Thursday, June 25, 2015


Here's some of what I think I understand about feelings.  Though they lack substance, they present themselves to us with all the appearance of reality.  No matter whether subtle or overwhelming, they are always ephemeral.  They come and go.  Sometimes they are persistent.  They keep returning, even when they are unwanted.  Sometimes the same feeling, triggered by the same event, will keep coming back, even for years, even for a lifetime.  But sooner or later they always go away.  They are always replaced by another feeling, another sequence of feelings, before they return.

We dismiss or bury them at our cost.  If we dismiss them, they will keep returning until they finally receive our attention.  If we bury them, they will find a way to make themselves known to us again, usually manifesting in uncomfortable ways in the physical body.  Some of us--and I include myself--have been trained or conditioned to ignore them, but they are too powerful to be ignored.  If we do not pay them the attention they demand, they will manifest in ways that negatively affect ourselves and those we love (though, be it added, sadly, there are those who cannot allow themselves to even love with a full heart.)  I believe it to be true that anger is the way they usually choose to manifest, when they have been too long ignored.

So we must pay attention to them.  They need to be acknowledged, if they are not to end up being harmful.  They are our friends.  They will never fail to tell us the truth, if we take the time to listen to them.

Powerful as they are, and much though they need to have our attention, they can also become harmful if we allow them to control us.  Most frequently, we do this unconsciously.  They act out in the way that we behave.  But because they are so powerful, because they are inevitable, we must learn to live with them.  The best way I have discovered to do this is to put them in perspective.  To remember that they are ephemeral, yes; but also to understand that they are only one of a quartet of forces that govern our lives, along with the intellect, the physical body, and what we call, for lack of a better term, the spirit.

So when the feelings become ungovernable, I find it useful to summon one of those other forces to act as a counterbalance, and allow the feelings the space they need to travel on.  For the intellect, I can pick up a book, do a crossword, do some writing.  For the body, go down to the gym and work out for an hour, take a walk in the hills, even take a nap.  For the spirit... well, I choose to meditate.  Meditation allows me to watch the feelings come and go, as though sitting in the audience, watching the melodrama take place on the stage some distance from where I sit.  I have learned this to be the way I'm able to find a certain equanimity.

No one is immune from feelings.  Those who feign immunity come across as cold fish; those who practice it, cruel.  But we suffer when we allow feelings, whether hidden or revealed, to govern our lives.  And suffering, as I see it, is a choice.  Pain, they say, is inevitable; but it is possible to avoid, at least to lessen suffering if we can learn not to hold on to the pain, to watch it happen, as though from a distance, as though to someone else...

No comments: