top of page

The Freedom of Understanding Your Emotions

What if, instead of seeking distraction from our painful emotions, we had the courage to hold them with a gentle curiosity? How would that change our relationship with our feelings?

How to get the most out of these Wisdom Quotes:

  1. Put aside everything you think you already know.

  2. Open your mind and heart to receive something new.

  3. Take your time going through each point.

  4. Return to any points that particularly touch you.

  5. In the coming days, listen carefully to the wisdom within you.

1. Covering Up Our Pain

“Breathing in, I’m aware of the painful feeling in me. Breathing out, I’m aware of the painful feeling in me.

This is an art. We have to learn it, because most of us don’t like to be with our pain. We’re afraid of being overwhelmed by the pain, so we always seek to run away from it.

There’s loneliness, fear, anger, and despair in us. Mostly we try to cover it up by consuming. There are those of us who go and look for something to eat. Others turn on the television. In fact, many people do both at the same time.

And even if the TV program isn’t interesting at all, we don’t have the courage to turn it off, because if we turn it off, we have to go back to ourselves and encounter the pain inside. The marketplace provides us with many items to help us in our effort to avoid the suffering inside.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh, No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering


Have you ever considered how much we seek distraction from our painful feelings?

What would actually happen if we had the courage to go into ourselves and be with the pain, with the discomfort, with the uncertainty?

Would our fear be justified? Or would we discover a surprising connection and transformation?

2. Sadness

"Your sadness doesn’t say, “Please fix me, heal me, or release me.” It doesn’t say, “Please get rid of me, numb yourself to me, pretend I’m not here.” It certainly doesn’t say, “Please get enlightened so I can die!”

Sadness does not come to punish you or reveal to you what a “spiritual failure” you are. Sadness is not an impurity or a sign that you are unevolved or far from healing, awakening, enlightenment, peace.

The presence of sadness is not an indication that you’ve done something wrong, that you are damaged or broken, that you are far from the joy you seek.

Sadness only whispers, “May I come in? I am tired, I long for rest.” And you reply, “But sadness, I don’t know how to allow you in!” And sadness replies, “It’s okay. You don’t need to know. I’m already in. Feel me now, in your belly, your chest, your throat.”

And we bow to sadness then; we recognize how it’s already allowed in, how there’s enough room in us for sadness, how we are not “the sad one,” we are not contained within sadness, but we are the room for sadness, its great space, its home, its salvation, its loving embrace; not as a goal, but as our present nature.

Presence is not a destination, so feelings are never a block.

Don’t heal yourself from sadness; let sadness heal you. Let it show you the way when you have forgotten. Let it reveal to you the depths of love; let it remind you of your vast heart, your refusal to split off from any part of yourself."

~Jeff Foster, The Way of Rest


What a refreshing view of sadness! We are not victims of this emotion, wallowing in self-pity and dependent on our mood or circumstances for liberation. We are the vast expanse of awareness that holds sadness, and every emotion, in a loving embrace.

We are so used to rejecting sadness and experiencing separation from that part of ourselves. But the next time sadness arises within you, open your heart to receive it without fear, and allow its energy to reveal the depth of your heart.

3. Anxiety

"When you feel anxious, don’t try not to feel anxious, for this feeds the anxiety, adds extra suffering. You end up feeling anxious about feeling anxious.

What you run away from always haunts you. Don’t cover up your discomfort or distract yourself from it, or pretend to be “fine” or “okay.”

Breathe. Feel your feet on the ground, your belly rising and falling with each breath. Don’t think about your anxiety, and how to get rid of it - that is the old paradigm. Feel the anxiety more completely! Can you locate your anxiety in the body - is it in the belly, the chest, the throat, the head?

Drop the word “anxiety” (for it is a loaded, secondhand word) and directly feel the living sensations that are there, moment by moment, without trying to get rid of them or stop them, without even hoping they’ll go away.

Allow yourself to be curious about what’s alive in your body right now, about the physical sensations of this moment. Come out of past and future, and dive into Presence.

Breathe into sensations, dignify them with breath, with oxygen, with life, with your kind attention. Are there butterflies in your stomach? Do your muscles feel tense? Which ones? Can you bring some loving attention and breath there?

Let the sensations know that they are allowed to be here, that they are included in life, that you finally have no agenda to destroy them, that they can stay, for now. And there is only Now.

Anxiety is just a little child who has arrived in your space. She has not come to ruin or hurt you, but to wake you up to life. She only wants to be acknowledged, held, allowed into the vastness of the moment."

~Jeff Foster, The Way of Rest


How often do you feel anxious about feeling anxious? This is what happens when we take a feeling, give it a label, and try to avoid it because we see it as being negative.

Are you open enough to drop the word "anxiety" and to become curious about the physical sensations that appear in the moment? Dare to trust the opening so you can bring some loving attention to this part of yourself.

4. Anger

“I would not look upon anger as something foreign to me that I have to fight. I have to deal with my anger with care, with love, with tenderness, with nonviolence.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace


"Be gentle with anger. Bow before it. It is not what you think it is. Let it come closer, let it enter you if it must. Feel its power. Until you cannot call it “anger” at all. Until there is only fire, passion. But no violence.

Do not push your anger away, or label it “negative,” “unspiritual,” or even “unhealthy.” Do not pretend it is not there. Feel anger’s pounding, its vibrations, its fire, its longing to be acknowledged, held.

At its burning core, discover your courage. The courage to be yourself. To hold to your path, fearlessly. To speak for those without a voice. To stand up for truth, for your rights, for the rights of your brothers and sisters, with passion, but without violence. To roar with love; to let the world hear your prayers at last.

Know that your heart is vast and spacious, and anger, so often misunderstood, has a home in you."

~Jeff Foster, The Way of Rest


"There is nothing wrong with anger. Anger is a beautiful emotion, as valid and rich as joy or laughter. But you have been taught to repress your anger. Your anger has been condemned.

If anger is unexpressed, it will slowly poison you. The key is to know how to express your anger.

Do not throw it out onto anyone. No one is responsible for your anger. Simply express your anger. Beat up a cushion. Go for a run. Express your anger to a tree. Dance your anger. Enjoy it."

~Leonard Jacobson


Anger, so often misunderstood... Yes, even anger can fit into the vastness of awareness and be transformed into something beautiful.

As with all feelings, it is a passing energy, created by thought. Facing our anger fully with gentleness and tender, loving curiosity brings us into a different relationship with it.

5. The Place of Deep Acceptance

"Your feelings, the energies alive in your body right now, were not "caused" by anyone else, and nobody else can take them away. Now that you are grown, nobody else is responsible for your feelings. This realization can end the blame game once and for all, and leave you standing in your true place of power - the present moment.

Yes, others may trigger pain and sorrow that was latent in you, but they cannot make you feel how you feel. They cannot create feelings in you, and they certainly cannot metabolize your feelings for you.

Your responsibility lies in how you respond to uncomfortable thoughts and feelings - the kind of relationship you have with them.

Nobody can make you happy; nobody can make you unhappy. You are only invited, constantly, to meet what remains unmet in yourself, to touch what you never wanted to touch in yourself.

Making others responsible for how we feel is the beginning of all violence, both internal and external, all conflict between people, and ultimately all wars between nations.

Let others off the hook. Honor what is alive in your right now. Learn to hold your feelings like beloved children, however intensely they burn and scream for attention.

Celebrate the aliveness in your hurt, the vibrancy of your disappointment, the electricity of your sadness. Kneel before the power in your anger; honor its fiery creativity.

From this place of deep acceptance, you do not become weak and passive. Quite the opposite. You simply enter the world from a place of non-violence, and therefore immense creative power, and you are open to the possibility of deep listening, honest dialogue, and unexpected change.

In suffering, you become small. In love, anything is possible."

~Jeff Foster, The Way of Rest


There is, within you, a place of deep acceptance. From this place, there is grace to meet every emotion in its raw, formless energy. Not only to meet it, but to hold it deeply in love.

Discover this place within you. Find the opening to the door of your heart when your mind isn't caught up in defining, complaining and judging. "Let others off the hook," once and for all, and "honor what is alive in you right now."

Allow yourself to respond by relaxing all efforts to heal yourself, relaxing all efforts to understand your story or to change anything. Spontaneously, you will find yourself in this place of deep acceptance, completely open to all possibilities.

6. Our Greatest Guru

"Instead of trying to escape discomfort, we let discomfort reveal its deeper secrets. We sit with discomfort and watch all boundaries between "me" and "my discomfort" melt away, until it is no longer "me sitting with my discomfort" at all, and never was - there is only unspeakable embrace.

We sit with frustration in the place where it has not yet coagulated into "I am frustrated." We sit with fear prior to the resurrection of the image "I am the one who is afraid." We sit with anger before the birth of our identity as "the angry one."

We know ourselves as the vast open space, the boundless and identityless ocean that welcomes all of these waves, these raw, alive sensations and thoughts, as its beloved children, returned home at last, home at last.

Discomfort may just be our greatest guru, knocking at the door, calling us to the deeper comfort of Home."

~Jeff Foster, The Way of Rest


Our job is so simple when uncomfortable emotions arise. Just sit with the discomfort. Relax all effort. Just sit with it. And see what happens.


bottom of page