When people tell us to pay attention to our feelings, what are they telling us to do? Most of us can not avoid a feeling if our life depended on in. So why is it heard so often in therapy or counseling session.
The way I see it we have all of our feelings all of the time, but the level of consciousness that we are willing to allow them makes the difference between a successful, effective life and a life filled with opposition, misery and useless contemplation.
Paying attention to what the instincts are telling us requires deliberate intent. Falling into a dark or deep regression will happen by default. Listening to our feelings, rather than listening to a hyper-active ego will balance the perspective. And with a well-balanced perspective, the self has an easier time emerging from beneath the shadow of the ego.
I have been reminding my readers that listening to the heart is much like hearing a parable being told. We listen to the words of a parable and we know that the content is a story that has meaning at more than one level of consciousness. In other words, it is heart-felt.
Thich Naht Hann gives us a delightful example of this in his writing:
In this parable, two monks are sent on a mission requiring them to travel by foot a long distance between one monastery and another. The journey was to take a full-day. Both monks walked in silence. Around noon of that day they came upon a village where it had just rained a good tropical down-pour. They noticed a woman hesitating as she stood before a deep puddle. She would ruin her long silk gown if she crossed the murky, brown water.
One monk saw her struggling with her emotions and he walked over to the woman, picked her up and put her down on the other side of the puddle. She bowed and thanked him. He put his hands together and bowed to her then moved on.
As it was nearing sun-down and they were approaching the monastery, the monk that witnessed this said, “You know that we are not allowed to touch woman.” The monk who had helped the young woman replied, “Interesting that you still carry her, I put her down five hours ago.”
I would call this a heart-felt parable. Metaphors have long been used to convey unconscious meaning and when an unconscious meaning is transferred from the therapist to the client, an emotional communication takes place that is more than the sum of the story. We know right away from the parable above that the story is not only about the content of the parable, but that it is also about the deeper truth that the parable conveys.
We could speculate: One felt jealous, one was stuck in a rule based mind-set, one was arrogant, one was empathic, one was frightened, one felt empowered…….of course we can go on; but the point here is what was conveyed to we the readers of Thich Naht Hann’s parable. The information transferred to the reader was an emotional communication, and as such touched us in a physical way; that is, we felt the sensation of learning, rather than simply having heard the data of the story.
Heart-felt sensations have much information to impart to us. They connect us with a deeper aspect of the self, one that is less restricted by the current events in our life and instead instructs the more base instincts. In the story, doing the right thing is under-emphasized and doing what one feels is correct is underscored without that ever being said.
The emotions swim through us all the time. We have to deliberately stop and calm the mind before we can access what the emotion is trying to convey. When we have listened to the instincts, we are not autonomically going to follow the feeling, but we have a new and additional perspective with which to look at our life, our situation.
Frequently, that process is much assisted by a therapy, a friend, or a spiritual consultant. At the feeling level of existence we are entirely inter-dependent with fellow humans. For some that causes a problem, for others it is the source of comfort.