Mindful Agility

Want lasting change? Label emotions

June 28, 2022 Daniel Greening Season 1 Episode 10
Mindful Agility
Want lasting change? Label emotions
Show Notes Transcript

If we want lasting change, emotions may be our strongest opponent. 

When forced to change, people feel fear, rage, anxiety, and other emotions.

Emotions are designed to satisfy basic needs: defend, fight, flight, reproduce. But when they overwhelm us, they shut down logic. They’re great when we’re suddenly confronted by a lion in the African savanna, we don’t have to take time to think. We just feel fear and run. But when building a strong family, or tackling some other tough, long-term challenge, emotions can confuse and distract us. We often don’t even notice that we’re feeling fear, rage, lust, or love… we just feel and act, no thinking required.

By training ourselves to notice and label emotions, we allow them to continue to exist. But can put them on the same playing field as other factors relevant to our goals.

We have to start with ourselves. If we label the emotions of family members or teammates, we rob them of agency. But if we label our own emotions, we signal psychological safety, inviting others to do the same.


  • Eric Gibson, Principal Coach for Agile Valley. a business consulting firm in the San Francisco Bay Area.  
  • Jay Beale is CEO of InGuardians, Inc. a computer security services company in Seattle. 
  • Matt Zimmerman is Director of Online Products for Springer Publishing in New York.  




  • Daniel Greening, host, agile consultant, software executive
  • Mirela Petalli, co-host, meditation guide, and neurocritical nursing instructor
  • Dan Dickson, business coach, executive and management consultant


[00:00:00] Cold Open

[00:00:00] Mirela Petalli: From a neuroscience point of view there's a change that happens when we put language to our activities, which is interesting because Buddhism knew that 2,500 years ago. 

[00:00:12] Introduction

[00:00:12] Daniel Greening: Welcome to the Mindful Agility podcast. I'm your host, Dan Greening. My co-host is Mirela Petalli. 

If we want lasting change, we have to understand all the forces around us and emotions are a big force. 

 When asked to change, people feel rage, fear, anxiety, and other emotions. Emotions are designed to satisfy basic needs. Defend fight flight reproduce. But when they overwhelm us, they shut down logic. That's great when suddenly confronted by a lion in the African Savannah. We don't have time to think. We just feel fear and run. 

But when building a strong family, a strong culture or tackling some other tough long-term challenge, emotions can confuse and distract us. We don't even notice that we're feeling fear, rage, lust, or love. We just feel and act. No thinking required, and the outcome can be disastrous. 

By training ourselves to notice and label emotions, we allow them to continue to exist. But can put them on the same playing field as other factors relevant to our goals.

In the previous two podcast episodes, Matt and Nurse Heather used noticing and labeling to build awareness and drive personal change. Matt learned how to keep track of his keys and Nurse Heather's son learned how to avoid putting his fingers in his mouth. In this episode, Mirela leads a discussion on the psychology and neuroscience research behind the concepts of noticing and labeling. 

You'll hear three additional voices in this episode. 

 Eric Gibson is Principal Coach for Agile Valley. a business consulting firm in the San Francisco Bay Area. He's been working most recently in pharmaceuticals. 

Jay Beale is CEO of InGuardians, Inc. a computer security services company in Seattle. 

Matt Zimmerman is Director of Online Products for Springer Publishing in New York. Yes, this is the same Matt. He stopped losing his keys. 

 All of our episodes, including this one, have an optional 10 minute guided meditation at the end. 

If you want to get useful stuff done faster, this podcast is for you. Mindfulness practices help us gain greater insight while agile practices help us get results. Each episode is an agile experiment to see if we can help you, our listener. The journey is half the fun.

[00:02:58] Main

[00:02:58] Daniel Greening: Mirela. How did you decide to research this path of noticing and labeling in the last couple of episodes?

[00:03:08] Mirela Petalli: The idea started with thinking about how Matt could be more mindful about not losing his keys and phone and wallet. The idea was to come back to the present moment by saying, either out loud or to oneself that, this is what I'm doing right now. I'm putting my keys on the table. From a neuroscience point of view there's a change that happens when we put language to our activities, which is interesting because Buddhism knew that 2,500 years ago. 

[00:03:36] Daniel Greening: In the last two episodes we saw people labeling actions or activities. For example, Matt was labeling what he was doing with his keys and Jack was labeling what he was doing with his fingers. But most research in this area is about labeling emotions, right? 

[00:03:57] Mirela Petalli: Right. Research has shown that if we don't acknowledge and address our emotions, we are going to have lower well-being, we're going to be more stressed and we're going to have physical symptoms. Staying with the emotions is counter-intuitive, but neuroscience suggests that if we train ourselves to stay with our emotions to hold space for them, to allow them to be and run their course can help us deal with them much better. 

[00:04:28] Daniel Greening: What was the specific research here? 

[00:04:30] Mirela Petalli: It was research about emotional response. Researchers showed people some pictures of facial expressions and had them label them: what do you see? Uh, then they measured physical, emotional, and psychological indicators of how they were feeling afterwards. 

Our culture discourages us from expressing emotions. We're discouraged of expressing anger. Or even sometimes from expressing extreme joy or happiness. Our culture creates an environment that doesn't make it easy for us to express emotions. 

[00:05:06] Daniel Greening: So the researchers were asking people to do things that they normally don't do. We don't, because of culture, think about our emotions and we don't label them. So what happened when people actually did it?

[00:05:22] Mirela Petalli: They found increased activity in the prefrontal cortex , which are the regions that direct our behavior and take us out from that fight flight or freeze reactivity mode, and also decrease the emotions generating activity in the amygdala. Labeling our emotions decreases both the subjective experience and the physical symptoms of negative emotions.

Buddhism teaches that when we practice mindfulness, we sit and we notice what is going on. The interesting thing is that Buddhism does not focus specifically on emotions. It says you need to meditate. You need to pay attention and be present with what's happening right now. And emotions is a big part of that. When we practice mindfulness, we become aware and observe our own experience, including our emotional one.

We label the emotion, we sit with it and we allow some space in our body for the emotion to just be there, do what it needs to do and then leave. We could go even further and welcome it. When we practice this way, we don't allow the emotions to overwhelm us. 

Our experience is so much more than the emotions that we're feeling at the moment. When we have an experience of some space around the emotion, we realize that this is not everything that I'm feeling right now. If we pay attention to the emotion for a little bit, it's going to change. 

The more we practice it, the more we become comfortable and create an awareness that no matter how crushing the emotion, it will not overwhelm us because we'll know how to hold space, how to create an environment for it to just pass through us. 

[00:07:07] Daniel Greening: From the beginning of the podcast, we explicitly paired guided meditation with each episode. Non-meditators haven't built self-awareness skills and don't appreciate how those skills improve their daily lives. If you experiment with meditation consistently, usually a week or two, you start to notice emotions and then you see that things are just generally going better. When you're messing around with your own neurons, you can't actually see or feel directly what's happening, but if you're paying attention you can see that there's less drama, at least in our own heads. Meditation helps with noticing. And noticing helps you label.

[00:07:49] Mirela Petalli: When we label emotions, we're putting words to them. We're switching from a physical sensation, which is the emotion manifesting in our body to a linguistic one. And that's what makes the switch from the amygdala to the prefrontal cortex. We can then make decisions because our prefrontal cortex is coming online.

Another important point is how we use language. When we say I am something we are identifying with it, allowing it to overwhelm us. I am angry. Everything I am right now is angry. If we switch that and instead of saying, I am angry, we say, I am feeling anger. That little change makes us step away from the emotion, creates a little space. I am feeling angry, but that's not all who I am.

[00:08:39] Daniel Greening: That's a great observation. Of course when we're enraged, it seems like that's the only thing that matters. But if we have practiced the skill of labeling it, We are labeling it from some other perspective, and that other perspective can pay attention to everything else around us. What are we doing? What is happening? What's caused this? And what are our actions causing?

Jay Beale you've mentioned using labeling in association with pain. 

[00:09:10] Jay Beale: Absolutely I've found that when I label my emotions, it really reduces their power and it really reduces the feeling of being controlled by them. 

When my knee hurts, I'll put my hand on my knee and I'll push on it, give a little pressure. I'll say either out loud or to myself, " Knee, I hear that you are hurt. I love you and I'd say, I accept your pain, and I promise I'm going to take better care of you."

 What I'm trying to do in that moment. It's just to tell my body, Hey, message received. I'm not fighting the message I'm accepting it. And as a result, similar to when you're in an argument with somebody, the more that you're defensive, the louder they get, I feel like I get the same experience with my emotions and I get the same experience with my physical pain. And now once I name that emotion, I get curious. and that curiosity, can help me try to deal with the situation in a way that I find myself happier sooner.

[00:10:02] Daniel Greening: Eric Gibson. You've mentioned the concepts of noticing and labeling could be helpful in your family. 

[00:10:10] Erik Gibson: I think this is relevant for my daughter. She describes her feelings as, " big," like she has bigger feelings than other people do. I think this could be an excellent technique that's simple, but to notice and to label, and if she can put a name on that. If I understand correctly, it doesn't have to say that to anybody else. Just to herself, 

My kid's preschool teacher had a way of saying, " That's what I call X." She might name a feeling to give them the word for what they're experiencing. And it's not just for learning the word for that concept, but for acknowledging that concept and in its presence. 

[00:10:49] Daniel Greening: Matt Zimmerman. What do you think about this labeling stuff? 

[00:10:54] Matt Zimmerman: Well popped into my head was how in the last 10 to 20 years, the term labeling has become a negative thing. Like don't label me. You don't know who I am. But this is a different type of labeling and i like that it's using a word that it's often used negatively and saying hey there's some things that it's okay to label because they're not permanent labels 

[00:11:14] Erik Gibson: That's a really interesting observation to me, in part, because there is an element of profiling, and association, where part of the value of noticing and labeling is that we associate that with other things that we can then process , and give meaning. And those associated meanings are subject to all kinds of cognitive bias and may come with their own baggage. 

[00:11:41] Jay Beale: Given that there might be that bias when you're presenting a labeling, would you want to use a synonym and call it naming an emotion or specifying? 

[00:11:49] Mirela Petalli: I liked naming. Saying, noticing and naming your emotions, 

[00:11:53] Daniel Greening: So I should name my anxious emotion Sally, or something like that. 

[00:11:59] Mirela Petalli: Or you can call your anxiety, Sally. That's I like that. Um, can I make you a cup of tea? 

[00:12:05] Daniel Greening: That would defang Sally a little bit.

 There are studies that show that focus meditation also seems to reduce reactivity. And that isn't a situation where you're necessarily labeling an emotion. It's more like you're meditating. And then you get distracted and start thinking about what you're going to cook for dinner, or your boss yelled at you today, or whatever. 

Then you notice that you are not thinking about your breath and you gently bring your mind back to your breath. But that activity also seems to strengthen the frontal cortex area that you talked about and decrease the effect of the amygdala. But this labeling emotions thing, the way you describe it sounds like a stronger activity. 

Was there any feeling in any of these papers that they made a comparison between those two types of noticing? 

[00:13:01] Mirela Petalli: I think they work in conjunction. There is a significant degree of focusing in the labeling meditation as well. You need to notice, and for you to be able to notice you need to focus. There are so many different ways of meditating, and I always suggest people try a lot of them alternate between them and choose the ones that work best for them. 

[00:13:23] Matt Zimmerman: So I'm picturing myself working on a team and getting blocked with getting stuff done because of timelines or whatever. And then usually some emotion comes up. I start to panic or. I start feeling angry, but, If I could stop and say, okay, I'm feeling stressed or I'm feeling anxious. I might be able to slow it down a bit. And. I'm wondering if that's helpful for the team too, to remove your own blockers to help the team., 

[00:13:45] Daniel Greenning: and I bet there's inter- team member emotions like anger and, irritation

[00:13:51] Matt Zimmerman: You could hear a scrum teams say we're not achieving our goals because we're overworked or we don't have enough resources or something like that. But is that true? It might be better to say, we feel like we don't have enough resources then saying we don't have enough resources because it's really just a feeling.

[00:14:09] Daniel Greening: I always think of that as a funny statement, because of course they don't have enough resources. The problem usually is there's limited resources because there's a budget, right. And you're not making enough money to actually afford to get more resources. So belly aching about resources a little bit weird. It might be better to prioritize the work we're doing, chill out about the fact that we can't produce as much as we wish we could, and then just enjoy the outcome, enjoy the process, and be compassionate towards our own capabilities

[00:14:45] Matt Zimmerman: And that situation, I could see the team saying the goal is to not feel under resourced. As opposed to actually changing the resources, but changing something else, like priorities. So that they're not feeling under-resourced. 

[00:14:58] Daniel Greening: If we use phrases, like we feel overworked rather than we are overworked. Or if we say we feel like we don't have enough resources, rather than we don't have enough resources. It might promote objectivity. In scrum, the team paces itself, so if they feel overworked, they can fix that by saying. Let's not forget this feeling when we plan the next sprint and commit to less. 

Another option is saying, "the nature of the work that helps us learn is this feeling of being overworked." I often feel overworked because this whole podcasting thing is completely new to me

[00:15:43] High Trust Environment, Honesty, Vulnerability 

[00:15:43] Erik Gibson: Years ago, I heard an argument from someone who considered themselves outside, but adjacent to, the agile movement, describing agile as mostly the repackaging of old ideas, but that the new thing that agile brought forward was collaborating in a high trust environment.

 My first thought was it's the interactions between people that enable us to create more value as a group than we can create as a collection of individuals. So understanding and being more easily aware or attuned to other people's feelings as well as your own, would seem to be really powerful at lubricating the system, and helping in collaborative human endeavor.

I was thinking of this in the context of Brenay Brown and vulnerability. The distinction hit me that it's not just, being willing to be vulnerable to others, but actually to my own self criticism. I can get really hung up, and walled off on things or seek distractions, when I don't want to even expose myself to myself.

[00:16:53] Mirela Petalli: There is a Japanese haiku about a maple leaf showing front and showing back and it's that idea in Buddhism that we have to be honest with ourselves and we have to be brave and acknowledge our dark sides. Vulnerability to ourselves makes me think about having an attitude of, I am not perfect. We have a bright side and we have a dark side, and we need to have compassion and we need to be honest, and say "Mirela, you messed up this time. What can you learn from it?" And move on try to do better next time. 

[00:17:29] Daniel Greening: I'm reviewing scrum concepts lately, quite a bit. One of the things that scrum has is a set of values: commitment, focus, openness, respect, and courage. I do know that courage is very important in Scrum. But there aren't very many exercises around that. Eric, have you seen people emphasize these core values? 

[00:17:54] Erik Gibson: Some people do. Certainly Ken Schwaber does.

 I suppose this is the problem, the need, to be vulnerable, to, oneself, is a challenge. And as Mirela was saying you need to be willing to accept your dark side, your failure and whatnot, and find some tenderness, some peace with that. That being true, doesn't make it easy. 

I do see how the noticing and naming. can actually be directly useful here, because by the noticing and naming a feeling by acknowledging and cradling that feeling and giving it space you can let it go through its life cycle, rather than ignore it, wall it off, and try and brace yourself for its building up and returning . 

[00:18:39] Mirela Petalli: If we can't be vulnerable with oneself and be honest with oneself, it's gonna show up with all kinds of things like addiction 

[00:18:49] Erik Gibson: Something breaks down. 

[00:18:50] What we think we are, what we are and what we want to be (and teams). How do we get them to be honest

[00:18:50] Mirela Petalli: There is a discrepancy between what we think we are what we want to be and what we actually are,

[00:18:58] Erik Gibson: Yes, exactly. 

[00:18:59] Daniel Greening: And when those discrepancies are big, they waste a lot of time. 

[00:19:02] Matt Zimmerman: Well teams do the same thing. The team has the idea of what it is. And then there's what the team really is and what it wants to become and usually there's a big discrepancy between the three

[00:19:14] Erik Gibson: you see this dynamic where they just go from crisis to crisis and that becomes thing they're anticipating and preparing for and not talking about. 

[00:19:23] Matt Zimmerman: And that honestly, part is the hardest part of agile. 

[00:19:26] Daniel Greenning: it's an essential part 

[00:19:27] Matt Zimmerman: I haven't been on a lot of agile teams, but you're supposed to have these retrospectives where you realistically say. Here's what we did well. Here's what we didn't do well. And what were the impediments, but no one ever wants the impediment to be themselves and people are really reluctant to say another person's an impediment. Even if they want to help that person. It's really difficult to talk about the problems. 

[00:19:52] Jay Beale: That feels like a, like a tangent, but a tangent. I would love to just explore it at some point, because who isn't in that scrum movement, but as a leader, I get frustrated that sometimes people are too afraid to say, yeah, you know, I, I could have done such and such better and so I, I hear about this mythical blameless, retrospective I want that. Who are these teams who at the end can say what they did wrong because they feel safe enough. 

[00:20:18] Daniel Greenning: Mirela and I just had a conversation with a friend of ours who is a partner at a medium, large size accounting firm And we had this conversation with him to talk about agile practices within the accounting firm. He was tied to lots of traditional models for how management is done. And he said, we're running a yearly survey to figure out , how people are feeling, while I'm talking about a happiness metric that you measure every week . 

 The interesting thing about agile done well is that the labeling is happening all the time. And we are getting comfortable, ideally, with honesty. Eric, do you feel like when you have good scrum teams, that is a reasonable thing that I just said.

[00:21:12] Erik Gibson: What came to mind while you were talking was a recent experience with some teams that had built in a check-in, at the beginning of a retrospective, where they asked people to drag an icon of themselves onto a spectrum of feeling. Everybody in the group would drop themselves into the same little safe, meaningless spot in the center, because it was also the expectation that if anybody's outside of that, if anybody's not feeling good, then that gets addressed. And that if you say, you're not feeling so good that you become an issue that needs to be dealt with. 

[00:21:49] Mirela Petalli: How can we give these team members and scrum masters the tools to create that safe environment? The tools to create an environment that is welcoming and truly safe where people can share how they really feel

[00:22:02] Erik Gibson: I think that's something that can be started with an individual coaching basis, to help each individual on the team get to a point where they can notice and name, how they're feeling at least at a granularity where they're willing to acknowledge and potentially share with a team where they've built some trust. As individuals get better with that practice, we might be able to see a team building trust and becoming more willing to share. "I'm not feeling great today, or I'm feeling better than everybody else today." Whatever that feeling is for them to be willing to acknowledge that, name that for themselves. and name that for the people they're collaborating with, could be something that would really build trust and the shared identity of the team as an organism.

[00:22:57] Daniel Greening: It might be one of those things that the team just has to not feel they have to fix it. When we think about the Matt keys situation, Mirela kind of being amused about Matt losing his keys and it was all cool. He lost his keys again. That's cute. So that provides this kind of openness and comfort that's all good. We're all trying to muddle our way through life. 

The same thing is happening with Heather and Jack. Heather was very conscious not to judge or criticize or try to fix Jack's issue with putting his fingers in his mouth. She just wanted to call attention to it and then let it be the way it was.

[00:23:38] Mirela Petalli: It is about giving agency and how we can empower team members. In both Matts' keys and Jack's fingers experiments we saw how having agency allowed them to feel safe to experiment and to be creative. 

[00:23:53] Erik Gibson: This is reminiscent in part of the book, Turn This Ship Around, where there was a Navy leader who took over a new kind of submarine. He wasn't familiar with at all, and decided he couldn't become familiar with all the nuances of this submarine in the time available. And he had to trust the people who were there. And he asked them not to ask him what to do, but to come to him and say, " Sir, I intend to do this." And then he would either approve or disapprove or ask questions about that.

I found using that with my daughter I'm driving her home from school, it's just say, dad, when we get home, I intend to have two pieces of candy. And that has switched the dynamic from her trying to push to have as much candy as she can get me to give her, to her taking responsibility for making a good decision. I might ask her, " is that a good decision to have two pieces of candy?" or even, "well, why do you think that's a good decision? Because I need to understand why that's a good decision. If I'm going to feel good as a parent, that I'm doing the right thing."

[00:24:57] Jay Beale: That kind of theme has come up a few times, I think a lot of, , really gifted school teachers probably a lot of parents with more experience than me, they often will say, instead of telling a five-year-old no, ," put the screwdriver in so that it makes with the screw head," they'll say, "What if you turned it that way?" That way of asking, or saying, " come tell me what you want to do and let me, uh, let me approve it or, or alter it. 

Then even what we all said near the beginning of this, where we said like, people really get offended if you label their emotions for them. And then someone else said nicely, They also get offended. If you point out that they get offended, that you leave their phones, we have so much of this, idea like that. 

We have so many of these experiences we all have with accidentally stomping on someone's agency or not respecting it enough. And it makes us not want to talk about a topic at all. so I don't know how to connect that as fully to the topic we've been talking about today, but I'm certainly interested in learning more about that and hearing more of those ways that, you know, when you're working with a group, you're able to draw out more participation, more vulnerability by giving people more agency by granting them guidance, but steering clear of the agency landmine, or rather respecting agency or whatever it is. 

[00:26:22] Daniel Greening: In order to label, you have to notice. So noticing comes first. That's where meditation really provides benefits. You're able to notice so much more because of the neural training that comes from meditation. When we label an emotion, a feeling, our pain, or our behavior, now we can take a step back and see where it fits in our life. Paying attention to it by labeling it means we can consider it with all the other things we've labeled.

In Scrum, we call attention to impediments explicitly, every day in a 15 minute daily scrum meeting, and in more depth in retrospective meetings, every sprint. Those impediments are frustrating. 

 So emotions are just under the surface: anxiety, anger, stress irritation. We can even label seemingly objective states like being overworked or under resourced as feelings. And then we can ask, how can we fix the feeling? Sometimes it's changing the state and sometimes it's changing our feelings about that state. 

Eric and Jay mentioned honesty and teams and how it relates to noticing and labeling things in ourselves. Some people get offended when we label their emotions for them, because you've taken away their agency for labeling their own emotions. 

There's a lot of people talking about psychological safety in the agile community. And a bunch of admonitions and complaints about people behaving badly and how that inhibits psychological safety. In some ways. I agree. But I'm not sure the solution is to point out these dysfunctions. i.e., labeling other people's actions. The phrase, physician heal, thyself comes to mind. 

We might better create psychological safety by using ourselves as a demonstration. We can notice and label our own emotions. We can verbalize that in front of our teammates. I'm feeling angry or I'm feeling overworked. Mirela, you saw me do this a few weeks ago when I was dreading episode editing work. 

[00:28:36] Mirela Petalli: Yes. Episode editing was taking a tremendous amount of time. You noticed, labeled your emotions, and then shared them skillfully in our retrospective meeting. We discussed and made some changes that have made the editing process so much easier and efficient. Mindfulness helps us recognize, investigate, and share our emotions with the team in a skillful non-judgemental way. 

[00:29:01] Daniel Greening: It's an implied invitation for others to do the same, to reveal their feelings. We can ask them with curiosity, "what are you feeling right now?" Rather than asserting, "you seem stressed." By asking them, it gives them the ability to label their own emotions. 

I think increasing psychological safety and honesty in teams is perhaps one of the most important contributions of mindfulness. And it starts with us. 

[00:29:33] Closing

[00:29:33] Daniel Greening: Thank you for coming on our journey with us. There are some great things ahead. 

If you want to support our work, invite your friends to listen by sending a link to the Mindful Agility podcast in an email, or by posting to your favorite social medium. If you subscribe to our newsletter at mindfulagility.com, we'll notify you of new episodes and blog posts. 

Following the close, Mirela will guide a meditation to help us label emotions with compassion. If you'd like to use our meditations in your daily practice, we also offer them separately in the Mindful Agility Meditation's podcast. Many, thanks to Eric Gibson, Jay Beale, Matt Zimmerman, and others for participating in our biweekly meetings. 

You're welcome to attend by searching for Mindful Agility Community on Facebook and joining the group, or click the link in the show notes. Matt Zimmerman is our host production engineer. 

 Mirella Petalli is our co-host and meditation guide. 

[00:30:42] Joke

[00:30:42] Mirela Petalli: Hey, Dan what's Sally's favorite tea? 

[00:30:45] Daniel Greening: It's anxiety. 

[00:30:47] Matt Zimmerman: <unk> 

[00:30:50] Daniel Greening: I'm Dan Greening. See you next time. 

[00:30:55] Meditation Introduction

[00:30:55] Daniel Greening: If you're still with us, Mirela will guide an optional 10 minute meditation to help us label our emotions with compassion. When we do this we make a bigger space for those emotions and we make better decisions

[00:31:09] Meditation

[00:31:10] Mirela Petalli: Thank you for taking this time to meditate with us today. 

In our previous meditations Noticing and Labeling, and Labeling Emotions, which you can find in the Mindful Agility Meditations podcast, we practiced how to recognize, get familiar with, label our emotions, and observe them as they arise ,change and then go away. 

In today's meditation, we will focus on how to work with difficult emotions. We'll use mindfulness curiosity, and compassion to recognize, label, soften and allow difficult emotions to pass through us. 

Working with difficult emotions in this way helps us deal with them more skillfully. 

Keep in mind that we'll bring in our awareness a difficult situation in our life and you are free to stop at any time if this meditation becomes too uncomfortable. Knowing when to stop is also a practice of mindfulness and self-compassion. 

And now let's start. 

First find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down. You can close your eyes or keep them slightly open, focused downward in front of you. 

Let's start by taking a few deep, long, slow breaths to settle in our bodies and relax. 

Now allow your breath to return to normal. 

Bring your attention to your body. 

Become aware of your position, the room you are in, the temperature around you, 

the feeling of clothes on your skin. 

Remind yourself that you are here, safe, meditating. 

Now scan your body slowly, starting from the top of your head all the way down to the soles of your feet. 

Notice the places in your body where you feel pleasant or neutral sensations, calm, peace, warmth, coolness. 

Choose one of these places, where there is no pain, no tension, tightness or discomfort. it can be your belly, your hands or your feet, or any other place in your body.

You can come to this place to ground and soothe yourself at any time during this meditation. 

I invite you now to bring to mind a somewhat difficult situation in your life right now. 

A situation that is not trivial but it's also not too difficult. 

It can be a moderate problem you are having or it can be a loved one's pain or difficulty that causes you stress in your body when you think about it. 

Take a few moments to think and visualize the situation. 

The people involved. 

What happened or is happening? 

How do you feel about it? 

In this part of the practice, we'll recognize and label our emotions around this difficult situation. 

Scan your body again and notice what emotions are coming up as you're thinking about this difficult situation in your life. 

There might be feelings of anger, sadness, fear,

confusion, disappointment. 

Notice these emotions and label them. I am feeling anger. 

I am feeling fear. 

Now see if you can focus on the strongest emotion that is coming up or if there isn't a clearly strong one just pick one of those emotions and focus your attention there. 

Become curious about it. Where do you feel it mostly in or around your body? 

What sensations are there? 

Any tension, tightness, pain, discomfort? 

Notice your tone when you are labeling the emotion. 

See, if you can make it a little softer. Kinder. 

Like you would tell a dear friend or a child:

oh, you are feeling sadness. 

Oh, you are feeling anxiety. 

If the emotion or sensations become too intense, 

move your attention to the place of calm, pleasant, or neutral sensations you chose at the beginning of this meditation, either your belly, your hands, or your feet, or any other place of calm

and take a long, deep, slow breath to ground and soothe yourself before returning to the practice. 

We try to keep our attention on the place in our body where the difficult emotion feels the strongest and name it with kindness and compassion. 

If it feels comfortable you can place your hand lightly on the place you most feel the emotion: your heart or your belly, 

same as you would put your hand on a friend's shoulder to comfort them. 

Keeping your attention on the place in your body where you feel the emotion the strongest, the tightness any pain, tension or discomfort. 

See if you can soften that place a little, relax the muscles around it. 

If you still have your hand there, imagine its warmth softening the discomfort. 

You can also say to yourself, same as you would say to dear friend in pain: 

I am sorry you are going through this. 

Or you can say any other comforting phrases that come to mind. 

We can give ourselves the same kindness and compassion we give to our loved ones. 

Now let's expand our attention to include our whole body in our awareness. 

This way we create some space around the place in our body where we feel the difficult emotion. 

See if you can allow the discomfort to be there and see if you can let go of the desire to change it or make it go away. 

You can use this practice of labeling, softening, and allowing difficult emotions at any time to create an open space for the discomfort to just be there without wanting things to be different than they are. 

Now let go of the meditation and return your attention to your body and your surroundings. 

Notice how you feel without judgment. 

And when you're ready, you can open your eyes. 

Thank you for taking this time to meditate with us today.