Monday, May 25, 2009

The Secret of Emotional Awareness

The most radical secret of our time is the knowledge that our conscious awareness occurs largely outside of what we know as the mind. If we turn off, for a moment, the running story that our mind generates, it is possible to catch a glimpse of this other half of our inner life. Most of us can do this for about ten seconds without too much effort, and with practice much longer.
The fear, ridiculously, is that we will never come back, but will stay lost in no-thought land. What is actually likely is that thoughts return unbidden, we get lost in the stream we usually swim in and forget the experience of the open mind, that field of pure awareness where all experiences play out. For a moment, trust that the running mental narrative is where we are lost; becoming the observer of what happens within our experience is what it means to be truly awake.
And please don’t confuse being awake and aware with suppressing our feelings, such as with tobacco or other drugs; the euphoria, the narcotic effect of these substances is that they create a semblance of that stillness and freedom by damping down either the thinking or the feeling.
It is easy, in the quest for equanimity, to deny or repress our feelings. But it is far healthier to and indeed more enriching to allow them to run their course, with the caveat that we just don’t allow them to run our course. More on that soon.
Let’s start with the most common of suppressed feelings: fear. There are many stimuli which cause fear in us, and what we learn is that it is ultimately our thoughts about those things which activate the fear. The mental switch. If there is a subtle underlying current of fear, there is a thought at its root.
Treat this fear like a little child: it is not going to go away until you give it your full attention, 100% of your focus and presence. If you do that, there is no attention left for the thought, the story you are telling yourself which is making you afraid. You separate the story from the actual feeling. Allow yourself to fully experience the emotion, the feeling. It helps to think of the process as “experiencing the emotion as energy in your body”. Just don’t keep feeding the feelings with story; that will make them spiral, that is a mental process. Experience the emotional feeling in its purity and power. With no words.
If you can stay with it, stay focused on the feeling, the feeling will begin to change. It will begin running its course. Finally. As you follow it attentively and experientially it will move through your body, until it is all expressed. That is what feelings are meant to do. And, if you can follow that feeling all the way, it evaporates.
By allowing stuck feelings to be felt and expressed, you are making more space for the actual, current feelings which want to be felt.
This brings us back to the secret of consciousness. In this process of feeling without story, we are aware and conscious, certainly, but not in the mind. Feelings naturally well up from deep in our core and move through the body on their way to the rest of the world. A journey from center to periphery, like the rings on a pond when a stone lands in the water.
Yes, feelings are part of the soul, but we do experience them in our entire physical body. They are a non-mental experiencing.
This is often a frightening prospect, because so many of us do not experience feelings naturally. We have blockages or restrictions in our bodies which distort the way we feel things. The study of the way tension and holding, due to old trauma, block natural feeling of emotions is called orgonomy and cannot be approached from too many directions. The practice of experiencing the world and ourselves without judgment and without story is called freedom.