By Danielle Palli, Wake Up World
Remember that time several years back that annoyed the heck out of you then, and still aggravates you today? Yeah… that’s the one. If given a few minutes to mull over it, you’ll find yourself as stressed out about it now as you were the day it happened. Maybe it was an argument where you said things you wish you could take back or had reacted differently.
Or, perhaps it was an experience where you felt that someone treated you unfairly, and their criticism left you feeling insecure about your abilities – either personally or professionally. More than likely, it’s not an isolated incident – but one of many similar instances that you replay over and over again, wishing you could change it and dreading falling into that same situation again.
Unfortunately, all those little instances add up, causing anger, stress, regret, embarrassment and unhappiness. When we can’t get past them, we resort to wearing them like a badge of honor – as an explanation for everything that’s currently wrong in our lives. Think I’m exaggerating? Spend the next ten minutes scrolling your Facebook news feed, and you will understand what I mean.
Please don’t misunderstand me – I realize that many of us have endured real trauma in our past, and there may currently be people reading this who are undergoing professional counseling. That’s not what I’m referring to. What I’m talking about right now are all those little things that, the more you let them bounce around your brain, the bigger they get. Not just emotionally – it is estimated that 75 to 90% of illness is stress related.
Nelson Mandela told us “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” That was after unjustifiably being held in prison for 27 years. It’s a quote I remember every time I find myself recycling old wounds.
Cindy Readnower, certified hypnotist and alternative healing practitioner says,
“Many times, a pattern of incidents occur in our lives. Picture time marching on more as a spiral instead of a straight line, and you can see that often an event will trigger some stress; but, it is not until we continue onward into the spiral that we come back around again and have another triggering event (or several). That’s when the stress may actually lead to illness, making it very important to work on the stress sooner rather than later.”
Today, I’d like to share a mindfulness exercise in metaphorically “cutting the cords” that tie us to past, painful situations. Like meditation, it’s not a “once and done” exercise. Mindfulness and Self work are ongoing processes that take practice, but the trade offs – peacefulness, greater joy, stronger relationships – make it worthwhile.
So, if you’re willing, I invite you to find a quiet place where you can be undisturbed for the next ten minutes or so. Sit comfortably or lie down, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
‘Cutting the Cords’ Mindfulness Exercise
Step 1: Call up an incident that happened in the past that still bothers you today – something where you either feel as if you were mistreated or that you behaved poorly. Picture it as clearly as you can in your mind.
Step 2: Take a moment to mentally scan your body. What do you notice? Perhaps there’s a tightening in your jaw or discomfort in your belly? How do you feel emotionally? At this stage, you’re tapping into those emotions and noticing where those emotions reside in your body.
Step 3: Analyze it as an outside observer. Did you handle the situation in the best possible way for the good of all, or could you have chosen a different response? (For example, if you received criticism for your work on a project, did you react defensively or could you accept and work with constructive criticism and use it to improve future work?) If there was another person involved, can you understand their response (even if you disagreed with it) given their background and experience? In this stage, we’re not seeking to judge our actions as good or bad because you reacted as well as you could based on your knowledge and experience at the time. But today, try to look at it from a place of discernment.
Step 4: Reframe it. As that outside observer, consider your response and the responses of those around you. It may very well be that you reacted as well as you could. If not, what might you have done differently? For this exercise, imagine yourself making that choice … and seeing the scenario replay with a different ending. Now, imagine the other person (if there was someone involved) making a better choice. How would things have changed? If you feel you behaved in the best possible way, then consider what you learned from the experience and what you taught the other person.
Step 5: Cut the cord, and let it go. Mentally scan your body a second time and see where the stress resides … you may notice that emotionally and physically you already feel that stress lessening. Imagine there are cords attached to those spaces on your body. Visualize yourself taking a pair of scissors and cutting those cords attaching you to that situation (or, imagine you are “unplugging” them from your body). As you do so, consciously practice forgiveness of yourself and anyone involved in that situation and accept that this experience was based on the old you – and the new you is free to move on.
For the next few minutes, take a few deep breaths. As you inhale, imagine you are inhaling peace and light. As you exhale, allow that light to grow and expand – filling your body and expanding beyond yourself, in every direction.
About the author:
Danielle Palli is an author (Acting Out Yoga series; Data Collectors; and contributor for Yoga in America), business owner (Birdland Media Works; Singing River Elements), mindfulness coach, Reiki Master and non-denominational minister. Having taught yoga, Pilates and meditation for more than 15 years while also running a successful multimedia and digital marketing business, she understands the need to bring mindfulness into often high-stress work environments for greater wellbeing. In addition to her spiritual work as an energy worker and mindfulness coach, she currently collaborates with other spiritually-minded business owners to create online courses designed to bring more peace, better communication, and greater purpose to life and work.