WHAT IS A FEELING?

by Jo Lawrence-Mills


 

We say "I am sad" or "I am afraid" or "I feel angry". But how do we know? How do we know that we are sad, joyful, angry, afraid, confused, content? Where is the evidence, in the moment? Are we telling ourselves a story?

Instead of contacting the raw present-moment sensations in the belly, the chest, the throat, the tingly, alive, throbbing, pulsating life in the body, we move so quickly into our heads, into abstract, conceptual, time-based thought. We start THINKING ABOUT our feelings, start talking about WHY we feel the way we do, what happened to cause our feelings, who or what is to blame, how terrible or wonderful our life situation is, what may or may not happen in the future. We go so quickly into judgement, into justification, into memory. We disconnect from the timeless present, where sensations move and tingle, and go into time, into 'rewind and fast-forward' as I call it. 

We disconnect from the power in our bodies and launch into a thought-based narrative about 'feeling'. For most people, this is what has happened by the time they say "I feel...", or express their feelings. They are not feeling at all! They are telling stories about their feelings, even acting out. They have become detached from their bodies and lost in thought, in 'doing'. 

The invitation? Come back to the body. Come back to the churning in the belly, the pressure in the chest, the tingling in the throat. Feel the fluttery, shivery, sharp, pulsating sensations, feel them rise and fall like waves. Let them increase and decrease in intensity, breathe into them, honour them as life itself. The body does not lie. Come back to the dynamic dance of life happening now. Strip away the words, the labels, 'sad', 'angry', 'fearful', 'anxious', strip away the judgements ('positive', 'negative'), strip away the drama, and invite attention to drop into what is actually moving in the body. At this point, words may become unnecessary. 

Feelings, unlike thoughts, do not live in the world of past and future, they live in the timeless present. Only then can we truly call them 'feelings'. 

- Jeff Foster