How are you feeling? Right now. Tune into your body and mind and see what’s there today… We spend a lot of time trying to ignore what we’re feeling, or stuffing it down and burying it. Feelings and emotions can be challenging, inconvenient, and difficult. So why do we have to have them at all?
Let’s look at the case for feelings. I will use that term to mean body sensations, such as hot or cold, or pain and comfort. Feelings are a direct product of sensory stimulation. We touch a hot stove, the heat and pain receptors in our hands send signals to the brain, which responds by sending signals down the motor nerves to move that hand. In this case, the feelings of heat and pain were a clear message that something was wrong: if the hand doesn’t move, I’m going to get burned! While every feeling may not be so clear-cut, we can still start to look for the message in it. The rumbling in my stomach says grab something to eat, the ache in my knees says you need to slow down on the work outs, and the headache means I’m stressed and need to relax. Each messenger is looking for a response from us. We choose to ignore them at our own peril.
We can think about emotions in a similar way: as a signal telling us something about our situation. Now would you ever put a label on a signal, calling it “bad” or “good”? Doesn’t really fit, does it? It’s just a message directing us to take action. But, we tend to label our emotions: bad = anger, sadness, grief; good = happiness, joy, peace. The good ones we want more of, and try to reclaim all the time. The bad ones are ignored or suppressed and avoided if at all possible. But what if these emotions are all just messengers, showing us things we need to do, change or let go of in our lives? If messages are ignored, they will try harder to be heard. Like a small child saying “Mommy!”, they will get louder and more persistent until they are acknowledged and have gotten what they want.
Anger is a tough emotion for a lot of us. It has a very bad rap. We are taught that nice people arent’ supposed to get angry, and they certainly shouldn’t show it if they do. So anger is at the top of the ignore and stuff list of emotions. But is anger really the problem? If we reframe it as a messenger, we remove the negative connotation and can simply ask “What does anger need to tell me?” Maybe it’s that I’m stressed, or I’m not being treated fairly. Maybe that I need to change jobs or end a relationship or let go of something from my past that isn’t useful anymore. Whatever it is, I owe it to myself to listen. Realistically, I may need to listen really hard, with the help of journalling, iRest or other forms of meditation, or a good therapist. The tougher messages may be harder to interpret, but it’s worth it to do the work!
We don’t need to fear feelings and emotions, they aren’t here to harm us. They arrive to tell us something about life. Information that will help decide what needs to happen next. Instead of ignoring, try welcoming these messengers. The energy freed up from suppressing or denying them can be channelled into real and positive changes instead!
This post is based on principles of Integrative Restoration, or iRest. This meditation practice helps us learn to welcome every feeling, emotion, thought and belief as a messenger so we can come to a place where every situation is paired with its perfect response. Please see the iRest tab on my website, or www.irest.us for more information about this powerful form of meditation.