There is really just one way to avoid feeling what’s here.
And that’s to bring attention out of feeling sensations and into thoughts.
The only reason I would do that is because I believe thoughts saying that feeling the sensations, and perhaps being exposed to the associated images and words, is uncomfortable, dangerous, a threat, bad, or undesirable.
This avoidance can take a large number of forms, probably many more than I am going to list here.
And the remedy is simple. Feel the sensations. Ask myself what would I have to feel if I didn’t [the avoiding behavior], and then feel that. Take time feeling the sensations. Perhaps look at associated images and words, and ask simple questions about them to see more clearly what’s there.
So here is a very incomplete list of behaviors most or all (?) of us sometimes engage in to avoid feeling what’s here.
Going into thought, independent of the content of these thoughts. Go into thinking instead of feeling and noticing.
Blame someone else, life, the world, God, for what seems wrong. And, really, blaming something “out there” for the uncomfortable feeling. (Although that’s usually not part of the blaming story.)
Going into (otherwise) constructive activities, such as writing (as I do here), working, being with family and friends, playing with kids or pets, going for a walk, read something interesting, listen to a podcast. (This one is very familiar to me.) These are all fine activities, and when I do them to avoid feeling something, there is a sense of compulsion there.
Analyze or comment on what’s going on. Trying to understand it. Make up stories about it. (Not that this is always inappropriate, but it can be habitual or a bit compulsive.)
Distractions of any type, including any form of thoughts or any activity.
Doing something enjoyable. Eat, sleep, go for a walk, cuddle, have sex, watch a movie, be in nature, do art, photography, make music. All of these can be done to avoid feeling what’s here, and when that happens, these activities can feel slightly compulsive. They become something I am compelled to do so I can avoid feeling what’s here.
Going into drama, getting caught in the drama. It may seem we are feeling here, since it can seem quite intense, but we are actually avoiding really feeling and resting with the sensations.
Putting it off into the future. Telling myself I can do it tomorrow, perhaps when I am in the right mood, or have more time, or am in a better state of mind.
Going into “awareness” or the “witness”. Which is really going into an idea of awareness somehow different from and split off from feeling the sensations that’s here.
Spacing out. Going into daydreams.
Numbing out. And not feeling this as sensations.
Getting sleepy, drowsy. Getting bogged down by sleepiness. This can often seem like sleepiness from lack of sleep or hard work, and a thought will often tell us it is. It usually comes up at just before or at the beginning of feeling something apparently uncomfortable, and it can disappear quite quickly if rested with and inquired into. (Sometimes, it is actually physical tiredness, of course, but perhaps not as often as you would think.)
Telling myself that I don’t need to feel it, or don’t have to, and having an apparently good reason for it.
Going into an ideology saying I don’t need to or have to, or that it’s bad, or “low frequency”, or that I should seek only “good” states and feelings and avoid the “bad” or “low” ones. (This rests on a lot of unquestioned assumptions.)
Going into spiritual ideologies, for instance saying it’s all a dream, or nothing really exists, or that all is perfect as is. Which I then take as meaning that I don’t need to feel what’s here. (I don’t necessarily disagree with any of these, but they can be made into an ideology and used to avoid feeling what’s here.)
There are many other ways to use spiritual ideologies to avoid feeling what’s here. I can get fascinated by it. Get into wishful or magical thinking. Assume I will be magically “saved” in the future, so I don’t need to do much now. Imagining light and bliss and feeling that instead of the discomfort that’s here.
While feeling sensations, immediately going to images or words instead of feeling and resting with the sensations for a while. (During inquiry.)
Some of these are subsets or variations of other ones on the list. I thought I would just put them all up here.
When these come up, I can use them as a reminder to ask myself what would I have to feel if I didn’t [….], and then feel and rest with that.
I can also explore the dynamic of the avoidance. Slow it down. Feel and rest with the sensations of the avoidance. Look at the associated images and words, one at a time. Ask simple question about these, to see more clearly what’s really here.
There is nothing inherently wrong with avoiding feeling what’s here. It’s very human. We all (?) do it now and then. And we can’t all go around and intentionally feel sensations all the time. We wouldn’t get much else done.
At the same time, it’s uncomfortable to avoid, and be trapped in the mindset of avoiding feeling what’s here. It can also lead to (compulsive) life decisions we wouldn’t have made if we were more clear and allowing of the sensations.
It’s good to notice when I avoid feeling what’s here, perhaps notice how I do it, and sometimes intentionally rest with the sensations and feel them, and inquire into what makes it look scary to do so. It can become more and more of a habit, and it can seem less and less threatening to do so. It can even become enjoyable. An expression of kindness.