THE WAY IT FEELS
A lot of times I manage to achieve a equanimity in my life that, for the period it exists, seems to add much to the quality of my experience. Then, something happens that I really don’t want to happen and I am aware of feelings of resistance arising. Or, the other side of the coin, something happens that I am so happy to engage in and I am aware of feelings arising that contain resistance to the engagement diminishing. During these times it’s not the thinking alone that hijack me from the moment, it’s also the way I feel that drags me into the past or future.
The way we respond to life by resisting “What is” can be amplified by the level at which we engage with our emotions. Put another way, how much focus, value, and emphasis do you give to how your feeling? There are a few different theories about this. I’m not big on theory so I would like to share my contemplation/meditation experience.
In childhood I had been taught to disengage with feelings as a way to manage them. This didn’t appear to be helpful. As time went on I started to disengage more and more. Initially it felt positive, particularly when I was able to seemingly ignore anger, and what I thought were negative feelings. But, after some time, I started to become aware that I was becoming increasingly cut off from all of my experiences. I had the physical and cognitive connection but the emotional connection was stifled. The tastes, music, and fragrances of life were minimal. Life felt cooler without the heat and light needed to stay energized and engaged. My early misinterpretation of Zen teachings had the same effect on my feeling structure. I felt distant and somewhat numb.
There was also a new resistance born that involved the energy needed to keep the emotional structure controlled. I might be able to control the upsurge of anger but later on I was aware of an ongoing emotional attitude that prevailed carrying that anger as a sub-context for longer and longer periods. It felt like the anger needed to be shared. Mostly with people who cared about me. At the same time it was becoming increasingly difficult to engage with joy.
THE ONGOING DISCUSSION.
I often give workshops on the above subject of emotional content and awareness practice. People argue that ideas can form emotional structure. They make the point that they become emotional because of the way they are thinking. Others declare it starts in the body with sensations. It’s a classic what came first scenario, the chicken or the egg? I am unsure why it makes a difference as long as you become aware of the arising itself. Noticing the emotions arising is where we can embrace them and make a difference. Thoughts arise and emotions arise. One may influence the other, both may arise together. My personal belief is everything starts with the body. A psychotherapist friend of mine says the mind triggers it all.
My concern lies in the rising of emotional content itself and what we apply as a belief to the emotion.
Beliefs come from the process of discriminate then judge, choose, labeling, then forming a belief about what we label, and then thinking that because we went through this process that we know something. The belief that something has to be a certain way can trigger reactions. So, what are the belief’s we hold concerning emotions?
One belief is that there are “GOOD” and “BAD” feelings. The trouble really starts there doesn’t it? I described in the first paragraph how feelings can arise and fall and either we push away from them or we want to stay with them. It’s a classical lose/lose situation. Because we cannot do either. Feelings arise and fade like everything in life. Our entire lives can be spent trying to grasp good feelings and avoid bad ones, while we are doing this we probably aren’t really experiencing the feelings we are experiencing the ideas of feelings.
WE ARE EXPERIENCING A REACTION TO OUR BELIEF SYSTEMS ABOUT FEELINGS NOT THE FEELINGS THEMSELVES. ABANDON THE LABELS GOOD/BAD AND START TO DESCRIBE THE ENGAGEMENT WITH FEELINGS AND WHERE THE FEELING IS IN YOUR BODY. FEELINGS ARE SOMETHING WE ARE, NOT SOMETHING WE HAVE. THEY ARE US, HEARING, TASTING, SEEING, EMOTING, FEELING THE SUN ON OUR SKIN. THAT’S US BEING, NOT SOMETHING THAT IS HAPPENING AT US.
If we take the time to come back to center we see that we can embrace and hold the emotion rising and falling. We abandon the IDEA of the emotion, return to the body, and experience the actual feelings themselves. This has the effect of shortening the time frame of the emotions.
Emotions then become more intense and we experience them fully, we also become more aware of the degree of emotions. The world is no longer just angry or not, happy or not, jealous or not, we start to experience the feelings amplitude and impact. We start to respond instead of react. We have the opportunity via experience to avoid the stories about how we feel. The story is bypassed, we are the feeling, the truthful experience.
Emotions are part of the human experience. Somewhere along the line our perceptions and examination of emotions has increased the focus and applied value of the experience of emotion. We have become hyper focused on “How we Feel.” This is not good or bad until we start to suffer because of emotional content controlling lives. Emotions, if embraced fully, will rise and fall in the cycle of all things embraced in transience.
I am looking forward to comments and experiences.