Serious question. Where do you feel your feelings?
Are they in your heart, your chest, your feet, or, perhaps, just hanging around in your head with the shopping lists and conversations you haven’t had yet?
Of course the really big emotions – grief, shock, in-loveness – are physical, very physical. And when you’re in the grip of them, the sensation is all you can think of.
But what about the lesser stuff? Here’s what I now know (after five years of tinkering with mindfulness).
An emotion is a thought that shows up as a sensation in your body.
That’s it. So every emotion, is an actual feeling if you pause to work out what and where. How interesting.
Test it out. Try to find a quiet moment in the noise to see what you feel and where. All day there are twinges and tingles, prickles and heat as my body and brain go through their daily motions of considering and processing my world.
Obviously, this isn’t a total surprise. When you consider the language of emotions, it’s all there. Things stick in the throat, people are sick to their stomach, they have heartache, butterflies and shivers down their spine. Functional Medicine Associates explains this well.
It’s just I hadn’t thought of it for even the inconsequential. The tiny panic when traffic causes a delay, the minor sadness as a cup gets smashed, a fleeting shame of broken promises years ago or the infinitesimal joy at the perfection of buttered toast.
I haven’t a clue what good will come of knowing this, but I’m pretty sure good will come…
Meantime, here’s a poem by Jelaluddin Rumi a 13th century Persian Muslim poet.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes,
because it has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Aha! This is a journey I've been on for the past couple of years. I saw a therapist when I was in the US, and she helped me get much more in touch with my body and physical responses to things. It's so obvious, when you stop to think about it, but we live in such a rationalist culture, that most of us have bodily awareness drummed out of us long before adulthood.
The thought that made sense to me was when my therapist said “emotions are physical things… people think they're 'out there' somewhere, [waving her hands around] but they're just physical responses to what is going on”. So obvious, but it was such a revelation to me.
I think there's a real tide flowing here. There's so much around about mindfulness, being aware of the moment, bodily awareness, etc. It's like our post-Enlightenment culture is waking up, and saying “Gosh, yes, OF COURSE we are more than our minds. How could we ever have thought that thinking and logic and reason would be more than just one part of the jigsaw?”
I can't bear it when people quote their therapists, but here I am, doing just that in your comments box. Sorry.
I'd be interested to learn more about your mindfulness course. Could you email me a link, or leave it in my comments box? Thanks.
I love your description of the joy of buttered toast. Yes.
Older Single Mum says
Only just seen this – good to read. Nice to see this sort of thing making mainstream and hope you can truly FEEL the good this brings! xx