When you think of a bubble, what imagery comes to mind ? Something weightless, fragile and transparent ? Or something enclosed, secure and protective?
A bubble is often used to describe an area in our lives that can encapsulate us, sequester us, keep us single-mindedly revolving around what’s inside. It commonly refers to communities, but also to work places, politics, lifestyles and even…relationships.
Inside the bubble we feel a sense of harmony and belonging. We have confidence in our shared world view, in our common purpose. From within we’re sheltered from what’s outside – sometimes so much so that we don’t realize we’re in a bubble at all…
When outside views challenge us inside our bubble, it’s easy to dig in and get more comfortable. Like a cat that tries to fit itself into a box no matter how small, feeling secure and hidden, in a perfect vantage point should it need to flee or attack, so do we cling to our bubbles in order to fight off offenders and preserve the status quo within.
Sometimes, the status quo gets challenged from inside the bubble. Life is not always calm and stable, but ebbs and flows, with its share of tidal waves (and the occasional tsunami). There can be conflict and dissension and suddenly the place we once thought safe brings us strife. As we are still in the bubble, we don’t always realize that its confines are no longer strategic, but may be trapping us, may be doing us harm.
Bubbles aren’t inherently bad. It’s when we forget that they are there or that we have the possibility to step outside—even the need to step outside—that they can have a negative effect on our well being.
Lately, I’ve been feeling the need to unbubble. For me, that’s meant physically removing myself from my bubbles – changing my environment, traveling, trying new things. We don’t always have this possibility, but we can still break out of our norms, our routines, our stuck mindsets…
Up for something different? Let’s unbubble for a few minutes.
If you’re not in a calm place where you can sit undisturbed for 5-10 minutes, come back later when you are.
Close your eyes. Make sure you’re sitting in a comfortable, relaxed position. Block out any noise or distractions around you. Now, take a deep breath through your nose and with your diaphragm, filling your lungs completely, feeling your chest expand. And breath out again slowly through your nose. Your shoulders are relaxed. Breath in again deeply, and out slowly.
Now think about all of the different bubbles in your life. They can be broad things like your work or your community, or they can be specific things like recent interactions you’ve had, unresolved conflicts, or any ideas or desires that have been dominating your thoughts lately. Take the first ones that come to mind, without judging whether they are good or bad, and place them each in their own individual bubbles. Picture them floating right in front you.
Choose one of these bubbles, and think about how it makes you feel. Try and stay focused on the thing itself and the feelings it procures, without getting swept up in the thoughts, events or ideas themselves.
You are now on the outside looking in. From this viewpoint, you are detached from any emotion associated with it, but can see the emotions clearly. You can see the different actors involved, and you can see their emotions too. You are only an observer. You can look in objectively.
If it is a desire or something that evokes positive feelings, whether it’s love, joy, freedom or pleasure, hold on to those feelings while you gently push the bubble away. Notice that you can maintain these positive feelings – that they do not have to be attached to or dependent on the bubble.
If what you put in the bubble is a source of conflict or any negative feelings, try replacing those emotions with their opposites to see how it changes your view. Remember, you are only observing. Try replacing any fear with a feeling of safety or confidence, any shame with a sense of pride or indifference; replace anger with compassion and any sorrow with joy. Observe any new feelings that arise.
If there are any residual negative feelings that you aren’t able to replace, put them in a bubble as well. Look at them for what they are: feelings and thoughts outside of yourself. What shape do they take inside the bubble? Do they remind you of a texture or a color, maybe a smell or something tangible? Visualize them as objects outside of yourself and in the bubble, and, when you’re ready, gently push them away.
Continue to breath calmly, your body is relaxed. Repeat this process for other bubbles if you wish. Stay for a moment as an observer on the outside looking in, until finally you push away and enjoy a few minutes with a great distance between you and these bubbles of your life. You are detached, calm, free, unbubbled…
…When you are ready, open your eyes. Take a nice long stretch and try to yawn if you can. How do you feel?
This text is originally from my newsletter, Making Connections, and may have been modified for publication here.