On Emotional Sobriety

Emotional sobriety is a natural byproduct of practicing mindfulness. By letting difficult emotions in, we can give them the compassion they've been seeking.
Image by brenkee

According to Promises Treatment Center, “Being emotionally sober means getting in touch with your emotions, whether positive or negative, and allowing yourself to feel them.” This, of course, is a key component of the practice of mindfulness.

As one of our teachers at InStill, Anna Pittman, likes to say, in practicing mindfulness we are not so much trying to let things go as we are trying to let them in. When we come across a difficult emotion, instead of trying to push (or wash, or pop, or smoke) it away, we welcome it in, investigate it, experience it, and give it the compassion it is longing for.

In A Course in Miracles, it says everything is either a cry for love or an expression of love. A difficult emotion is—in this context—a cry for love. In our culture we have typically been taught to deny these emotions, which simply leaves them bottled up inside. As we continue to bottle them up, they build and build until we find a way of releasing them. Drugs and alcohol appear to be great mechanisms for this, partly because they help distract us from our current reality, but also because they enable us to shift the responsibility for our words and actions from ourselves to the substance we are abusing.

If, instead, we embrace these emotions as non-judgmentally as possible, and simply notice the experience of having them, we put ourselves in a position of understanding in which we can see both where the emotion is coming from, and the impact it has on ourselves and others.

This doesn’t mean that we stop having these emotions, especially not in the short term. Indeed, as we begin to uncover some of the more difficult emotions that we’ve been trying to hide from ourselves and others, we may even experience them more often and more intensely. What it does mean is that we come to accept them as a part of who we are in this moment.

Which leads to another core concept of mindfulness: impermanence. One thing that helps drive some of our strongest emotions is identifying with them: how many times do we hear someone say something like, “I’m an angry person,” or “I’m always depressed”? There is a solidity that comes with identity, that makes it so much harder to shake off. The truth is that we are not any one of our emotions, instead we are a constantly changing conglomeration of emotions, thoughts, sensations, perceptions, and experience. With mindfulness, we come to appreciate this and become more attentive to what this is now. As Ajahn Sumedho likes to say, “Right now, it’s like this.”

When we appreciate the impermanence of an emotion, we loosen our attachment to it, and therefore our identity with it. As this happens, it becomes much easier to come to terms with it, because we are no longer looking at “me”, but “a part of me in this moment.”

So emotional sobriety is a byproduct of practicing mindfulness. This is an important point. Another key concept of mindfulness is detachment, and this includes detachment to expectation. If we practice mindfulness with the intention of developing emotional sobriety, we are much less likely to achieve it that if we practice mindfulness simply to see what happens next (or, more appropriately, to see what is happening now). Certainly, intention is important in mindfulness, but only insofar as your intention is to practice mindfulness to the best of your ability. Beyond that, intention becomes expectation, and expectation is blinkered, blinding us to the full range of possibilities that lie before us.

The only question really is, where do you start? And the answer is simple: start here, with this. Wherever here may be, and with whatever this is now. If it happens to be a difficult emotion, fantastic! If it happens to be a wonderful emotion, fantastic! If it happens to be a recurring thought, fantastic! It really doesn’t matter: just be with it and notice with curiosity what you have before you. That is all mindfulness really is.





We would like to say a very big THANK YOU to OMNIBUILD General Contractors for their generous donation of $500 for our InSchools public school mindfulness program, presented here to InStill Executive Director Jamie Reygle by OMNIBUILD owner Matt Sebas.

These funds go towards teaching mindfulness to faculty members from over 10 local public schools, potentially impacting thousands of children in Southwest Virginia for years to come!

Knowvember: A Month for Mindfulness

Weekly Mindfulness ClassesIn our ongoing quest to instill mindfulness throughout the region, InStill Mindfulness SWVA is launching Knowvember next month, with a series of retreats and classes, as well as our new InSchools intensive training program for faculty in Floyd and Montgomery County Public Schools.

On Saturday, November 4 we will be presenting a Self-care through Mindfulness daylong retreat at the Floyd EcoVillage, and on November 7 we commence Weekly Mindfulness Classes in the Falcon Gallery at the Floyd Center for the Arts.

Both programs will help fund our InSchools program, and we would love to have you join us.

For more information and to register for the Daylong, please click here, and for more information and to register for the Weekly Mindfulness Classes, please click here.Self-Care through Mindfulness: A Daylong Retreat


A Day of Inspiration: Meditation & Movement Fundraiser

A Day of Inspiration: Meditation & Movement FundraiserA Day of Inspiration ~ Meditation & Movement Fundraiser

The Breathing Space is hosting a fundraiser for our InSchools public schools program next Saturday, September 9. A Day of Inspiration is a meditation and movement fundraiser featuring a day full of fascinating workshops and classes by some of the best teachers in the area (including representatives from InStill), as well as food from the Till & Grill food truck. So please, come along and support a great cause, while also feeding your body and soul.

Register here.

Change Is in the Air

It is well known in mindfulness circles that things change. Constantly. Finding peace with this incontrovertible fact is, in many ways, the core objective of mindfulness itself.

We are experiencing some changes at InStill, and we are welcoming them: a new office, a new logo, and new plans for programming.
Our new office

Here at InStill we are noticing a lot of changes: changes in space, appearance, and activity.

Last week we moved into our new office at the Floyd Center of the Arts. We feel this will enable us to better interface with the public, both through greater visibility and accessibility, and also because we should be able to utilize this location for regular mindfulness classes and other activities. We are very happy to be here, and our arms are open should you wish to drop in and say hello. We need to make a few finishing touches, including some floor coverings and art for the walls, but we’re off to a good start with a table and bookshelf designed and donated by The Natural Woodworking Company, as well as a desk and filing cabinet donated by InStill board members Swede McBroom and Steve Weber.

We are experiencing some changes at InStill, and we are welcoming them: a new office, a new logo, and new plans for programming.Thanks to friend and supporter Parrish Lee, we also have a new logo, which we are very happy with. Our original logo was designed by our Executive Director, Jamie Reygle, who is the first to tell you he is not a designer. Fortunately, Parrish is. He has been working with us to design everything from flyer templates to business cards, and came up with this logo based on the Japanese minimalist ensō (or circle). Since we’re always gathering in circles at InStill, this seemed like a great symbol to represent us.

And finally, we’re looking at how to most effectively deliver our programming. We have received some wonderful feedback from our last semester working with thousands of middle school students, with one survey indicating:

  • 95.9% of them enjoyed the classes;
  • 87.7% of them said it had a positive effect on their experience of school;
  • 85.9% of them said it had a positive effect on their self-esteem; and
  • 79.5% of them said it had a positive effect on their relationships!

It is so rewarding to know our work is having a positive impact, and we are always looking at ways to deepen that impact. One thing we have found is that it is imperative to have as much buy-in as possible from teachers – not just in supporting what we do, but immersing themselves in it as well. For this reason, we are currently in discussions with Pure Edge, with the intention of delivering their proven professional development programming here in southwest Virginia, which will then enable teachers here on the ground to develop their own mindful classrooms, and instill mindfulness in their students and colleagues on an ongoing basis.

Change is in the air, and we are breathing it in!

Thank You Very Much!

From left to right: InStill Treasurer Kim O’Donnell, Executive Director Jamie Reygle, Trustee Jessica Cromer, and Chair Steve Weber with the check from the Lenz Foundation

We are very grateful to announce that we have received a $10,000 donation from the Lenz Foundation, which supports our InSchools programming in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) this semester.

In this semester alone, we have been scheduled to deliver nearly 300 classes to students and teachers at Blacksburg Middle School, Christiansburg Middle School, and Shawsville Middle School. Not only is this funding helping us fulfill our vision of instilling mindfulness in southwest Virginia, but it is also providing valuable experience to the ten teachers delivering this programming, including three graduate students from the Counselor Education program at Radford University.

From everybody at InStill—staff, teachers, board, and advisory board—we would like to extend a deep bow of gratitude to the Lenz Foundation, and also to the Radford Counselor Education Department and MCPS, for making this possible.

Thank you.

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