Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Elena Brower Headshot

Art of Attention: Five Keys to Emotional Consistency

Posted: Updated:

1. This is not about purification or denial of your emotions. This is about using your attention, your only real tool, to cultivate your most essential capacity for inner consistency.

To be consistent emotionally, less reactive (raise your hand if that's desirable to you!) the starting point is a simple pause, an opening in the flow of time, a willingness to see what is viable and be more available to your potential for awareness. Everyone and everything is here to show you the way to your own freedom.

When things are going awry and you can feel your physical reactions (queasy belly, heart rate ramping up, nervous, volatile, reactive), OPEN your eyes and your ears. Stop talking. Don't try to direct, shape or mold any person or situation, for a few moments. Persist in recognizing the emotional surge and its manifestations; be the observer of all in that moment.


2. Collect and gather yourself. Notice what is appalling or frustrating about another's behavior and remember: Anything that truly gets to you, riles you up, is just some quality or behavior of your own. If you see it and it disturbs you, you possess that attitude in some shade or tone, and it's downright awful to see it played out in another person or circumstance in front of you. But be easy on yourself; judgment is wasteful at this point. See it as a trip to the zoo. At the zoo, there is no judgment; you look and watch, you observe, you marvel, maybe you recoil sometimes, but there isn't human "judgment," you're simply watching the animals as they breathe, eat and do their work of living. At this point you reiterate your commitment to observe but with a purposefully supportive inward stance.

"...what disturbs and then nourishes has everything we need."

3. As promised in the first A of A post, each post will have a breathing practice. This week: UJJAYI.

Ujjayi is a victorious, uprising breath, very efficient in softening the charge of internal disturbance -- remember this as often as possible. Your breathing can effectively shift entire rooms full of people (not that that is the point, but it does).

Gently lower your chin slightly toward your chest, and open your mouth a bit. Inhale with a big HAHHH sound, then exhale with the same sound. Good. Once again in, and out.

Now close your mouth and do the same HAHH breath, mouth closed, and feel the resonance in the back of your throat, even along the roof of your mouth. Keep breathing like this as you read, and keep this in mind as you attempt -- once you've paused -- to align well in a situation that is threatening to pull you down.

This breathing shifts your inner disposition toward attentive calm by literally alkalinizing your entire body and bringing you closer to a sense of inner majesty, where calm is in full view.

4. With that breathing fully installed, it's possible to align elegantly with any disagreement or disappointment. Your experience of pausing and observing affords you the critical vantage point from which you can see, according to Julius Evola, that your "...emotions [need] no longer [be] experienced as subjective reflections [problems, personal affronts, heavy negativities], but rather as sheer forces moving through us."

Sheer forces moving through us.

Once fully understood from many months of watching your reactivity and how wasteful and draining it is, these forces become perfectly interesting, and the moment of elegant alignment -- appropriate responsiveness -- is at hand. And if all else fails, know that when the forces seem like absolute imperatives requiring strong reactions, it's time to backtrack to #3. Or watch yourself react, and then go back to #1. And have a laugh.

5. What you'll notice over time is that this is really a compassion-cultivating exercise, as much as it is a consistency-building practice. When you can clearly see that quality that you abhor as your own, in some shape or form, you've just experienced true compassion. I am you, you are me, we are all exactly the same in infinite respects. #5 is about how you can offer your experience of recognizing and then using your breathing to transmute your emotions into a helpful, life-enhancing response. Make your moments of inner calm externally manifest, factually, as your consistent attentive state, no matter what the moment. "What you yourself wish to experience, provide for another."

With gratitude to Hugo Cory, who helped me clearly see the hilarious horror of my behavior, and John Friend, whose elegant, concise set of alignment principles called the Universal Principles of Alignment™ shall inspire these posts in some way.

"The real prayers are not the words, but the attention that comes first."

Next week: your Heart.

From Our Partners