The Space to Feel

Letting ourselves be present with our full spectrum of emotions as we do in meditation can help us understand that this inner state of allowing is always within us.

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Two days after my dad’s funeral was the sixth anniversary of my mom’s passing. That pretty much sums up my summer. Now, randomly, I just start ugly crying without notice. My chest tightens, my breath gets caught in my throat, my eyes feel pressure—I think: Maybe I can hold it together? But no. These “cry bursts’’ don’t last long, but they are clear messages from the deep that grief is always with me. Grief I haven’t allowed myself to fully feel yet.

I have a complicated relationship with the word “allow.” Maybe it’s my, let’s just call it “willfulness,” but I’ve always associated this word with permission or power being given or withheld, not assumed. During a recent meditation, however, there was a moment when I understood that “allowing” is actually always there. Always accessible. That to “allow” is to get in touch with our most natural selves.

The moment was fleeting, but it felt like a physical shift in my body, a revealing of space I was too stubborn to notice before. Space to feel without identifying fully with, or judging myself for, what I was feeling. All the feels were still there—the grief, the shame, the wanting to cocoon-up in bed with bad TV—but they weren’t alone.
Turns out, allowing feels more like awareness with a side of discernment, and a hint of intention and possibility. An expansiveness that offers the promise of choice and trust, with a heavy dose of kindness for yourself and others.

Turns out, allowing feels more like awareness with a side of discernment, and a hint of intention and possibility. An expansiveness that offers the promise of choice and trust, with a heavy dose of kindness for yourself and others.

The October issue of Mindful dives into the intersection of mindfulness and difficult emotions, illuminating the balance that can be found when we breathe and befriend. Pulmonologist and mindfulness teacher Dr. Ni-Cheng Liang shares the 4-7-8 breath for moments when you’re feeling anxious or stressed. Health writer Caren Osten Gerszberg interviews world-renowned meditation teachers and researchers steeped in the transformational (and research-backed) art of turning toward difficult emotions. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Katherine Ellison digs into the science of wanting and explores how we can take back our contentment. And author, poet, and meditator Yung Pueblo shares his wisdom on letting go, saying: “I’m not enlighened or anything, but I feel lighter.”

I hope you get to experience a little bit of the ease and freedom that come from allowing. Freedom to ugly cry when you need to, without judgment; freedom to watch bad TV and cancel plans. Freedom to feel how you feel when you feel it.

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