spring flowers

Welcoming All Emotions

February 17, 2021
Author: Gemma Armstrong

A message of support and encouragement from a VIU Counsellor

Hello! ’Uy’ skweyul! We have made it to the mid-point of our winter semester! Wow! Here we are well into 2021 with the difficult year of 2020 behind us. So many of us had high hopes that 2021 would be really different, as if a pressure washer could rinse away all the pain of the past year and we could experience 2021 as fresh and new. As you’re likely beginning to recognize, that’s not quite the case.

Shades of grey (and yellow, green and purple too!)

I encourage you to make lots of space for the disappointment, frustration and sadness that this reality might bring. Just like every other year, this year has its hardships and suffering. Also, it will have its new possibilities, experiences of joy and delight, and opportunities for growth and learning. I am suggesting that we do our best to practice allowing and accepting it all, and every human emotion that comes with it. As the poet Rumi writes in The Guest House, “Welcome and entertain them all!” Life isn’t black and white, it is more like an intricately woven, multi-coloured tapestry, with parts that may be worn and flaws that can be perceived as part of its unique beauty. Can you work at admiring and being amazed by it all? Or at least, accepting it for now?

A Practice

My invitation to you is to remind yourself that you, and WE, are more than any one challenge or any one experience.

Slow down. Keep breathing.

Imagine that you can hold your arms out wide and embrace each moment, the ones that seem dark and scary, and those that bring light, hope and relief.

Feel your feet on the floor. You are grounded and connecting to the earth.

Keep breathing.

Whenever you find yourself thinking “this year isn’t as I had hoped” or “but it should be different!”, welcome those thoughts and give them room. Give them attention. Try saying “yes” and rather than pushing thoughts away or dwelling on them in an attempt to figure out or “fix” the situation, try telling yourself that it’s okay to feel angry or let down, sad or scared. These feelings are valid!

See if you can accept these feelings, feel them, – maybe with a hand on your heart – and let them flow through you until they pass or change, as all emotions naturally do. Experiment with trusting that they are part of being a healthy human. And consider that they may even be “guides from beyond”, as Rumi also suggests. 

And did I mention to keep breathing?

Also, it is incredibly important to recognize that pain is not all there is. Even though some things are very hard, please let yourself also notice and fully enjoy the wonderful moments of this year and this time.

New growth is pushing through the soil. Your favourite vegetable (or chocolate) still tastes delicious. The water from a shower can feel amazing on the skin. Even with a mask, you can see and take in the smile in the eyes of someone walking by. Look for beauty – zoom in on the intricacies of a flower or moss or zoom way out for a broader perspective that can bring wonder and awe. Make lots of room within and around you for these experiences too. They are real; just as real as any difficulty. Take them in and let them recharge and rejuvenate you. And keep breathing!

Support for our community

Thank you for being a part of the VIU Community. We are on an amazing learning journey together. Please remember that there are always people who you can reach out to when you need some support.

VIU Counselling is one of those resources for students. There are also several other supports available such as VIU Elders-in-Residence, Here2Talk which is a 24-hr service for students, and the VI Crisis line. See our website for a list of supports.

forest scene

Gemma Armstrong is a Counsellor at VIU. She would like to acknowledge two of the most impactful models that inform her understanding and experience with the above topics: Hakomi and Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy, as well as all the wonderful students who teach her through their work together.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jalaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks (The Essential Rumi)

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