What do the monks and nuns at Plum Village Monastery do when they experience difficult emotions?
One of the basic practices in Plum Village is recognizing our negative emotions and habits as they arise. Then we learn to accept them, calm them down and later on transform them into something wholesome. Each of us finds our own way to take care of our feelings as we grow in the practice. Below are some ‘tried and tested’ ways that our monastics have used to take care of themselves and we hope they can help you as well.
1. Prepare tea slowly (or your favourite drink), sit and breathe, and stop the thoughts. I embrace the sadness and reflect on all the things that I am grateful for and on what conditions bring me joy.
2. Practice to honor the feelings, it means simply recognizing them, with no judgement if possible. Then I realize that they are parts of myself. I allow them to flow, not see them as “things need to be fixed”. This helps me cultivate compassion and understanding for myself.
3. Practice self compassion. I recognize that I am doing my best under the circumstances. I try to treat myself and my feelings with kindness and compassion and give myself space to feel my vulnerabilities.
4. Find some corners of the room to clean. Cleaning the room gives me a feeling that I am doing something useful, no matter how small.
5. Take a shower. I give myself one minute to be still and let the water flow directly on me and allow my body to relax.
6. Practice walking meditation in nature. I walk slowly, feeling the earth directly beneath my feet (barefoot if possible!) and feel the strength of the earth enter me.
7. Go to a sacred space, or outdoors and practice touching the earth with all five limbs (head, both arms and legs). I go into the embrace of Mother Earth and release all my negative energies into the earth. (You may like to watch a short video on how to practice ‘Touching of the Earth’ here.)
8. Contemplate the‘Five Ways of Putting an End to Anger’. I contemplate and put into practice the discourse on the ‘Five Ways of Putting an End to Anger’. My anger calms down as I practice to see the goodness (no matter how little it seems) in the other person. This way, I avoid dwelling in the angry state of mind for too long.
9. Go to see the new leaves on the plants. It helps me to connect with the miraculous and powerful stream of life in the very tiny manifestations before me.
10. Make a phone call to the one who I appreciate very much, because I know that being in touch or close to him or her, he or she will arouse the sources of faith and beauty in me.
11. Listen to a teaching by your spiritual teacher, to be in touch again with his/her wisdom, compassion and profound teachings. Remember that these qualities are also within yourself.