On feelings

On feelings April 19, 2013

Feelings are a big thing around daily practice.  Often we avoid practice out of a desire to avoid some particularly challenging feelings (or even the experience of feeling deeply altogether).  Also, we often have feelings about our daily practice or the practice we wish we had.  So I’m going to suggest one way to approach emotions.

1) Name them.  This is surprisingly tricky!  We tend to use only a small number of words to describe the entire range of our feelings.  Go for nuance.  (I love this list for ideas of words I know but tend to forget to use.) We also have a few sneaky words that sound like feelings but are actually ways of saying what someone else is doing: attacked, betrayed, ignored.  Look out for them.

2) Remind yourself you are allowed to feel this way.  Feelings are automatically okay: trying to feel differently is not effective unless you get there honestly, which means by acknowledging the reality of how you feel right now.  You’re allowed to be angry, depressed, delighted.

3) Remember the following things about feelings:

They are temporary and will change.

They don’t say anything about what kind of a person you are. 

4) Get curious about what need the feeling is prompting you to fulfill.  Remember here that you don’t have to agree with or like the need, and that acknowledging it doesn’t dictate your response.  Although knowing you need something you don’t have is hard, not knowing you need it doesn’t erase that situation; it just makes it harder to bring all of your insight, intention, and resources to bear on it.

This is simple, but not always easy, and it’s a practice that I use almost every day.  It’s also the foundation to the work I do with stories, which I’ll share more about in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, I invite you to try this when strong feelings arise in your life.  If it helps you notice anything, I’d love to hear about it!

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