesome spiritual teacher, they say the same thing:

Don’t listen to us. You have to learn to trust yourself and your own inner guidance.

Looking back on the experience of the other day, I can see that it was a combination of things that helped me get out of my funk:

I tried finding a better-feeling-thought and it didn’t seem to work. I tried distraction – in the form of meditation – and it didn’t seem to work. Then, following meditation, I came fully into the present and felt my feelings.

I kept at it – continuing to open up to different forms of help – until I found one that worked.

There are all kinds of ways to move through emotional pain. Some involve active techniques like distraction or finding a better-feeling-thought. Others are more surrendered – like “simply” allowing the emotions to flow through you.

There’s no one right way.

But if we stay open, and flexible, and keeping asking for Help, we’ll find it.

Every time.

And that’s what I’ve learned in my half-century so far.

Well, that and vital importance of flossing.

But that’s another post.

photo: Rob Boudon on flickr

photo: Rob Boudon on flickr

How do you move through emotional pain? Share your comments below!

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