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Avoid, be stuck or feel the pain?

On Tuesday afternoon, Pete and I heard some news we didn’t want to hear. I immediately noticed a sinking sensation in my belly, like a huge stone sitting in it. Tightness, heaviness and pain in my stomach. I was noticing it and breathing into it.

At the same time, I wanted to deny having heard the news. “Maybe the news will change!”

And I wanted to blame myself and others for the news.

Now, two days later, I sometimes still notice heaviness and tightness in my stomach. I judge, though, that I’m also less sad and angry, and am moving on to acceptance, grieving and new plans.

I have seen that we tend to have three approaches to dealing with bad news or stuff we don’t like:

1. Avoidance.

Some of us get very busy by trying to bury our sadness through distracting ourselves by binge eating, watching Netflix, scrolling Facebook or the news, constantly surrounding ourselves with people and chatter, etc.

I don’t think anything is wrong with self-care and choosing a time to process and face the sadness. The challenge I judge some of us face is when we don’t take time to just be with our sadness and disappointment.

2. Being stuck in a spiral of thinking “What if?”

Coming up with different stories and versions for why this happened and how one could have avoided that, or even better how me or someone else should have done something different or better.

I find this can be a real mind-fuck. The spiral can spin faster and faster. We make getting out of the loop difficult for ourselves. We keep ourselves awake at night pondering the same questions over and over again.

When we have bad news our mind is not often our best friend. Our body is.

Staying present and noticing our physical sensations—and allowing them to shift—can be a great antidote.

3. Being willing to feel whatever there is to feel.

Experience the experience thoroughly. This does not mean dwelling on the sadness but rather giving ourselves time alone to be with our sadness and whatever else arises. Maybe anger, grief, fear, worry.

Also, allow ourselves to be open to glimpses of hope and gratitude. “I’m sad about this event and still I love xx about my life.”

I don’t propose trying to quickly get to hope or positivity as a handy way to distract oneself from sadness. I propose allowing all emotions and sensations there are to be there and being curious about what else there is under or beyond these emotions.

This being more in a place of feeling than thinking. In the cases of sadness, anger or disappointment, thinking does not help, it most likely will make you feel worse. Emotions are in the body and need to be noticed in the body in order for them to move, shift, change and transform.

You might wonder what bad news I’d heard this week. It concerned a dream that first Pete had about us buying the property next to our cabins in Finland. He has been talking about it for several years and slowly I warmed up to the idea as well. I began fantasizing about what we could do with two more cabins, additional forest, longer shoreline—and even making plans for the future.

I envisioned us having a fire circle on that property and people staying longer after retreats and hosting friends from around the world and our sons having more of their own place to stay, where they can house their own families and friends when they are older.

My grandparents had intended to purchase this land in the 1960s. Another couple eventually bought the property and their family has owned it ever since. In the meantime, each of my grandparents died and the couple who bought the neighboring property also died.

In the past three years, no one has used the neighboring cabins. The property began looking rather abandoned. The vegetation has been overgrown. One of the sheds has been slowly collapsing.

So, about six weeks ago, I called the members of that family who currently own the property and asked if they would consider selling it to me. On Sunday, we learned that they would indeed sell. On Monday, we made an offer 22% higher than what they asked for. On Tuesday, we learned that they decided to sell it to someone else. Ugh… heavy stone in my belly…

What have you been sad about recently?

How was that for you?

Where in your body do you notice sadness?

At the moment, I notice it in the heaviness in my stomach and eyes. And some tightness in my throat.

Yeah, I’m making myself sad by thinking about a dream I had not coming true. And I imagine I’ll get over my sadness…

I hope to see you at one of our upcoming Radical Honesty retreats, where we’ll be exploring all the nitty-gritty, juicy, painful, happy, exciting, arousing, sad, and strange experiences of what it’s like being human together… <3

Tuulia (& Pete)

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