“If you do not wish to be prone to anger, do not feed the habit; give it nothing which may tend to its increase.”
If you want to be happy and at ease in your everyday life, you need to be wise about what to do with feelings. Hiding from feelings or having them run wild in you, neither of these will bring you peace.
In the last post, I said, “Don’t follow feelings,” a proposition that resonated for some of you but raised questions for others. So let’s look more closely at the landscape of feelings.
Let These Unfold in You
Be aware. Sometimes you can’t help but be aware of feelings. They stare you in the face or completely consume you. But more often than you might realize, feelings sit below the surface of your conscious awareness.
If you are unhappy, confused, or stuck in frustrating habits, unseen feelings are likely to be the cause. Let yourself open to the feelings that may be present by simply being aware of them.
Be very clear about what a feeling is. Bring a laser-like curiosity to your experience of feelings to discover what they actually are. Just saying, “I feel sad,” or “I feel angry” isn’t the whole picture. When you take an honest look, you will see that what we call a feeling is a set of physical sensations and a story running in your mind. This story is probably very familiar to you, as it has been recycled millions of times. So go deeper and realize that there are physical sensations in your body.
This understanding is key because it pierces through the power that feelings can have. When you get that the story is unsatisfying and doesn’t serve, you can turn your attention away from it. And you can notice physical sensations, which are not a problem at all when seen in isolation as merely sensation with no story attached.
Welcome feelings. Be open and aware so you don’t fight the feeling. It’s very simple. You just turn toward it and say hello. Hello, fear. Hello anger. Then look straight into it to see what the feeling is – a label, a story, and physical sensations. Without feeding the content of the story, let all of it be.
Welcoming feelings takes away their power and offers the space for your natural, vibrant life to be revealed.
Realize that feelings are temporary. What makes feelings get stuck is recycling the associated story in your mind. When you are no longer interested in the story, you see that feelings come and go, if you let them, just like clouds passing overhead. And here you are, the stable presence in which all of it arises.
Let These Fall Away
Avoiding and resisting makes things worse. Avoidance of feelings is at the root of compulsions, addictions, and all matter of troublesome behavior. You can’t choose wisely if you are propelled by unseen emotions. When you are ready to get honest with yourself, acknowledge the feelings and learn how to work with them intelligently.
Want feelings to stay stuck? Feed the story. The story starts with the label of your experience, as in, “I’m furious right now.” And it goes on with a whole melodrama about what should and shouldn’t have happened. This is a kind of resistance to what is as you are rolling unpleasant thoughts around in your head rather than experiencing what is actually present.
Turning away from stories, especially very familiar ones, leaves you available to notice what is actually here. You stop thinking about what is happening and instead experience directly what is happening.
Don’t follow feelings. If your life is not as harmonious as you want it to be, you are most likely letting feelings guide your decisions. You feel an old resentment, so you stew about it or show up at a family gathering ready to take things personally or make impulsive choices so you don’t have to actually deal with your feelings. Maybe you feed fear which makes you limit yourself in so many painful ways.
If feelings are unexplored, they will have control over you. But when you know what feelings are present – and you know that you want peace and sanity in your life – you can make beautiful, wise, conscious choices that support your happiness that are not driven by feelings.
In a Crisis…
Chronic feelings are the ones that feed familiar ongoing habits that leave you dissatisfied and unfulfilled. And these are the ones that are asking for your direct and loving attention.
But acute feelings may require a different approach. In the middle of a life crisis, when you are dealing with tragedy, loss, or grief, your emotions may be so strong, so consuming that you can’t step back and be aware of them.
In these situations, focus instead on your moment-to-moment self-care. Be around supportive people. Eat well and exercise as best you can. Get professional help, if needed. Painful feelings may come in waves, so let them be, and notice the times when the feelings subside.
Eventually, you will know when the time is ripe for you to reflect on what has happened so your heart stays open. But be gentle with yourself, no need to rush it.
Once you realize that feelings don’t have to control you, they start to lose importance. The drama ends, and you realize you are conscious and alive in the moments of your life. That is how it has always been, but you were too caught up in feelings to notice. How amazing to recognize that peace is always possible!
Now go forth and enjoy…
Are feelings a sticking point for you? Have you discovered that you are free? I’d love to hear…