Flavors of feelings
June 10, 2013 by
Categories: Emotions, Mindfulness

We enjoy growing several kinds of herbs in our garden. When cooking, there’s just something about being able to use fresh herbs from the garden. Through my life, I have had dishes that range from very bland to full of life. Some of the best meals that I have had were like a firework show for my mouth. Colors were tastes that exploded and then savored. Feel free to grab a snack before reading on. The more that I’ve cooked and tried food from different cultures, the more sensitive I have become to the taste of different combinations of seasonings. This has helped me to enjoy what I am eating in new ways.

In a similar process, I believe that one important role of emotions in our life is to provide flavor. Just like developing a palate, becoming in tune to our emotions requires time. Some may find the process difficult because of trauma experience in the past. Others may find it difficult because they believe they can’t trust what they feel. For some, feeling may just be too painful. But for those that do develop a taste for emotions, and become more in tune with themselves, the results are worth the effort.

Image by nickylaatz

Image by nickylaatz

One way that we are out of tune with ourselves is when we group feelings into general categories, such as good and bad. Under the good category, for example, we can have emotions such as peace, comfort, happiness, joy, excitement, and anticipation. Even those separate emotions are general categories. Do you feel a different kind of peace at a certain place as compared to another? Does a particular friend bring you one type of comfort while a different friend brings you another? What is the range of happiness you have experienced? The answer to these questions can lead us into places where we can find more contentment and more balance.

So how do we become more in tune with ourselves and our emotions? While I have not practiced the principles on wine, I believe that wine tasting principles can work for emotions as well. The four steps of wine tasting are: appearance, “in glass” aroma of the wine, “in mouth” sensations, and the finish or aftertaste.

Step one. When we become aware of an emotion, take a moment to observe the context. For most, we start with visual cues. It is important to consider where we are at, who we are with, and what we are seeing.

Step two. Visual cues are important, but it’s also important to use as many of our senses as possible. Paying attention to the sounds, smells, and even tastes or tactile sensations are important. The sense of smell is powerful for a lot of people. It’s accepted that a smell can bring up powerful memories. For me, the smell of rain brings up images of childhood and playing outside after a rainstorm.

Step three. Pay attention to physical sensations produced by the emotion within us. Where do we feel the emotion? In our chest, heart, stomach, shoulders, neck? What is the physical sensation? Is it tingly, burning, sinking?

Step four. After the emotion has subsided, explore how you feel. Maybe you feel relaxed, on edge, empty, at peace, or content. Maybe another feeling is produced which allows for a repeat of the four steps, if time permits.

Acquiring this inner awareness of emotions and being able to distinguish subtle differences in our emotions can enhance our experience of life. Even the more uncomfortable emotions like sadness or pain become an acquired taste. It’s not that we necessarily seek out any emotion in particular, but when they arrive we are able to appreciate them. This appreciation can also lead to a different perspective and it can become a guide to lead us to where we need to be. 

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