The first step in dealing with feelings is to acknowledge each feeling as it arises. The agent that does this is mindfulness. In the case of worry, for example, you bring out your mindfulness, look at your worry, and recognize it as worry. You know that worry springs from yourself and that mindfulness also springs from yourself. They are both in you , not fighting, but one taking care of the other.
The second step is to become one with the feeling. It is best not to say, “Go away, Worry. I don’t like you. You are not me.” It is much more effective to say, “Hello, Worry. How are you today?” Then you can invite the two aspects of yourself, mindfulness and worry, to shake hands as friends and become one. Doing this may seem terrifying, but because you know that you are more than just your worry, you need not be frightened. As long as mindfulness is there, it can chaperone your worry. The basic practice is to nourish your mindfulness with mindful breathing, to keep it there, alive and strong. Although your mindfulness may not be very effective in the beginning, if you cultivate it, it will become stronger. As long as mindfulness is present, you will not drown in your worry. In fact, you begin altering it the very moment you give birth to consciousness in yourself.
The third step is to calm the feeling. As mindfulness is taking good care of your fear, you begin to calm it down. "Breathing in, I calm the activities of body and mind. You calm your feeling just by being with it, like a mother tenderly holding her crying baby. Feeling his mother's tenderness, the baby will calm down and stop crying. The mother is your mindfulness, born from the depth of your consciousness, and it will tend the feeling of pain. A mother holding her baby is one with her baby. If the mother is thinking of other things, the baby will not calm down. The mother has to put aside other things and just hold her baby. So, don't avoid your feeling. Don't say, "You are not critical. You are only a feeling.” Come and be one with it. You can say, "Breathing out, I calm my fear."
The fourth step is to liberate the feeling, to let it go. Because of your calm, you feel at ease, even in the midst of worry, and you know that your worry will not develop into something that will engulf you. When you know that you are capable of taking care of your worry, it is already reduced to the minimum, becoming softer and not so unpleasant. Now you can smile at it and let it go, but please do not stop yet. Calming and releasing are just medicines for the symptoms. You now have an opportunity to go deeper and work on transforming the source of your worry.
The fifth step is to look deeply. You look deeply into your baby your feeling of worry— to see what is wrong, even after the baby has already stopped crying, after the worry is gone. You cannot hold your baby all the time, and therefore you have to look into him to see the cause of what is wrong. By looking, you will see what will help you begin to change the feeling. You will realize, for example, that his suffering has many causes, inside and outside of his body. If something is wrong around him, if you put that in order, bringing sensitivity and care to the situation, he will feel better. Looking into your baby, you see the elements that are causing him to cry, and when you see them, you will know what to do and what not to do to change the feeling and be free.
This is a process similar to psychotherapy. Together with the client, I look at the nature of the pain. Often, I can uncover causes of suffering that stem from the way the client looks at things, the beliefs he holds about himself, his culture, and the world. I examine these viewpoints and beliefs with the client, and together I help free him from the kind of prison he has been in. But the client’s efforts are crucial. A teacher has to give birth to the teacher within his student and I have to give birth to the psychotherapist within my client. The client’s “internal psychotherapist” can then work full-time in a very effective way.
I do not treat the client by simply giving him another set of opinions. I try to help him see which kinds of thoughts and beliefs have led to his suffering. Many clients want to get rid of their painful feelings, but they do not want to get rid of their beliefs, the viewpoints that are the very roots of their feelings. Me and my clients have to work together to help the client see things as they are. The same is true when we use mindfulness to transform our feelings. After recognizing the feeling, becoming one with it, calming it down, and releasing it, we can look deeply into its causes, which are often based on inaccurate perceptions. As soon as we recognize the causes and nature of our feelings, they begin to transform themselves.