We run from our feelings. We would do almost anything to avoid being in the now and moving towards the way we feel. Most processes are designed to change how we feel deliberately, so we can avoid being present with how we feel. It serves a purpose to know that you can deliberately change the way you feel, but it also serves a purpose to know that by being present with how you feel, the feeling changes on it’s own.
For most people on planet earth, when we have an experience or when something happens, let’s call this step 1. It causes us to form a belief, in other words, it causes us to tell a story about what happened and attach meaning to the experience. Let’s call this step 2. Then, our emotion reflects that story that we are telling ourselves. It reflects the thoughts we’re thinking about the experience. It causes us to feel certain ways; this is step 3. Then, that the emotion and the way we feel relative to the experience and the thoughts we were thinking as a result of the experience, cause us to take an action or exhibit a behavior. This is step 4. But most of us are not present with ourselves enough to recognize the thoughts we are thinking as a result of the experience or the emotions we’re feeling. We do not take time to be present with them. Instead, we jump straight from the experience to the behavior. Here’s an example:
Step 1. I get into an argument with my boyfriend or girlfriend.
Step 2. This causes me to tell stories (which are beliefs systems) like this: It is always like this; They are going to leave me, I’m not going to end up with anyone, I’m going to die alone, guys are such ass holes, women are such bitches etc.
Step 3. Your emotion and your feelings reflect those stories. You feel depressed, hopeless, or maybe panicked.
Step 4. That emotion translates to a sensation in your body, and an uncomfortable one. So you try to get away from it as fast as you can. So you drink alcohol, or cut yourself or binge eat.
The thing is, this process happens so fast that you most likely did not even notice steps 2 and 3. And you sure as hell did not take time to be present with step 2 or 3, enough to recognize the thoughts or to intentionally move deeper into the emotions and feelings that were present with you as a result of the experience. Instead, you got into a fight with your girlfriend or boyfriend and you immediately skipped step two and three and jumped straight to drinking alcohol or cutting yourself or binge eating. But true healing, comes from step 2 and step 3. We have the opportunity to heal our thought patterns and change our stories, so we are attracting different experiences into our life. And, we have the opportunity to be present with the way we feel, so the feeling moves and is transformed.
We have been telling a lie for many years in the spiritual and self-help community. The lie is: there is only ever bliss in the now. This causes so many of us to think that we are not in the now if we aren’t feeling bliss when we come into the present moment. The truth is, there can be a great many feelings and sensations in the present moment that do not feel good. For example, if we loose a loved one and we come into the present moment, we my have a tightening, sinking feeling in our chest that can be identified as the feeling of grief. The only thing that is present in the moment, is feeling. The stories and beliefs that we tell about those feelings, take us out of the present moment. They are stories about you and about me, about the future and about the past. They are not now.
There is a difference between emotion and feeling. Feeling is a state of consciousness where you are perceiving. It is a state of awareness. And that which you perceive, translates as a sensation. In the physical world that sensation is translated through our sensory organs of sight, sound, touch, taste, smell and perhaps most importantly, as emotions. Feelings, being a state of consciousness, extend beyond the physical body. This is why you still have feelings while having out of body experiences. The conscious ego interprets those feelings and turns them into meaning. Such as this feeling means this and this feeling means that. This feeling means I need to run away or this feeling means I have done something wrong or this feeling means I like him or her. Emotions however, are limited to the physical dimension. They are the byproduct of thinking a thought, which causes the body to release hormones and neurotransmitters, which cause reactions or sensations within the body that you experience as a temporary emotion such as happy or scared. They are a feedback system for your body; much like the gas gauge on your car. Emotions are only a part of feelings. They are a byproduct of feelings. Remember that feelings are a perceptive state of consciousness. When you feel your emotions, you are perceiving your own physiological reaction to (translation of) your thoughts. And your thoughts dictate your vibration. So when you are feeling your emotions, you are perceiving your body’s translation of your vibration.
One of the major problems with the way we deal with mental health in our modern world is that we try to help people escape from feelings. This is why we numb them out with prescription pills. We do not understand that those feelings serve a purpose, many in fact. We don’t understand that by moving into the feelings, they will transform on their own. And we tell people that the reason they feel the way they feel, is because their brain is defective. This could not be further from the truth.
There is another lie that we tell ourselves, the lie is that we have to consciously do something proactive to change the way we feel in the moment. The truth is, we don’t. All we need to do is release resistance to the feelings we feel and emotions we feel. How do we do that? By moving into our feelings in the present moment. If you observe a feeling, and let yourself be conscious of feeling it, it always changes on it’s own. Then, our only job is to follow the way it changes, drop into that new feeling and breathe into the new feeling. And when that new feeling changes, we simply follow it again and consciously let ourselves feel and breathe into that new feeling. We do this until the feeling changes into something we can identify as a positive, better feeling sensation.
Belief systems and stories are mental constructs. They are the ego interpreting and translating experiences and feelings into meaning. They pull us away from the very in the moment feelings that they produce. So, it is important to know that there is a difference between the thoughts you’re thinking and the feelings you are feeling before attempting this process. You can do this process whenever a feeling comes up, wherever it comes up. And you can do this with your eyes closed or open. Just stop what you’re doing. Turn your focus towards the sensations in your being right here and now. Be with that feeling. What does that feeling feel like, what does it look like? Describe it to yourself mentally. Don’t deliberately do anything to change it. Stay with it and notice it shifting. If it does not shift, give it some room to shift by breathing into the feeling and/or expanding the sensation outwards into the room, so it is both inside you, and you are surrounded by it. It will transform on it’s own. Then, your job is purely to chase or follow each sensation as it shifts, as many times as it does shift until you arrive at a feeling in the present moment that feels good to experience.
You can use emotion to help you to step into the feeling by naming the emotion and then describing how that emotion feels in your body. So let’s say you feel sad, ask yourself what does sadness feel like in my body?
If your mind takes over and tries to tell you a story about what it is feeling, or if you get lost in mental imagery instead of paying attention to the actual sensations in your body, don’t try to go back to the last thing you were focused on before your mind took over, instead just come back to the present moment again and place your attention on the new sensation that is current in your being and continue the process from that place.
Here is an example of what this process may look like:
- What feeling am I feeling in my body?
- What does panic feel like in my body?
- It feels like the inside of my body is buzzing. I feel a heart beat in the center of my stomach. It is very heavy. It looks like a metal ball sitting in the pit of my stomach.
- Just sit with that feeling and that image and breathe into it.
- Notice how it changes, what does it change into? How does that new feeling feel in my body?
- It turned into blackness, a feeling of emptiness, it is like being in a closet but I can’t see the walls because there is no light that is getting in.
- How does it feel in my body to feel the darkness in that black closet?
- It feels lonely
- How does loneliness feel in my body?
- It feels empty, like a dull, frightening ache in my muscles
- Just let myself be with that feeling of the empty ache in my muscles, let myself experience it, stay with it, and breathe into it.
- What is it turning into now? What does the feeling feel like now?
- What does confusion feel like in my body?
- It feels dizzy like I’m spinning. My throat feels heavy and constricted, my rib cage feels too small.
- Let myself experience that sensation, just be in it, letting myself feel it and breathe into that feeling.
- How is that feeling changing? What is it changing into?
- It isn’t changing!
- Expand that sensation so it is not just in my body, it is also outside my body. Breathe it into the room so that it is both inside of me and outside of me. This gives it space to transform.
- I see calm ocean waves… I know why I’m seeing ocean waves, when I was little I got really confused when my parents were arguing and I ran to the ocean and I immediately felt better!
- Now my mind is pulling me out of the present moment of how I feel in my body by asking me to get lost in a story. Come back to my body, not the image of the ocean waves, what am I feeling feeling in my body?
- What does relief feel like in my body?
- It feels like my chest and stomach are opening. It feels like the energy is moving out of my arms and legs. I feel my throat opening up
- Just stay with that sensation. What is it turning into?
- I see the image of hot buttered corn.
- What does that feel like in my body?
- It feels like contentment, like my whole body is getting lighter. My heart is moving forward like it wants to experience the world. My body feels warmth like sunshine, especially across my back.
- If you closed your eyes, open them. Notice how you feel better now than you did when you started the exercise.
Some of the feelings and sensations you experience will be ineffable; so don’t worry if you cannot describe them. The point is not to be able to describe them; the point is to let yourself feel them and experience them. The prerogative of this exercise is to follow the sensations one by one as they shift until you find yourself in a feeling state that feels good. And if you happen to decide to chase the feeling states one by one as far as they can go, eventually you will arrive at a state where no superficial feeling exists in the now. You will merely be left with the feeling of the unified, timeless consciousness of source… What many call “The Mighty I Am Presence”.
For some of us, when the sensation itself shifts, we will be able to follow the shift in sensation alone. But for those of us that are especially trapped in the mind, and in the mental process, each transition and feeling will be preceded by a visual image. The point is to then ask yourself how that visual image makes you feel in your body. The only way to transform a feeling is to actually stay with the sensation of that feeling in the body. We can’t do this if we get lost in the visual image that represents the feeling or in the meaning of the visual images that are attached to the feeling, because it is a kind of avoidance of feeling the actual feeling.
At the root of all impulse behaviors is an unwillingness to be with the feeling that is evoking the behavior. Being with the feeling, is the way to slow down enough to gain control over the behavior. It is very important for personal growth to know that your feelings do not own you. They are just feelings. There is no feeling that cannot be transformed by moving into it with the focus of consciousness. You can’t change from a state of resistance to a state of non-resistance unless you move into the feeling of resistance within you. When you do not resist the feeling directly and you do not run away from the feeling (which is also resistance), the feeling has no power over you. It becomes nothing more than a perception. It becomes nothing more than information. By doing this process, you will find that your being is the observer, perceiver and translator of those feelings. Your being isn’t the feelings themselves, any more than it is at the mercy of those feelings.