The more you feel your feelings….

The more you feel your feelings, the easier it is to understand them.

As usual, I would say ”yes“ and ”no” and ”it depends”.

What do we mean with feelings? For me, it’s anything with a sensation component – what we call physical sensations, emotions, emotional and physical pain, and also states and contractions.

Crucially, beliefs and identifications also have a physical sensation component and a story component, and may be called feelings, pain, states, a contraction, and so on.

I assume the quote mainly refer to sensations and emotions we experience as uncomfortable or undesirable, although it goes for anything with a sensation component.


We may feel our feelings and emotions in a quick and somewhat reactive way, and that won’t help us understand them. (Or anything else.)

We may feel our feelings and emotions without identifying the painful stories behind them. This won’t help us understand where the feelings come from or what keeps fueling them.

We may feel our feelings and emotionsand get caught up in and actively fuel (some of) the painful stories behind or elated to them, and that won’t necessarily help us examine these painful stories to find what’s more true for us.


And we may feel our feelings and examine what’s going on in a more skillful way.

We can feel the feelings as physical sensations. Notice where in our body we feel it. Notice that they are physical sensations. Rest in that noticing. Notice the (infinite) space they are happening within. And so on.

We can welcome them. Allow them. Notice they are already allowed. (By mind, space, life, existence.)

We can shift how we relate to them through heart-centered practices like ho’oponopono and tonglen. (We can do ho’o towards the emotions or us experiencing them, and we can do tonglen towards ourselves experiencing them.)

We can dialog with the feeling or emotion. How does it experience the world? How does it experience me? How does it see me relating to it? What function does it have? What’s the deepest intention behind it? How can it genuine help and support me? How can I relate to it differently so we can have a more beneficial partnership?

Through dialog – and evoltionary psychology and our own experience – we can come to find the value in the energies of feelings and emotions. Anger, when used in a less reactive way, has energy that helps us get things done and change situations. Sadness helps us contemplate and examine past situations and our painful stories around it, and if used wisely, it may help us find a deeper resolution. Happiness shows us what our personality likes and encourages us to do more of it, and we may also discover that gratitude gives us a deeper sense of contentment and happiness independent of situations. And so on.

We may identify the story components associated with the feeling, see if it’s a painful story, and examine it and find what’s more true for us. (Which is typically far more peaceful.) .We may identify and explore different kinds of stories. For instance, the story which labels the physical sensation creating the appearance of an emotion or physical contraction. The stressful stories creating the contraction. And the stories that create a reaction to the emotion or contraction.

Through these story-level explorations, we may find that the emotions and feelings are here to protect us. They come, ultimately, from love and are an expression of love. And that may make it easier for us to meet them with kindness, befriend them, and get to know them. It makes it easier for us to genuinely thank them for protecting us and for their love for us. And it makes it easier to identify and explore the painful stories they often operate from, which are an expression of confused love, and find what’s more true for us.

We can sit with the feelings and emotions in basic meditation, noticing and allowing them as any other experience. We notice them. Feel the physical sensations. Notice they are already allowed. Notice they come and go as any other content of experience. And perhaps even use it to find ourselves as what doesn’t come and go, as the no-thing that it all happens within and as.

It’s not wrong that I am a human being in the world. That’s what the world, my passport, and my own mind may tell me, and it works relatively well in a practical sense. And yet, is it what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience? What I find is that I more fundamentally, to myself, am capacity for the world as it appears to me and what the world happens within and as. I find I am consciousness and the world, to me, happens within and as this consciousenss. That seems to be my nature. And when I explore feelings and emotions, I find that they are the same. They have the same nature as I do. They happen within and as what I am, so we share nature. This too shifts how I relate to these feelings and sensations.

In all of these ways, and many more, I can explore and get to know feelings and emotions. I can recognize them as physical sensations with a story component. I can identify and examine the story, and find what’s more true for me. I can make use of the energy within the emotion. I can notice it’s content of experience and comes and goes and changes as any other content of experience. I can use that to find myself as what they happen within and as and find my more essential nature. And I can notice that the nature of the feelings and sensations is the same as my own nature, and rest in that noticing and allowing it to work on me.

This may sound simple when written out this way, and it is simple in a way, but it can also be challenging since most of us learn to avoid certain feelings and emotions from an early age. We learn to ignore them. Pretend they aren’t there. Distract ourselves from them. React to them so we won’t need to feel them or acknowledge them. And so on. The way we react to them can take a wide range of forms, but it’s always compulsive. It can take the form of compulsive work, entertainment, relationships, sex, food, talking, thinking, going into ideologies, going into blame, shame, and victimhood, and much more.

How have I explored sensations and emotions and how I relate to them? Through all of these ways and more over a few decades – basic meditation, evolutionary psychology, Process Work, Big Mind dialog, the work of Byron Katie, Kiloby / Living inquiries, and more recently through the Befriend & Awaken process which is a combination of these.

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More pervasive emotional issues tend to be felt all over the body

I notice how my mind associates certain sensations with certain thoughts, in order to give these thoughts a sense of substance, reality, and truth, and this also gives a sense of meaning to the sensations.

The more we recognize this pattern and learn to differentiate the sensations with the thoughts, the less charge these thoughts tend to have. The sense of substance and truth in them tends to go out.

I also notice that the mind creates physical contractions in the body, and these – in turn – allows for a stable access to sensations that lend a sense of solidity and reality to certain thoughts. In order to believe and have emotional issues, we need sensations, and in order to have reliable access to these sensations, the body contracts.

If the issue comes and goes, the contractions tend to come and go. If it’s a more stable issue, the contractions tend to be more stable as well.

This is how identifications, beliefs, hangups, emotional issues, and traumas are created. This is how our mind creates all of these, and they are really just different name on the same dynamic.

There is one pattern here I have noticed for a long time: The more pervasive and central the emotional issue, the more I feel those sensations all over the body.

A more limited and peripheral issue may be connected with contractions in a certain part of the body – solar plexus, center of belly, throat, face, and so on.

And a more pervasive issue is often associated with stable sensations all over the body.

When I work on something, and I notice it’s connected with all-over sensations, it’s a good hint that this is a more central issue, that it’s from early in life (sometimes infancy), and that there is a strong and familiar identification with this issue. It has become the water we swim in.

We can still work on it as we do with any other emotional issue. It just means it’s worth focusing on and prioritizing since it may be pervasive. There may be a good deal of branches to explore. And when we find some resolution for it, we’ll likely see the effects in most or all areas of our life.

No smoke without fire?

No smoke without fire.

This saying is an example of projection.

We hear a rumor about someone. We imagine it. This imagination combines with sensations giving it a charge so we feel it may be true. And we say no smoke without fire.

The saying is obviously not true in reality. There is often smoke without fire. It’s not uncommon with false rumors and assumptions with little or no basis in reality.

For the sake of balance, I’ll mention that we can always find something – anything – in us if we look. We are all capable of just about anything, in the right (or wrong) circumstances, and we can always find examples of something in us if we look closely enough.

So in a conventional sense, “no smoke without fire” is clearly wrong, and in a deeper and more universal sense there is some truth to it.

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Why we feel lighter

Why do we sometimes feel lighter? For instance, if something desirable happens, or we have a release through inquiry, Vortex Healing, TRE, or something else?

Stressful beliefs (identifications, trauma) come with muscle contractions. In order to believe a thought, the thought has to be associated with sensations, and these sensations give the thought a sense of substance and reality. The thought feels true. The easiest way to have these sensations readily available is through muscle contractions. So when the mind needs to believe a thought, it contracts associated muscles to provide sensations, and these in turn give the thoughts a sense of solidity and reality. These muscle contractions feel dense and heavy. We – almost literally – feel the weight of our stressful beliefs or identifications.

So when we are either distracted from these stressful beliefs, or they are released, there is a sense of lightness. The muscle contractions lighten up or go away, so we feel lighter.

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A story but no feeling

Sometimes, an inquiry client is aware of a charged story but not where they feel it.

In that case, some pointers can be helpful.

Does the client feel it all over the body? (They may look for it in a more limited area.)

Do they feel it in the face or head? (They may look for it in the torso.)

Do they feel it somewhere, but dismiss it as something else? (Stomach ache, headache, itching, pressure that they think is due to something else.)

If they were to point to where they feel it, where would they point? (Without thinking about it in advance.) Do they notice feeling it there?

Sensations combined with imagination

Imagination gives sensations a meaning. Sensations that are not associated with a story are easily recognized as sensations. And sensations associated with a story seem to mean something.

Similarly, sensations give imagination a sense of substance, solidity, and reality. Imagination that’s not associated with sensations are easily recognized as imagination. When imagination is associated with sensations, it seems real, solid, and substantial. It has a charge.

Any stress, trauma, deficient or inflated self, perceived threat, compulsion, and attraction or repulsion is created in this way. That’s why – in the Living Inquiries – it’s helpful to look at each image and word making up whatever we explore, and notice and take time to feel the associated sensations.

That’s how the mind reprograms itself. That’s how it shifts from (a) taking the collection of imaginations and sensations making up an experience as real, solid and unquestionable, to (b) recognize the separate elements as just that – distinct and separate. That’s how the charge softens or is released. That’s how healing happens. That’s what gives more clarity.

Through this, we also get to see the process from sensations appearing to mean something, to sensations being revealed as sensations inherently without meaning. And we get to see how imagination that seems real and solid is revealed as imagination without an inherent reality to its story.

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Perceptual center = center of sense of self

This is something I keep noticing and also explore more intentionally at times.

Our perceptual center often becomes the center of a sense of self.

It’s not so surprising. We need to attach our sense of self to something, and that’s typically our body. It also seems that our mind likes to narrow it down further, so our head is a natural candidate. That’s where we see, hear, taste, and smell from. It’s a perceptual center, so why not make it into a center for identification as well? Why not center our experience of me and I there?

I was very much aware of this during the initial opening or awakening phase, and also noticed that there was still an identification in the roof of the mouth and in the back. I asked Buddhist teachers for advice for how to work on it and explore it further, but they either thought it wasn’t the right time for me to know or they  didn’t know (I somehow suspect the latter).

When I explore this, I see that my mind associates sensations in the head area – and specifically back in the roof of the mouth – with certain imaginations (images and words), and these creates the experience of a self centered in the head area. There is a me centered there – a human self, a man, a friend etc. And an I centered there – an observer, experiencer, thinker, chooser, doer.

By exploring these bundles of sensations and imaginations, I get to see how these selves are created in my own experience. They tend to lose their charge. They seem less solid, real, and substantial.

When it comes to body identification, it can be helpful and interesting to explore the following:

Identification with the body as a whole. How does my mind create its experience of “me, the one who is this body”? (UI on me, the one who is the body.)

How does my mind create its experience of the body as a whole? (UI on body.)

How does my mind create its experience of a threat of being this body? And not being this body? (AI on being the body, not being the body.)

How does my mind create its experience of a command to be identified with this body? Or not be identified with it? (CI on identifying / not identifying with the body.)

How does my mind create its experience of being any particular deficient/inflated self? (UI on deficient / inflated self.)

Even identification as “spiritual” things such as awareness, Spirit, oneness, Buddha Mind, Big Mind, Brahman etc. actually involve body identification. Any identification requires sensations associated with images and words, so it is a form of body identification. For instance, when I explore “awareness” or “I am awareness” I find an image of awareness connected with subtle sensations in my head, and also other imaginations and sensations making up my experience of awareness or being awareness. Any identification involves body identification, also when it’s a “spiritual” type identification.

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Sensory input and imagination

In the Living Inquiries, they often talk about sensations, words, and images. I understand why since these are the main component of most inquiry sessions.

Still, something else is more precise and makes more sense to me.

I tend to think about it as sensory input and imagination.

Our experience consists of sensory input and imagination. Sensory input is sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, movement and a few other things. Imagination is basically imagined sensory input. Imagined sight, sound, smell, taste, movement etc. Even words are imagined sound and/or images (of letters, words). Imagination can also be called thought in this context.

In the Living Inquiries, we tend to focus on sensations, images, and words, although the rest comes in now and then. Sometimes, we explore actual or imagined sound, smell, taste, movement, or something else.

It’s a slight difference but it’s an important one for me because it seems a bit more accurate. And since it’s more accurate, it feels more simple.

In previous posts, most from several years ago, I wrote about this as sense field explorations. We have the sense fields which includes sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, movement, and also the mental field (imagination).

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Thoughts give sensations meaning, sensations gives thought charge

Through inquiry, this can become quite clear:

Images and words give sensations meaning.

Sensations give images and words charge.

Images and words give sensations meaning

Sensations in themselves are simple sensations. They are bodily sensations without any inherent meaning.

When images and words become associated with them, these images and words gives the sensations meaning. They label the sensations and may also tell a more elaborate story about what the sensations mean.

The simple label may be pain, hurt, sadness, fear, anger, frustration, discomfort, joy, elation, threat, craving, or compulsion. The more elaborate story may be a story about me or the world, for instance that I am not good enough, unloved, or superior. Or that the word – or something in it – is dangerous, or welcoming, or anything at all.

The mind tells itself what the sensations mean with the use of images and words.

Sensations give images and words charge

When images and words become associated with certain sensations, these sensations lend a charge to the story told by the images and words. They lend the story a sense of substance, solidity, and reality, and gives it charge.

There is a story, and the sensations the mind associates with the story lends the story a sense of reality, substance, and solidity, and gives it a charge.

Temporary and chronic bodily contractions

In order for the mind to take it’s own stories as real (substantial, solid, with a charge), it needs to find sensations to associate them with.

And in order for the mind to reliably find sensations, it needs to contract muscles in certain areas of the body to create sensations that these stories can be associated with.

These contractions can be temporary and created “on command” as needed.

If the stories are more core and recurrent, the contractions can become chronic and very familiar to us.


Inquiry can help us recognize how stories and sensations come together. It can also help us separate out the stories and sensations, so they become “unglued” and the sense of solidity and charge of the stories soften or fall away. This can help with anxiety, depression, compulsion and just about any other stressful experience the mind creates for itself.

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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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Give it a warm bath

Whenever I feel discomfort, emotional or physical pain, a craving or whatever it may be, I can give it a warm bath.

A friend (SL) shared this one with me. When I first heard it, it sounded a bit simplistic and even silly for about half a second until I gave it a second thought and tried it out for myself.

Here is what I discover when I do it. Giving it a warm bath…..

  • Allows it to be as it is. There is a built-in allowing.
  • There is kindness towards it. A built in kindness.
  • It’s somatic. It invites feeling the sensations.
  • It’s visceral and it’s simple. We all know how it feels to take a warm bath, so we know how to give it to the experience. We don’t need to understand or know anything more.

As usual, this is not to make it “go away”. It’s more so it’s easier for me to feel it, and look at the images and words associated with it. It’s also so I can reverse my old habit of wanting to push away any unpleasant or uncomfortable experience, and instead meet it, and notice it’s already allowed and already noticed.

A feeling of numbness, a feeling of nothing 

When we say there is a feeling of numbness or a feeling of nothing, it’s often because there is a feeling there.

There are sensations with images and words associated with it, and these together creates the experience of numbness and nothingness.

Numbness is often alive with sensations, images, and words. And the same goes for an experience of nothingness.

Whenever I work with a client (myself or someone else), and the client says there is a feeling of X it’s usually because there literally is a feeling there, a sensation combined with some images and words. And that’s often helpful to explore.

Whole body sensations, and sensations vs emotions

I had a client yesterday who was unclear on the difference between sensations and emotions, and who was unable to locate certain sensations.

I thought I would mention a couple of things about it here:

Sensations vs emotions

For me, sensations are bodily sensations, whether they seem associated to images and words or not. I feel a sensation in my heart area. 

Emotions are sensations combined with images and words which gives them a name and often a rich set of associations. I feel sad. I feel it in my throat and heart. It’s because I am alone. Nobody loves me. I was often alone as a kid. I see myself as sad. I see the sadness as a dark lump in my throat. I see images of me being alone as a kid. (etc.)

There is also a middle zone here, where we may have sensations and use images and words to describe or visualize these, and even have associations combined with them.

Difficult to localize sensations / emotions

If a client (which could be me!) describes a vague or all-encompassing feeling or emotion, and they have difficulty localizing it, I often ask if it’s a whole body feeling or sensation. The answer is often yes.

It seems that these whole body sensations often go with an all encompassing feeling or emotion, which can either be quite strong and clear (clear anxiety, depression) or can be more subtle and perhaps more vague.

It also seems that it can be difficult to localize these all encompassing feelings, at least at first. The mind may expect to find a more localized sensation, so overlooks that it’s all over the body.

Scott Kiloby: A stuck sensation dissolves when there are no words or mental pictures containing it

A stuck sensation dissolves when there are no words or mental pictures containing it, only pure space surrounding and permeating it.

– Scott Kiloby


Although it’s not important in this context, a brief note about space:

Space here can be experienced as physical space, but it’s really something slightly different. It’s spaciousness (for lack of a better word) with an added image of 3D space added onto it. Our experience is space is partly that spaciousness or boundlessness, and partly the overlaid image of a three dimensional space. It can be interesting and helpful to explore this in immediate experience. I notice the spaciousness or boundlessness. (Literally, without boundaries.) And I notice my own images of three dimensions overlaid on it.

Phantom sensations

A client mentioned phantom sensations the other day, and I remember experiencing something similar early on with inquiry.

There is initially an unexamined and diffuse feeling of something “out there” outside of the body. For me, I especially remember it outside of and around the head. When I looked, I found sensations in the face and head, and an image of these sensations outside of and around the head. I also found words such as “diffuse” and whatever I took these sensations to mean. (Which I don’t remember anymore.)

So from a diffuse feeling of something around the head, it clarified into noticing it as actual and ordinary sensations in the head, clear images of something diffuse and fuzzy around the head, and words telling me what the apparent meaning of these were. Sensations are recognized as sensations. Images as images. Words as words.

The charge went out of it, and the meaning was recognized as created by my own mind and not inherent in anything outside of my own words and images.

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Seeking and its underlying assumptions

Behind seeking of any kind, is a basic assumption:

What’s here is not OK. This experience, who and what I am, life…. is not OK.

Seeking reinforces that assumption, since I would only act on it if it seems true to me.

I can continue to seek, and reinforce the assumption. Or I can notice and question this assumption, and perhaps other assumptions behind the seeking. I can question the unquestioned assumptions, feel the unfelt sensations, and love the unloved I am trying to avoid and escape from.

There is nothing wrong with seeking. A form of seeking is essential for our functioning and survival. And yet, compulsive seeking often comes from a sense that what’s here is not right, not good enough, not OK. And what I seek is a wide range of things: Feeling better. Escape. Enjoyment. Food. Entertainment. Achievements. Approval. Love. Acceptance. Money. Status. Enlightenment. Understanding. Safety. Coming home.

It’s good to notice.

It’s good to notice that compulsive seeking can take many forms, and also that the mind can easily tell itself the seeking is not compulsive. If I wonder, I can ask myself, what would I have to feel now if I didn’t seek? If my attention didn’t go “out there” to what I imagine I need from another experience, another situation, another life?

It’s also good to notice that the compulsive seeking comes from deep caring. And that questioning, feeling, and finding love for what’s here perhaps is a way to more reliably find what I really seek. There is no should here. (And if there is, that’s another seeking which I can explore in a similar way.)

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The imagination of my senses

When I am caught in thought, I am – in a sense – caught in the imagination of my senses. I am caught in the story created by mental images (sight), words (sight, hearing), and mental imaginations of sound (hearing).

– From a previous post.

It’s as if the mind borrows from the sensory input, and makes it into an imagination on order to process, explore, and navigate the world. Each sense is mirrored by imagination, and used to think – not only in words, but also in images and reflections of other senses.

I imagine that, for instance, a bat may imagine using a reflection of sonar senses. It may even dream using imagined sonar input. And possible beings from other places in the Universe may have their own quite different senses, and use an imagination of these to process, navigate, and think.

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Coming to our senses

Coming to our senses.

That’s an expression that can be understood literally.

When I am caught in thought, I am – in a sense – caught in the imagination of my senses. I am caught in the story created by mental images (sight), words (sight, hearing), and mental imaginations of sound (hearing).

I am absorbed in these stories, because they feel real. And they feel real because these images and words are connected with sensations in the body, which gives them charge and lends them a sense of solidity and reality.

All of this can be useful in a practical sense. Imagination is vital for us to function in the world, to plan ahead, run through different scenarios, sift through and examine the past, and act on what we learn from this imagination. It’s vital for our survival.

At the same time, it can go a bit awry. We can get caught in stressful stories about the past or future, and these can even go in a loop. We stress ourselves out rather than use imagination as a simple and practical tool.

What’s the remedy? One is to examine these stories. (Is it true? What happens when I take it as true? Who would I be without it? What’s the validity in the reversals? (The Work.) What images and words are associated to the sensations? What do I find when I look at each one, and ask some simple questions to help me see what’s there? (Living Inquiries.))

Another is to, literally, come to my senses.

I can notice what’s here. Notice sensation. Sound. Thought. Shift from thinking to noticing thought. Allow. Notice it’s all already allowed. Notice the boundless space it’s all happening within.

I can feel the sensations. Feel the sensations I may have wanted to escape, by going into thought. Rest with it. Take time.

Both of these – noticing and feeling – helps me shift out of thought.

The noticing helps me notice thought as thought, notice imagination as imagination.

The feeling helps me meet, feel, and even befriend the sensations I initially tried to escape by going into thought. I may get to see that the sensations that initially seemed uncomfortable or scary, because of the stories attached to them, are not so scary. They are sensations. They don’t inherently mean anything. I can feel them, rest with them, even find kindness towards them. I get to see I don’t need to escape sensations by compulsively going into thought. (Getting here may require some inquiry.)

This is a retraining of the mind. A forming of a new habit of noticing and feeling, when I notice the compulsion to go into (obsessive, stressful) thought.

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The awakening feeling

When there is an opening or awakening, it often comes with a feeling.

That feeling may then become associated with the opening or awakening, or certain realizations and insights that came from that opening or awakening. Even if the feeling is really created by our mind’s reaction to the awakening.

So we may seek that feeling again, try to recreate it, because we think it somehow is connected with the opening or awakening, or the realizations or insights that happened within that opening or awakening. And that doesn’t really work.

Eventually, we may see that feeling as a sensation with certain stories attached to it. And we may see that what we are can recognize itself independent of particular feelings or experiences. After all, what we are is that which already is allowing any feeling or experience. It’s not dependent on any of these to recognize itself.

I went through this. There was a certain feeling associated with the initial opening and awakening, and the realizations and insights that came with it. I chased this feeling for a while. It didn’t work. Life went against it. (It’s too kind to allow it to work.) And there is an invitation for a deepening recognition of what I am independent of feelings or experiences.

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It feels like….. literally 

When we say it feels like…., it’s because it’s usually literally felt.

We feel that something is a certain way. And we do so for two reasons. First, because of the sensation, and then because these sensations are associated with certain images and words. The images and words give the sensations a meaning, and the sensations give the images and words a charge, and sense of solidity and reality. And this happens because the images and words are associated with – or “stuck to” – the sensations.

It’s seems almost ridiculously simple, and it is, in a way. It can be embarrassingly simple, when we see it. And along with that comes a realization that what seemed so real and true, may not be. After all, it was a sensation that made it seem so, and a sensation is…. a sensation. It’s not something that can really tell us how something is.

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Emotions = Sensations + Stories

What’s the difference between emotions and sensations?

Sensations are just sensations. Physical sensations in the body.

These sensations can have stories associated with them. And these stories give meaning to the sensations.

The stories sometimes create what we call emotions, and they tell us they are emotions.

Without stories associated with sensations, it’s easy and simple to feel and rest with the sensations. They seem neutral, and even friendly or mildly interesting.

With stories associated with the sensations, it can sometimes seem scary to feel them. We avoid feeling them, because we think something unpleasant or even terrible will happen if we do.

That’s why a simple exploration can be very helpful. When I separate out the associated images, words, and sensations, I get to see what’s there and how my experience is created by my own mind. In this case, I get to see how the emotions is created, what stories created the emotions (in my current situation, and perhaps in the past), and what stories I have about the emotions and what they mean.

All of this helps loosen the sense of reality it may initially have. It makes it easier to feel the sensation component of the emotion, and feel it as sensations. And that means I don’t have to try to escape it anymore (through compulsively going into thoughts, distracting myself, reacting). It’s OK to feel it.

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Uncomfortable feelings

Why are some feelings uncomfortable?

It can seem that it’s because the feeling is inherently uncomfortable.

But if we take a closer look, we may find that if we feel the sensations as sensations, they are not inherently uncomfortable, or perhaps even very strong.

So why do they seem uncomfortable?

It’s because of the stories attached to them. The stories telling us what they mean, and that they mean something scary and uncomfortable.

It’s because the sensation apparently has images and words “stuck” onto it.

There are several ways to explore this.

Feel the sensation as a sensation. See how it is to be curious about it. Allow it. This may reveal that the sensation in itself is not scary, and perhaps that it doesn’t inherently mean anything.

Feel the sensation. Notice any images or words that come up. Look at these, one at a time. Ask simple questions about each. (Is it X? A threat? A particular deficient self? A command?) This tends to soften or release the connection between the sensation and these associated images and words, making it easier to recognize the sensation as a sensation, and feel it, resting with it.

To notice these images and words, we can ask simple questions, such as: What does the sensation mean? If it could speak, what would it say? What would it say to you? What does it want from you? What would make it satisfied forever?

We can also identify the stories about the sensation, and take these to an inquiry such as The Work. Is it true? What happens when I take it as true? Who would I be without it? What’s the validity in the turnarounds?

What’s the outcome of this? Why would we want to do this?

Because feeling sensations as they are, as sensations, can be a huge relief. It feels like coming home.

And the alternative is to continue to avoid certain feelings, and avoid looking at the images and words connected to them. This is tiring, stressful, and uncomfortable. And it’s also behind any number of things that make our lives rocky, including reactivity, reactive emotions and behaviors, getting caught in stories, overthinking, compulsions, addictions, and more. It’s how hangups, wounds, and trauma stay unhealed. It’s how parts of us and our experience stay unloved, unquestioned, and unhealed.

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Tiredness is very interesting.

It can be physiological, often from lack of sleep. It can have a significant mind component. And perhaps quite commonly, there is some of each.

In inquiry sessions – both as client and facilitator – I notice that an almost overwhelming tiredness can set in, often when the client is looking at something with a lot of velcro and seemingly threatening. When tiredness is brought consciously into the session, the experience of it can shift, and it also tends to mysteriously vanish after the apparently threatening images, words, and sensations have been more closely looked at. It may be that this tiredness is a form of protection.

In life, it may be similar. I wonder if not a part of chronic fatigue is the same impulse to protect. The tiredness is a form of protection, and if so comes from innocence, deep caring, and worried love. Tiredness protects me from being out there in the world, with all its apparent dangers, risks, disappointments, and more. (And that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a very real physiological component to chronic fatigue, and perhaps even in the cause of chronic fatigue.)

Some ways to explore tiredness:

Living Inquiries. 

Rest with the tiredness. Notice. Allow.

Feel the sensations. See how it is to be curious about them. Feel the sensations as sensations. (As much as possible. This may be much easier after doing the following inquiry.)

Inquire into the sensations, and any associated images and words. Is it a threat? Is it tiredness? Is it someone who is tired?


I love you.

I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. (Ho’oponopono.)

Holding satsang with.

You are welcome here.

Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me.

What would satisfy you forever?

What are you really?


How does X relate to you? What advice do you have for him/her?

What does it mean? What would is say if it could speak?

What does it need from you?

In my experience, the kindness can be very helpful in reorienting and relate to it differently, and the dialog can do the same. What really helps is resting with what’s here, and especially feeling the sensations of tiredness, and looking at the associated images and words. When the velcro is loosened, it’s much easier to feel the sensations as sensations, and the associated images and words are recognized as images and words.

The sense of tiredness may get thinner or lifts. Or there is still a more physiological tiredness here (from lack of sleep usually) and it’s OK, it doesn’t seem like a problem, and it doesn’t have as many overlays of images and words.

This is similar to how physical pain can be explored.

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Taking stories as true, and bodily contractions

When I believe a story, it seems to come with a bodily contraction.

There are good reasons for this.

To believe a story, it seems that it has to be attached to sensations. Sensations associated with images and words gives them a charge, and lends them a sense of reality, solidity and truth. It seems that it may not be possible (?) to believe a story unless it’s attached to a sensation in this way.

And to create sensations, we need to tense up muscles. In other words, create a contraction.

As usual, there are different ways to explore this.

Rest with the sensations and any images and words that come up. Notice and allow.

Inquire into the associated images and words. See what’s there. See if they are a threat. See if they are X. (A deficient self or whatever the contraction seems connected with.)

Perhaps also meet it with kindness. See it’s there to protect, it comes from caring, from love.

Neurogenic tremors (TRE) can also be helpful, releasing the tension out of the body. (Of course, this tends to come back unless the stories creating the tension have been examined and perhaps loved.)

These contractions – and really the beliefs creating them – seem to fuel reactivity, anxiety, depression, compulsions, addictions and more. That’s why it can be very helpful to not only explore this from the belief (velcro, identification) side, but also the physical side.

What’s the mechanism that leads from beliefs to bodily contractions? One way to look at it is that beliefs often come from and create (unloved) fear, and that’s why the muscles tense up – in order to prepare us to flee or fight.

What do the sensations mean?

This is a daily exploration for me, so I keep returning to it in writing too.

Sensations don’t mean anything. They are just sensations.

If it seems they mean something, it’s because associated images and words seem “stuck” on the sensations. That makes some sensations seem uncomfortable or scary, so we often turn away from them. We learned to do it in our innocence, since that’s what we saw others do. It’s uncomfortable to turn away, and the uncomfortable sensations tend to return.

So why not try something radical? Why not see what happens when I turn towards it?

I can explore this in different ways:

Rest with what’s here. Rest with the sensations. Notice. Allow. (This in itself can be a relief, but the connection between the sensations and the stories about them may still be there maintaining the appearance of discomfort or threat.)

What is it that I don’t want to feel right now? Feel that. (Same caveat.)

Where is the threat in feeling it? Look at the images, words, sensations that come up. Look at each one. Is it a threat? Sift through the images, words, sensations, look for an actual threat.

Feel the sensations. Look at the images, words and other sensations that come up associated with this sensation. Can I find a threat? Can I find X? (Whatever appears to be there, for instance tension, a deficient self, a scary future.)

What do the sensations mean? Look at the words. Are they a threat?

What would the sensations say if they could speak? Look at those words. Are they a threat?

What do the sensations want from me?

What would satisfy the sensations forever? (Can I give it to them? How is it to give it to them?)

As mentioned above, it may be a relief to rest with the sensations and the images and words that may be there. But the “velcro” tying the sensations together with certain images and words may still be there. That’s where inquiry can be helpful. It can help loosen the velcro, allowing us to see the sensations as sensations. This makes it much easier to rest with them, feel them as sensations without any inherent meaning, and notice and allow.

And if I rest with the sensations, and notice some additional or remaining meaning in the sensations, which may well happen, I can take that to inquiry.

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Feeling sensations as sensations

This is one of the pointers I have found invaluable:

Feel sensations as sensations.

Instead of seeing it as anger, sadness, grief, exhilaration, discomfort, physical pain, compulsion, or something else, feel the sensation component of it as sensations. Notice where it is in the body. Feel the sensations.

It sounds almost too simple, maybe even naive.

And it can be amazingly effective, when we are able to do it. When the shift happens to feeling the sensations as sensations.

It’s not always so easy. The reason it initially appears as anger, sadness, or whatever it is, is that the sensations are connected with images and words. They form a whole, which we have stories about, and which may seem scary.

It can help to do some simple inquiry. Feel the sensations. Notice images connected with it. Notice words connected with it. Rest with it. Ask simple questions about it, to make it easier to see what’s already and really there.

Look at the word “anger”. Look at the letters, the shapes, the spaces between and around the letters. Are those letters angry? Are they anger?

Look at the image of your father. Look at the colors, texture, lines. Imagine touching the surface. Is that image your actual father?

Look at the image of a dark ball. Is that image a threat? Can it hurt you?

Doing some inquiry with the associated images and words helps us see images as images, words as words, and sensations as sensations. It helps us feel and rest with sensations as sensations. It can make it much easier to do so.

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Putting fear and hope out there

It’s sometimes easy to put fears “out there” in others, or the future. And also to do the same with hope.

And we do it in many different ways, including these:

It’s difficult now, but it will lead to something good, because…..

A woman will save me. A good job will save me. More money will save me. God will save me.

Technology will save us. Sustainability will save us. God will save us.

One I know from myself……

I am in a dark night of the soul, a kundalini process, an awakening process. It’s difficult now, but will lead to something good sometimes in the future.

And another from people into new age thinking:

Humanity is in an awakening process. It’s difficult now, but it will lead to a bright future.

Human evolution will bring us into a golden age, one of peace and prosperity.

When I notice I do this, I can ask myself: What is it I don’t want to feel right now? What would I have to feel if I didn’t go into these stories? And then feel it, rest with the sensations.

Also, I can see if I can find this future anywhere in immediate experience. Can I find it outside of these images, words, and sensations?

I can ask myself: Is it true? Can I know for certain it’s true?

I can examine what happens when I believe those thoughts. How do I live my life? What is it I avoid feeling or doing?

I can turn the statements around, and find specific examples of how that may be as or more true. For instance, what are some of the specific and realistic options for what may happen to humanity, ranging from what I hope for and fear the most? Can I really know? And does it really matter if I cannot know?

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Can I know for certain that this feeling means….?

I have had a feeling thought calls “doom” over the last couple of days.

So I feel it as sensations. Notice images and words connected with it. Notice they are images and words.

And ask myself: Can I know for certain it’s doom? Can I know for certain that this feeling means I am doomed?

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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Inquiry: Icky yucky feeling

For a while now, I have experienced an almost unbearable (or so it seems) unpleasant sensation in my body after going to bed at night. It tends to last until about mid-night, and it’s difficult to explain the experience. It feels more energetic than physical, although it’s certainly there in sensations. It feels icky yucky and a bit stagnant. (I wonder if it has to do with the disgust phase or facet of the dark night, as described in some Buddhist traditions.)

It’s one of those experiences that seem nearly unbearable when I don’t take a closer look at what’s going on. And when I bring attention to the sensations, I see it’s not terribly strong and quite bearable, almost not so unpleasant at all.

It’s something that it’s good to take to inquiry.

Look at the words “icky yucky”. Are they the actual icky yuckiness? (Yes, feels like it.)

Feel that feeling. Notice where it is in the body. Take your time feeling it. Do you see any images? (Yes, of my body feeling this.)

Look at that image. Is that image the icky yuckiness? (No. It’s an image.)

Feel the icky yucky feeling again. Go into the middle of it. Take your time. Do you see any images or words? (I see an image of my face in disgust, and making a disgusted sound.)

Look at that image of your face in disgust. Is that image the icky yuckiness? (No.)

Listen to the sound of disgust. Is that the icky yuckiness? (Yes, it feels like it.)

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Duration and intensity of a dark night

Some factors that may play a role in the duration and intensity of a dark night (and probably any spiritual emergency):

Struggle vs. welcoming. The more struggle with what’s happening, the more difficult the process may be experienced. It adds a layer of suffering, and it’s possible that it prolongs the process (I don’t really know if it does or not). This struggle comes from beliefs and identifications, and the release of these is one of the things that tends to happen in a dark night. So there is nothing wrong with struggle and resistance. It’s just a surfacing of what’s left, with an invitation for us to see through it. Conversely, the more genuine welcoming there is of the process, the more there is an aligning with it, the less struggle and suffering there tends to be. And we can support this welcoming through various forms of inquiry. For instance, what do I find when I look for my ideas of resistance or struggle? Is it really what it initially appears to be? Also, is there really a separation between a me or I and what’s happening? Is it true it’s too intense? Is it true that I know better than life how things should be?

Depth of process. It’s also possible that the “depth” of the process influences how the dark night is experienced. If it’s mainly about the head and/or heart center, it can be intense enough, but it seems that the belly center opening requires even more of us. That has certainly been the case for me. (The dark night preceding the head and heart center openings lasted a few years, with one year that was quite intense. The current dark night, which seems to have to do more with the belly center, has lasted much longer and is far more intense and demanding.) For each center, I assume there may also be several “dark nights” as there is a deepening. And speaking of “depth”, there is probably a lot here I am unaware of as well, including what’s ahead in the process.

Trauma and old patterns. The third factor seems to be the amount of trauma and old patterns we each bring with us, from this and possibly past lives. It seems that I am in the mid-range when it comes to trauma, and the amount that’s come up here has already been quite difficult and at times overwhelming. As someone said, “there is no easy trauma”. Again, the more we can align with and support the process, the easier we make it for ourselves.

Finally, we don’t know. These may all appear to play a role, and they may be helpful practical pointers. And they are really only an overlay of images and words, and assumptions and interpretations.

So how to we support and more consciously align with the process? What I have found helpful includes:

Taking care of myself through diet, moderate exercise, spending time in nature, seeking support from friends and family.

Doing various forms of inquiry to see through my stories of what’s going on.

Seeking support and guidance from people who have gone through it themselves.

Seeking healing for the trauma and wounds that are surfacing.

Staying with the sensations rather than going into the stories of what’s happening, with the support of inquiry (seeing through my stories). Noticing that the sensations are already allowed.

Meeting what’s here with love, with the support of ho’oponopono, tonglen, placing myself in the heart flame, meeting what’s here in satsang. Inquiry is also helpful here, recognizing what’s surfacing as already love.

Gaining just enough knowledge and understanding of the process for navigating it a bit more skillfully, and finding more peace with it.

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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.

Sensations without words and images

One of the effects of the Living Inquiries is to un-velcro words and images from sensations.

When there is an emotional charge in a group of words, images and sensations, it’s difficult to allow and be with the sensations. There is often a pull or push there, and it’s sticky all around. Attention is brought to the sensations, and it triggers associated words and images, and the sense of charge, and this tends to draw attention into the charged story.

When this charge has released – through examining the words, images and sensations one by one – it’s much easier to be with and allow the sensations. They are recognized as just sensations. The sensations are noticed, felt, allowed to live its own life, and allowed to move through.

Staying with sensations

It’s easy to say open to the emotion, welcome it, be with it. 

And yet, the question is, how can I do it?

Here are some ways I find helpful:

1. Find fears and resistant thoughts that come up when I consider opening to an intense emotion, and inquire into these. Some beliefs may be: It’s too much. I’ll be overwhelmed. This emotions means something terrible has happened/will happen. This emotion reflects reality. The thought behind it is true. 

2. As I open to the emotion, I can ask myself: Is it true, it’s too much? Is it true, it’s overwhelming? Is it true, I cannot do it? Is it true, it’s not already allowed?

3. Find where in the body I experience the emotion, and bring attention to the sensations there. Bringing attention to the sensation side of the emotion feels more manageable, and it’s also inquiry. I notice how it is to bring attention to the sensation side of the emotion. It may show me the distinction between the sensation side of an emotion, and the image/thought side. And the automatic coupling between those two may lessen and fall away over time. As an emotion arises, I may notice it’s a sensation, and some stories about it – it’s fear, it means something terrible will happen – are simply just thoughts, innocent questions about the world, not necessarily true.

4. When I bring attention to the sensations, notice how the sensations/emotions change over time, how new emerge – perhaps with their own stories, and so on. As Brandon Bays points out, this may eventually lead into the void.

5. As attention is distracted, bring it back to the sensations. Also, notice the thought attention is distracted by/into, and perhaps thoughts about distraction itself. Make a note of it and take this thought to inquiry later. The thoughts attention is distracted by may be the same as under #1 above, and the thoughts about distraction itself may be of the self-judgment kind.

6. As in TRE and other explorations, touch can be very helpful here. Someone holding my hand, or putting his/her hands on my shoulder, or the belly, or feet, may be a great support in staying with intense emotions as they surface. It’s a reminder that someone else is here in the world, and of kindness.

7. I can also do ho’oponopono on the situation: On the person or situation the emotion appears to be about, here and now.  On the emotion itself, seen as an enemy and struggled against. On myself, struggling with how to relate to the intense emotion. And perhaps, if I trace the wound/fear/belief back, on an early childhood situation relating to what’s surfacing now.

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Get a load off my chest: Body-related metaphors and inquiry

Metaphors are images in my mind, and they can be taken as true or not.

To the extent they are taken as true, they influence my view, feelings and life. I perceive, feel and live as if it’s true.

And that’s true for body-related metaphors as well.

I have a weight on my shoulders. Cotton in my head. Butterflies in the stomach. It was as getting a knife in the stomach. I want to get a load off my chest. I feel lighter. A weight lifted from me. 

An experiment

This morning, I noticed my mind felt a bit slow, and was reminded of the cotton in my head metaphor. As an experiment, I labeled it cotton in my head and intentionally solidified the experience. How would it be if I take the story of cotton in my head as true and real?

I noticed the sensations that made up the experience, and then the image that went with it. The feeling of cotton in my head seems entirely made up of (a) certain sensations in my head area, especially a slight pressure/tension at the temples and forehead, and (b) an image of wooliness or cotton in and a bit around the head. Outside of that, I cannot find it. It’s quite funny, in a way, how it’s only sensations and an image that create the experience.

I have explored this before, with this and other body-related labels, so cotton in my head doesn’t feel real or solid anymore, even when I don’t intentionally investigate it this way.

Before investigating, the experience of cotton in my head and other labels – including the more basic ones of pain, hunger, dizziness and so on – seem quite real and solid. I have stories of what it means, and tend to take these as true as well. When these metaphors and labels are investigated – perhaps several times and over time – they don’t seem so real, true or solid anymore. It’s clear that it’s made up of a set of sensations, and – if it even comes up – a label. The label may come up only when it seems helpful, for instance in conversation. And even then, it’s not taken as true.

With this, the stories of what it means tends to fall away as well. And it can also be helpful and interesting to investigate these. I have cotton in my head, and that means…. (I won’t function as well, I will have to avoid mental tasks). I have cotton in my head, because…. (I have cf, I didn’t sleep well). 

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Staying with sensations

What do I mean when I tell myself I stay with the fear behind discomfort, unease, tension and so on?

I am really just staying with the sensations of fear, the sensations my images and thoughts tend to label fear.

And how can I more easily do that?

I find that inquiry is very helpful, for instance inquiring into the thoughts creating the fear (I won’t have enough money, she won’t like me), thoughts about the fear itself (it’s overwhelming, it means something terrible will happen), and the label fear itself (it’s fear).

Training a more stable attention is also very helpful, for this as for so much else, and the simplest way to do this may be to bring attention to the sensations of air as it flows in and out of the nostrils. Allow the breath to be as it is (or notice it’s already allowed), and bring attention to the sensations at the nostrils. As attention goes somewhere else, usually into thoughts taken as true, notice and bring it back to the sensations again. (This is also an inquiry practice, noticing the tendency of attention to go into thoughts taken as true, and then bring attention back to the sensations, and notice any beliefs about this and perhaps later take these to inquiry.)

Staying with sensations seems helpful at any time. It helps me see that what I label warm, cold, pain, hunger, unease, agitation, joy, excitement are all sensations with an overlay of images and thoughts labeling it in these ways. Is it really true? Is the label true? Does it have an as clearly defined boundary as these images suggest? What does my thoughts tell me are the implications of these labels (it’s pain and that means….)? What do I find when I take these to inquiry?

It also helps attention stay with something quite simple – sensations – instead of getting lost in labels, interpretations and stories about these sensations or other aspects of life.

It’s all an experiment. What happens if attention stays with sensations here and now? What happens if there is that intention? What are my thoughts about it? What do I find if I take these to inquiry?

Breathe, feel, turn it over

When something I tend to see as “other” comes up – a feeling, a thought, pain, discomfort, I can…..

1. Breathe – stay with the sensations of the breath.

2. Feel – stay with the feeling of whatever comes up in the body.

3. Turn it over to God – to the divine, infinite intelligence, infinite love.

As so many simple pointers and “practices”, this is an invitation to notice what’s already here.

When attention is brought to the sensations of the breath, it goes out of stories – out of being caught in the content of stories.

When whatever is here is felt, there is a softening of the sense of “I” and “other” – it may even fall away, revealing the field of experience as a seamless field. A seamless field  within which any sense of I and Other appears within and as.

When it’s turned over to God, there is an invitation to shift attention to what’s already here – the field of experience/awareness/no-thing it’s all already happening within and as, and out of content of stories. There is an invitation to see what happens when whatever is here is consciously, intentionally turned over to this field.

Note: Breathe, feel, turn it over comes from Barry Martin Snyder and Karen Anderson, and is described in their book Soul Awakening.

What do I do in my body to believe a thought?

What happens in my body – what physical sensations are here – when I believe a particular thought? (A question from The Work.)

Or, said another way, what do I do in my body to believe a thought? (A question from TRE.)

Although each belief comes with a particular pattern, here are some general and common ones I notice for myself:

In general, I tighten the calf muscles. This reduces blood flow and sensations in my legs, which in turn reduces a sense of “grounding” so it’s easier to go into – and get caught up in – stories.

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