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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Emotion Improv: an Exercise for Developing Mindfulness of Feelings

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“Emotion Improv” is a sample activity from the book A Still Quiet Place and is reprinted here with permission from New Harbinger Publications, Inc. 

A rectangular space is defined.  Visual cues are used to designate 25 percent, 50 percent, 75 percent, and 100 percent of the distance from one end to the other.  Participants are instructed to move forward, demonstrating an emotion at a given percentage. Because it is very common and frequently problematic, I usually begin with anger. 
Take a moment to rest in stillness, then step forward to the back end of the bookcase and show a small amount of anger (25 percent) with your body and your face.  Now step forward, in line with the front of the bookcase, and show a medium amount of anger (50 percent).  Notice what this feels like in your body, mind, and heart…
Because this is a powerful exercise, it is often wise to limit the emotional expressions to 75 percent of maximum. 
 Now step it back to 5 percent—just a smidge of anger.  Is there a benefit to knowing what your body feels like when you are just a little bit angry?... Exactly!  It’s like an early warning system.  Sometimes, when you know you’re just starting to get angry, you can make better choices than when you are really angry… Now let’s stand in stillness and quietness, and see what happens to the feeling.  Does it grow?  Disappear?  Change?
 If time allows, you may repeat the exercise with other emotions: sadness, fear, jealousy, excitement.  Just as I usually begin with anger, I usually end with joy.

Adapted from A Still Quiet Place by Amy Saltzman, MD. © New Harbinger Publications, 2014. Reprinted with permission. 


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