Fill vs feel

 

When we feel empty or lacking, we feel empty and lacking.

It’s a sensation which thought gives meaning to, and that meaning is that we are empty or lacking.

The common response is to try to fill up with something outside of me: someone’s love or company, buying things, entertainment, eating, drugs, or just about anything else. Here, we react to the feeling – to the sensations and associated stories, and we react by trying to fill up and/or distract ourselves from or full the feeling.

Another response is to feel, to feel the sensations. Instead of reacting to them, feel them. Also, notice the stories giving these sensations meaning. Notice the images and words associated with the sensations. Identify them as images and words. Look at them. Ask simple questions about them to get a clearer sense of what’s there. When you can’t find more stories, feel sensations as sensations again. Identify them as sensations. This helps unglue the images and words from the sensations.

So when we feel empty and lacking, we can try to fill up or numb out, or we can feel the sensations and investigate the images and words associated with them. The first is what most of us have been trained to do by society. The second is a 180 degree turn, and it requires some combination of trust, desperation, and skill (either your own or from a facilitator).

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Finding safety in understanding

 

There are many flavor to how our minds turns away from feeling what’s here.

One is to try to find refuge and safety in understanding.

If I think about my understanding, I don’t have to feel this.

I can explore this in several ways:

What would I have to feel now if I didn’t think about my understanding? Feel that.

What am I afraid would happen if I didn’t go into understanding? Look for the threat.

Can I find X? Understanding? Insight?

Can I find X? Someone who understands? Someone who gets it?

Can I find the command to understand? To get it?

Here are some of the ways I use understanding – thinking about understanding something – as a way to avoid feeling what’s here:

I get caught in figuring something out. Or rehearsing an understanding, or elaborating on it, or fine-tuning it. I distract myself from feeling.

I use it to avoid shifting from thinking to noticing thoughts, since this often will lead to noticing and feeling what’s here.

I use it to avoid doing what the understanding is about. I think about my understanding of something instead of actually doing it, including dealing with things in my life, natural rest and inquiry. This helps me avoid feeling what I would have to feel if I actually did it.

There is of course absolutely nothing wrong about understanding and insight. It’s essential and beautiful. It’s what allows us to function in the world. And it’s what allows us to evolve as a species and civilization. It’s one of the ways life explores and experiences itself through us.

Even compulsively going to understanding to escape feelings is OK. It’s innocent. It comes from deep caring. It’s what the mind does when it scares itself with its own stories. And it’s not satisfying in the long run, or even in the moment.

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CG Jung: They enjoy this atmosphere in which they can admire their beautiful feelings

 

It is common for very infantile people to have a mystical, religious feeling, they enjoy this atmosphere in which they can admire their beautiful feelings, but they are simply indulging their auto-eroticism.

– Carl Jung, ETH lecture 11 Jan 1935, Page 171.

I recognize this. I recognize how an opening or enjoyable or transcendent state can come with a certain feeling, and the mind then attaches to that feeling as something important and beautiful. It’s quite common. I also agree that it goes with the territory in a relatively early phase of the process, and that it can stay for a lifetime if not investigated.

We can spend a lifetime trying to hold onto, or regain, a certain feeling that we associate with something our mind holds as important. And when we investigate, we see that it’s just a sensation, associated with certain images and words.

When it’s felt and recognized as a sensation, and the images are seen as images and the words as words, that apparent compulsion to maintain or regain a certain feeling falls away. It doesn’t have anywhere to stand anymore. It’s revealed as created by the mind, and not having much more significance than that.

What would I have to feel?

 

What would I have to feel if I didn’t (do this addictive/compulsive thing)?

What would I have to feel if I didn’t….. reach for the phone, listened to a podcast, called a friend….. right now?

And then feel it. Drop into the feeling. Notice any associated images and words, while still feeling it.

I have run away from these uncomfortable feelings most of my life. Why not do the opposite? Why not feel them? Why not welcome them?

You are welcome here. Thank you for protecting me. I love you.

Included in this is the discomfort itself, and also the impulse to do something about it, fix it, run away. Any reaction to what’s here, and any reaction to this reaction, is included.

All is included. Whatever is here is included.

Caught in the drama vs. feeling the sensations as sensations

 

It’s possible to be caught in drama, and still think “I am feeling the feelings”.

When I am caught in the drama, I am caught in stories (triggering the emotions, and about what it means), and fuel the drama. There is a turmoil here, which a thought may say is “feeling the feelings”. And yet, being caught in the stories draws attention away from noticing the images as images and words as words, and feeling the sensations as sensations. This tends to fuel the drama, and keeps it going.

The other approach is to look at the images as images, words as words, and feeling the sensations as sensations. (One at a time, taking time with each.) This has a much more neutral and sober quality, and there is a gentle curiosity there. This tends to defuse the drama, removes the “fuel” for the drama, and reveals what’s really here.

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Scott Kiloby: We only suffer for one reason

 

We only suffer for one reason: we don’t want to FEEL. And so the remedy for all suffering is to feel in the most barenaked, thought-free way.

– Scott Kiloby

Yes, that fits my experience. Suffering is the experience that’s created when I try to run from sensations.

When words and images are, in my mind, stuck on sensations to make them seem scary.

One solution is to try to feel sensations in spite of the stuck-on words and images, or try to set these words and images aside for a while. This may or may not work, and is only a temporary solution.

A more satisfying solution is to examine the words and images stuck on the sensations, one at a time, and see what’s really there. In this way, the glue itself softens or dissolves completely, leaving the sensations as sensations.

Without stuck-on words and images, sensations are OK. They are just sensations. There is no need to run from them. And there may even be a genuine curiosity there, a deep willingness and interest in feeling them.

After all, after a lifetime of running, there is a huge relief in just relaxing with what’s here. Noticing it’s all already allowed. It’s all already OK. It’s all already life.

What am I not willing to feel right now?

 

Whenever I notice a contraction, it seems to include an impulse to escape my current experience – into distraction, thought, analyzing, hopes/fears about the future, regrets about the past. It’s uncomfortable, and it feels a bit desperate. I am, in a sense, leaving myself.

You are welcome here. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me.

 Another question I sometimes (quietly) ask myself is:

What am I not willing to feel right now?

Is it true I am not willing to feel it? How is it to feel it?

The feeling I am – initially – trying to escape, is often the one that shows up as the most uncomfortable and dense in immediate experience. When it’s allowed its words, it tells me it feels rejected, isolated, unwanted, unwelcome, unloved – because it is. And all it wishes is to be met, seen, felt, welcomed, recognized as love, loved. It wishes to be welcomed as it is. It wishes to be recognized for what it is, both in its initial appearance (fear, anger, sadness, grief), for its intention (to protect me), and for where it comes from (devotion for me, love for me). And it wishes for liberation – through being allowed its life, through inquiry into whatever images and thoughts held as true creating it, through being recognized for what it is in its nature (awakeness, presence, love).

Feeling

 

I am more and more drawn to feeling.

Feeling what’s here. Staying with it in a prayerful attitude, with a quiet interest.

It may be an emotion, a feeling, discomfort, heartache, physical pain. How is it to feel it, as it is? Bring attention to where in my body it’s densest? How is it to quietly notice images? Staying with it as it changes into or reveals something else? Staying with it as it reveals itself to me?

It may be what’s revealed in inquiry. How is it to feel it in my body? How is it to take in what’s honest and real for me? How is it to invite it to do it’s work on me, realign me?