Most of us, whether we intend to or not, polarize our emotions into the ‘positive’ ones that we think we should be feeling and the ‘negative’ ones we don’t want. Yet each of our emotions, including fear, anger and grief, have a vital role to play in our wellbeing. In their balanced expression they not only help us respond effectively to life, but they also connect us to the Divine essence of who we really are. Each of our emotions is a sacred portal that invites us to step out of the domain of the mind, through the doorway of the body, and into the realm of the Divine energies of the universe that dance around and through us.
Yet, as we privilege happiness over other emotions we deny a huge part of what it is to be human. We are designed to feel a full range of emotions. Each one of them has an important role to play; fear impels us to safety in the face of present danger, anger gives us the impetus to set healthy boundaries, grief supports us to let go of all that must pass. Feeling our emotions, unhooked from the beliefs and concerns of the mind, brings us into the present moment. We feel our emotions in our body. Within our somatic experience is a sense of aliveness, a kind of brightness and splendor that is the ground of our being; Awareness itself. While this Awareness vibrates in everything around us, our experience of it is deeply rooted within the very cells of our body. It is the essence of who we really are, and our emotions are a direct portal to that experience.
So, to effectively experience the Divine presence of this Awareness, bring your attention into your body and simply notice whatever emotion arises now as a physical sensation. What is the interior life of your body? Where is the aliveness in your body? Where does it lead you when you let go of any interpretations and judgments that the mind holds about what you are feeling?
The more we explore the more we discover that, at the core of each of these emotional experiences, is Divine presence. Within each feeling resides the alive, open, free, bright presence of Awareness.
As you let go of the ego-mind’s concepts about who you think you are and delve deeper into the aliveness in your body, you begin to discover within you a kind of selfless awareness, a being-ness, that has always been there and that you simply don’t notice most of the time, if ever. You begin to relax into who you really are.
The challenge for us, in our culture that has grown out of the ‘age of enlightenment’, is that we continually seek the ‘light’ and deny the darkness. We are supposed to be happy all the time and a sense of failure for having a ‘negative’ feeling. We have set up a dualism between our actual human experience and a desired state that we rarely know. We privilege the experience of blissful, free awareness over the gritty and sometimes ragged experience of being a human being. But what about all the feelings that naturally arise in response to everything that is happening in your life? What about your relationships, your work, your health, your commitments, your learning. It does not serve us to deny all those emotions that inevitably arise in response to a life fully lived.
What if these sometimes pleasurable, sometimes painful, experiences of emotion are the doorway to the joyful Awareness that you long for? The more we explore the more we discover that, at the core of each of these emotional experiences, is Divine presence. Within each feeling resides the alive, open, free, bright presence of Awareness. It’s not that some of these feelings aren’t painful. They are. But if we can leave behind the analysis and assessments of the mind and travel into the midst of whatever pain we are feeling we find that there is this spacious, accepting presence in the midst of the experience. The pain is stripped of suffering as we let go of the need to judge or resist. Acceptance, compassion and freedom follows.
So what, you may ask, do I do when I’m lost in my stuff and feel so much pain or disconnection? Here is a simple practice you can do to explore your emotions as a portal to the divine:
- Notice what emotion you are feeling and where you feel it in your body. Just the simple emotion i.e happiness, love, sadness, anger (aka irritation, frustration), fear (aka anxious, nervous, stressed). Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what emotion it is. Just focus on the sensations it produces in your body.
- As you bring your awareness to what you are feeling you may also notice what you are thinking. That’s fine; just keep bringing your awareness back to your body rather than being enticed into the narrative of the mind.
- Use your breath to keep drawing your awareness into whatever physical sensations you are experiencing. Sometimes strong emotions can be quite painful so use the breath to sooth and bring spaciousness to the feeling. You may use the breath to either cool the heat of a fiery sensation or to warm and fill a cold or empty sensation.
- Keep delving deeper into the very cellular level of the sensation to find the aliveness and energy that is present in the body. Does it have a color? Is it light or dark? Does it have a sound? A fragrace?
- If you find that you’re afraid you’ll get stuck in this feeling, let your mind know that emotions are E-Motion – energy in motion. They want to move. They will reveal their aliveness and pass on as long as we just feel and express them.
- Ask the feeling if it would like some form of expression. This may be physical movement, or writing, or drawing, or vocalizing – yelling, moaning, crying, or talking to a friend. Once again, expression will allow the emotion to reveal its wisdom and move.
- See if you can find the inherently accepting and compassionate Awareness that is alive both within and surrounding whatever you are feeling.
If you would like to explore this experience of the wisdom and freedom of your emotions in more depth you might like to consider Prema’s “Emotional Wisdom” teleclass running for 6 weeks starting February 26th.