Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Feeling your feelings

Patterns often persist until the underlying feelings are thoroughly felt. That’s right, I said felt — not merely acknowledged or named! Many people keep their feelings at arm’s length or confuse them with thoughts or ideas. I could talk in the abstract about grief or fear, but it took years of meditation (and some skillful therapy) before I knew how they actually felt in my body. Other people get completely entangled in their feelings. As you expand your awareness, ask yourself, “What feelings haven’t I felt yet?”
Feeling your feelings doesn’t make them bigger or worse — at least not in the long run. It actually allows them to move through and release!

Expanding your awareness

The part of the pattern that reveals itself to you in your meditation may be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Perhaps you keep feeling tense in your lower belly and you don’t know why. If you expand your awareness, you may discover that beneath the surface lies fear about the future, and under the fear lies a layer of hurt. When you include thoughts and ideas as well, you may find that, deep down, you believe you’re inadequate. So you’re afraid you can’t cope, and you feel hurt when people criticize you because it just corroborates your own negative self-image. By welcoming the full range of thoughts, images, and feelings, you create an inner spaciousness in which the pattern can gradually unfold and release. (Trust me — this approach actually works, though you won’t get results instantaneously!)

Naming your “tunes”

As a rather humorous way to start, advises Kornfield, you can name and number your “top ten tunes.” (You can stop at five, if you prefer.) Then when a particular tune recurs, you can simply notice and name it without getting embroiled once again in the same painful pattern. Merely another version of naming your experience (described earlier), this approach can be helpful but only takes you so far.