When explorers go exploring they carry a compass. That way they can always tell which way is North and can find their way back from wherever their travels take them. The work of exploring is to intentionally enter the unknown and see how it connects with the known. When we explore our emotional landscape, our breath is both our compass and our vehicle. We know happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and we feel these and other emotions with various levels of intensity and subtlety. All of these feelings create a vast world for us to get lost in and to explore.
The feeling of happiness we get when our favorite team wins is different from the happiness we get when we drink a glass of water to quench a nagging thirst. The anxiety we feel before speaking in public is different from the anxiety we feel at the dentist. A sadness that lingers is different from a sadness that passes quickly. The feeling we get as we intentionally explore an unknown place is different from the feeling we get when we suddenly realize we are lost. When it comes to our emotional landscape, we are all explorers. Sometimes we forget we are exploring and feel lost. That is why it is so helpful to remember we are explorers and learn to orient ourselves with our breath.
When we regularly check in with our breath, we can take known paths through unknown territories. We can set up camp and make a home away from home. We can learn to recognize our habitual emotions, see where we tend to travel, how we travel and how to get from one place to another. We can intentionally explore an area we unintentionally entered. We can take a moment to break our momentum and notice where we are.
As we practice recognizing our emotional landscape and intentionally engaging where we are, we can traverse the vast mountains, valleys, plains, and planes of experience. We may not always like where we are, but as we practice being there, we get somewhere else.