Q&A with Emotional Wellness Coach Extraordinaire
It was an honor to have a conversation with Natalie about the healing power of emotions. This is part 1.
Sage Moon: Any tips for those of us who feel that we should always be calm and centered, that it's "bad" to be angry or sad.
Natalie Christensen: Maintain the goal of being peaceful and centered but when emotions come up, know that it's ok. Emotions are neither good nor bad. If you are feeling angry, go ahed and feel angry, notice, name, process and integrate it by going straight through it. You are still headed towards the calm, but you can actually get there if you go through the emotion, have it, honor, get support around what you are feeling, create space around it. It will dissipate if you don't shove it away. You will arrive authentically in that centered space.
Pam Leo describes our emotional state as 2 cups, the Love cup and the Hurts cup. Yoga and meditation are wonderful at filling the love cup and increasing our sense of wellbeing. But the Hurts cup also needs our attention. It fills up every day and needs to be drained. It gets filled with life events, a parking ticket, a family member's illness, a child who has had a rough night... Any trauma we have experienced in life is also held in the Hurts cup. If we don't drain this cup daily, we feel on edge, we become impatient, resentful, we feel like we are going to blow up emotionally.
Emotional well being requires us to notice our feelings, get support around them, empathy and eye contact. This opens the tap to drain the hurts cup and gives us more capacity for the emotions to come.
Yoga and meditation don't generally drain the hurts cup, that happens in other ways. If your only method to deal with emotions is to meditate, you may notice that your emotional content just waits for you to be done meditating. You start to get this sense "I'd be fine if I could just meditate or be on retreat all the time."
It's easier to go to yoga class than to say to yourself or someone else, "I feel regret and shame about ...", to cry, to let the emotion out. It is challenging to be that vulnerable.
It can be surprising to realize that yoga is not enough, but there is incredible efficiency and healing in feeling a feeling all the way and being witnessed in that state and getting understanding and loving connection. This is equivalent to years of yoga practice in terms of our emotional wellbeing.
Don't rely on yoga to take care of draining the Hurts cup for you. If you are draining the hurts cup regularly, there will not be as much pressure on the yoga practice to accomplish this and your practice can be what it is designed to be:
a time to nourish yourself, to fill your Love cup and be inspired.
Natalie Christensen is a life + parenting coach, writer, illustrator, and mother living in Missoula, Montana. She is co-founder of The Center for Emotional Education and co-creator of Feeleez, a line of tools that support the emotional development of children. She also co-teaches Annapurna Mother, a course with Carrie-Anne Moss.
Contact her at email@example.com