It seems like everyone I’m working with at the moment is really going through it. I’m not talking about small hiccups in daily life or little bumps in the road. I’m talking about those life-changing, course-correcting, new-trajectory-seeking moments when we shed our well-worn skin, and have to figure out how to move forward: exposed, raw and disoriented. And even if your personal life is not undergoing a major overhaul, just one mindful glimpse out into the world can/should elicit a temper flare or wave of anxiety (or nausea). We have entered yet another season of reckoning: walking through the fire, and getting clear on how we are creating the life— and world— in which we live.

All major transitions and life changes come with a whole host of emotions: sadness, regret, grief, anxiety, fear, and anger just to name a few. Any one of those can rise up and take over, coloring everything you see and experience. But when they arrive together, it can feel like you might drown in that tidal wave of emotion. Our frequent response to that kind of overwhelm? Push it away, ignore it, suppress it. Find a distraction and figure out how to just hold it all together for another minute or another day. While this strategy is occasionally necessary, it’s not healthy or sustainable over time. Emotions are meant to be acknowledged, felt and expressed or they settle into our bodies as discomfort, dis-ease and illness.

Where do you even begin when you’re in the middle of the storm? Like everything else, it’s one breath. Just one. Why? Because as much as you are able to do is what you do. This mini practice takes less than a minute, and helps you return to your body, to the present, and to the steady part of you that can witness the vortex of thoughts and feelings within. It brings you back to the moment where you can simply be, without the incessant mental chatter that fuels the fire and riles the wild horses of the mind.

  1. Stop whatever you’re doing— just for a minute. If there’s anything in your hands, put it down.
  2. Send your awareness to your feet on the ground. It’s a great way to get back into your body.
  3. Notice what feeling or emotion is present– and where you feel it in your body– without trying to fix it, change it, control it, or make it go away. Think of it as looking out the window to see what is happening with the weather. Note: the inner weather is generally equally changeable, and equally uncontrollable as what you see outside.
  4. Name what you feel. Remember that you are not the anger, the fear, the anxiety. You are definitely not the story that comes with them. You’re just watching a storm front passing through.
  5. Take one breath in, feeling the feeling in your body, without any internal narrative. Take one breath out, feeling that feeling in your body, and letting it be.
  6. Move on with your day.
  7. Repeat as necessary.

This process might seem too simple to be helpful, but you may be surprised at just how powerful it is to regularly acknowledge the emotional tone of the moment, rather than expending your energy trying to push it all away. Instead of storing up your emotions until they boil over, you process a little bit at a time. Instead of ignoring your feelings and losing touch with this essential part of your being, you stay connected to your inner world throughout the day in manageable, bite-sized snacks.

The coming months will likely be a political and social storm fraught with tension, anger, uncertainty and anxiety. It is incumbent upon us to employ the skills we’ve been given both to navigate that storm and claim accountability for our participation in the moment in which we find ourselves. We need to commit to embodying the presence of something steadier, kinder, and more honest and hopeful for those around us. We can’t do that if we are disowning part of our own experience. When we stand firmly in ourselves, claiming the whole truth of what is, we can truly lead, listen and love well. And we might just need as much of that as we can find.