I have heard many teachers talk about the need to feel whatever comes up. Usually, sometimes in the next breath, they tell us to shift our reality to higher states. It can be confusing, even when you know exactly what they’re saying. So which is it, feel or shift? Both actually. Let me try my hand at an explanation.
Refusal to feel an emotion is just denial. The current phrase is ‘spiritual by-passing’. It never works out. Usually, emotions just get stuffed down deep, and come bursting out at the worst moment. Or worse, these unfelt emotions can cause physical issues. No one wants that. We all have moments of unpleasantness, no matter how much we try to avoid them. Negative thoughts and feelings just happen. They aren’t a sign of failure.
Wallowing is having a thought or feeling, and attaching a story to keep it going. The attachment is identification AS that thought or feeling. You are not the sum total of your thoughts and feelings, no matter how intense they are. You don’t need to stay in that self-inflicted torment any longer than the passing moment. Yes, you need to consciously acknowledge the feeling, but you don’t need to believe the story you built around it. “Let it go” doesn’t mean don’t feel, it just means release attachment to the story. It’s okay to keep moving.
The real art to this issue is witnessing without attachment. Feel the feeling, without becoming it. Think the thought, without believing it’s true. Witness your life, without being limited by a story of your own invention.
It mostly comes down to awareness. Being aware of the feelings as they arise. Being aware of your thoughts as they drift by. Being aware that both thoughts and feelings are an experience you are having, not a definition of self. It is real mastery to be able to witness your own thoughts and feelings without becoming them. Letting an emotion roll through your body without a story can be terrifying at first. (Control freaks be warned!) It gets easier with practice.
This is where the “shift your energy” comes into play. After you fully acknowledge how crappy you feel, go do something to keep from dwelling on it. Take a bath, go for a walk, read a book, whatever. Allow yourself to shift. If you’re going through hell, keep going. Witness it, be fully conscious of it, but keep going. No need to dottle where it’s dismal. I usually say to myself, “Wow, this sucks. I haven’t cried like this in ages. I must be releasing something. Now that I’m done crying, what’s next?” I fully feel it, but I allow myself to move.
As we develop these coping skills, the lows are fewer and shorter. The fastest way out is straight through. Many people spend much time and energy trying to avoid negative feelings, and it’s actually pretty quick if you dive right in. Others waste time in the thick of it, by identifying with a story that perpetuates the emotion. Awareness. Witness your thoughts and feelings without attachment.
And we all fall into a story sometimes. Instead of berating yourself say, “Wow! I really believed that for a minute! How funny!” Be gentle with yourself in this process. Society was never geared toward introspection and witnessing. Remember, when you were young, having to apologize to another child for hurting their feelings? I sure do. We have all been taught that hurting someone’s story is to be avoided. Witnessing is a novel concept to most.
We tend to view unpleasant thoughts and feelings as failure, but we all have them. If you need a way to measure progress, here are two:
1) Where do you spend the majority of your time?
2) How quick is your recovery, when you fall into the pit?
I used to spend most of my time in anger, but now I spend most of my time in peace. I used to be down for days with a funk, then it was hours, now it’s usually minutes. I still fall, as we all do, but I no longer stay there. Progress.
Don’t plan on leaving all negativity behind. Instead, endeavor to progress in your own self-mastery. Feel it, and let it move through you without attachment. Witness your existence, and keep moving.
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