by Berenice Boxler
“Everything is allowed.”
In a mindfulness course, you can this sentence several times. It means no more and no less than the fact that everything we experience is allowed to be exactly as it is. It’s about acceptance, about letting go of every expectation and goal, about letting reality be as it is. Any sensation is allowed: itching, tingling, heat or cold, pain or well-being. Whether unpleasant or pleasant, it is just a sensation that you can sense in the body. Every thought is allowed: “I do not like that. That’s nice! Oh damn, again … He’s annoying! I can’t do this.” And so on … As inconvenient as it sometimes seems, every thought is just part of our experience. A mental phenomenon that comes and goes as the clouds in the sky come and go. Even the thought: “I should not think like this” is allowed. And yes, every emotion is allowed: joy, jealousy, anger, gratitude, fear, loneliness. Everything is part of this life and everything will happen to us sooner or later.
An environment of repression
It is at the heart of every mindfulness course to learn to be with everything and to allow everything. As unpleasant as a pain or a destructive thought may seem, it is possible to simply be with it. In terms of emotions, this is really not easy, because most of us grew up in an environment where pleasant emotions (joy, love, contentment) were allowed and explicitly wanted, but the unpleasant emotions (such as anger, hate, jealousy) were not. As a child, one was sent away when being angry (“go to your room!”), one often heard “don’t cry, that’s not so bad” or was being distracted from the disappointment of the failed exam with the prospect of a party later in the day. Just being here – and learning that this is all part of life and will pass again – has never been an option. We could never learn to be with the unpleasant and to learn that we can survive this too, build resilience.
Repression and ban …
People do a lot to avoid feeling their own difficult feelings. And the effort is no less great when it comes to not being „burdened“ by the unpleasant emotions of other people. This is also a big topic in the parenting course, which is about allowing the children to have all the emotions. But it is so hard when we have never learned it ourselves or are still being deprived of our feelings as adults. Only recently I saw in a TV talent show the presenter welcoming the candidate that did not make it to the next round with the words: „Don‘t be sad!“
But that‘s exactly what it‘s about! She is allowed to be sad! She was disappointed because she did her best and it was not enough. Who would not be disappointed?! If she were allowed to accept her disappointment and sadness, then she could feel it in the body, let it flow, let it out, maybe with some tears. And then it will pass again, as long as the thoughts do not constantly ruminate about this moment. This is the course of events, the course of emotions. Everything comes, and everything goes, a constant flow, just pure life.
… and the consequences
But if we suppress it, if we swallow the loneliness, if we forbid jealousy, if we do not allow the feeling of helplessness, then this repression and non-acceptance can have serious consequences. Some people react with gastric ulcers, others have sleep problems, or they may experience out-bursting aggression and rage. Maybe you know that from people of all ages in your life who suddenly explode, seemingly triggered by a tiny thing? Well, there has been accumulating something that needs to come out, one way or the other. And then comes the shame afterwards about the fact that one has „lost control“.
Everything is allowed
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk, says, „Give your anger, your despair, your fear, a bath of mindfulness every day.” We must learn again to allow everything. Whether frustration or disappointment or fear, it‘s just fine. It is human. And it‘s healthy to feel the feelings. We can learn that we can have the emotion, feel it in the body – but maybe not express it if this could hurt other people. Even though it is still a long way to acceptance in society, we can, no, we must allow ourselves to be human. And no-one is in a good mood and satisfied 24/7 …
It can be a great help to check in on a regular basis and to feel how things are going. How is my body? Which thoughts concern me? Which emotions are there to be felt? The „3-Minute-Breathing Space“ (here is a link to a guided breathing space on youtube) can help to pause again and again and to feel what is currently in the foreground. And never forget: everything is allowed.