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Feelings + Thoughts
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# 12 / 40 – April 2008

Feelings + Thoughts.                      


Feelings + Thoughts:

(A spiritual-religious chicken or the egg situation.) 

We are all aware, at least on some level, that we ought to strive to be present – to be, in the words of Ram Dass, “here” and “now.”

But so few of us do.

Here’s a simple exercise – a sort of spiritual-religious mad-libs – to help.

Fill in the following sentence:

I am _______ (insert: feeling) that________ (insert: apparent cause of the feeling).

Here are a few examples:

feeling                                 apparent cause of the feeling

sad /angry / mad             yesterday I lost $5.

happy / joyous                  today I found $5.

surprised / confused       yesterday I lost $5 and today I found $5.

The radical suggestion that I am going to make is that we investigate lopping off the second half of the sentence – in other words, that we ignore the apparent cause of the feeling and just allow ourselves to be in the feeling.(After all, feelings are to be felt, not thought.)

When I pay attention to the actual order in which things occur, I notice that some of the time the feeling comes first and then I seek an appropriate rational explanation as to why it is that I feel that way – and then I re-write history in my mind to convince myself that the later caused the former.

My belief is that often the feelings come first.

For example, about six months ago I was lying in bed, frustrated. Instead of allowing myself to just experience the situation – me allowing myself to be frustrated, I found myself going through a mental Rolodex of things that might have been the cause of my frustration. Eventually I found one and blamed all my frustrations on that event. However, I knew even in that moment that this apparent cause of my frustration was just a convenient, semi-logical explanation. Point of fact, I was frustrated before I “realized” what I was frustrated about.

I am certain you have had similar experiences. Have you had moments in your life when you have felt filled with anger or sadness but you just didn’t know why?

I think it behooves us to just be in our feelings when we are in them and to refrain from always trying to attribute causes to them.

Moreover, when we label our emotions – we categorize them. Something that starts to feel like sadness we call sadness and then we lose out on the actual experience of it. Maybe it wasn’t sadness after all?

So, what am I saying here?

Maybe – like infants laying in cribs – we should just let our feelings just wash over us from time to time?

Maybe we ought to just be in our experience of life as it happens…

I don’t think there is any better spiritual-religious advice than that.

 

With love,

Rabbi Brian

A web version of this article is available here.
This article was also posted at Street Prophets where it received a few comments.

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