We digest everything we consume: food, drink, sensations, and experiences. Some of our thoughts and emotions are a symptom of this background processing, although more is done at night in dreams. However, it’s batch processing so we can only vaguely associate the activity with the prior experiences. You can see this clearly with dreaming.
If we’re under stress, energy is diverted from digestion and the higher forebrain to ready the body for fight, flight, or freeze. We also fall into resistance, grasping at what we want to keep and resisting what we don’t want. This resistance further impedes digestion. Combine the resistance with the backlog and you get still more inner noise.
Many people experience an ongoing background of anxiety, fear, anger, or similar. The emotion and stress is essentially constant. This can lead to various avoidance and addictive behaviours to distract us from the dis-ease.
Remember the two sides to what we experience – what arises in experience and how we respond. What happens is partly due to how we responded previously. (karma) And how we respond is partly driven by past experiences too.
If we want to change these dynamics, we don’t need more not’s or should’s. Healing doesn’t happen through more rules but rather through letting go.
Beware the controller, wanting to manage the process and control the outcome. And beware the controller wanting to control the controlling. (laughs) This is a process of feeling and allowing. Control is another form of resistance, the hallmark of the identified ego.
Letting go happens through relaxing what we’re resisting. Relaxing happens through consciousness. Why is that? Because pure consciousness is deep peace and alertness beyond the mind.
When something is mostly unconscious, we’re in habitual response mode and will fall back on old behaviors automatically. Some of those are fine, like drinking when we’re thirsty. It’s the reactive plays of resistance that are problematic. We’ll notice after the fact we’ve done it again and may just create a new layer of resistance, resisting the resistance. Or we may notice the resistance and put up a resistance to seeing the resistance. The big stuff gets multi-layered and is often compared to peeling an onion.
Of course, if it’s unconscious, a lot of this is not obvious at all. It’s only in retrospect that we see these dynamics and realize how caught we’ve been.
If we make a practice of something like effortless meditation, we become familiar with consciousness itself. When that becomes lively in our life, it is only a matter of bringing attention to something and we make it more conscious. Thus, when something arises in experience, we bring awareness to it rather than reactivity.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, at first we become aware after the fact. Oh, I did it again. Then we become aware during – while we’re reacting. Sometimes, this allows us to diffuse it. Finally, we become aware just as the reaction is rising up. This gives us conscious choice. And still more conscious, we gain the option to diffuse the response rather than acting it out.
Not only have we then not acted out, but we’ve diffused (digested) the reactivity so it won’t arise again. It won’t show up yet again as another experience. If it’s not fully diffused, it will have a lower charge next time and an easier eventual resolution.
This process has a huge effect on our quality of life. Over time, as events come up or memories trigger inner reactivity, the option comes up more and more to end that drama. The stories of suffering wind down and our life becomes smoother and happier. Maybe still eventful, but not as difficult.
But note this isn’t a thinking process. We don’t get there by figuring out a better story or understanding articles like this. Resistance is an energy process so we gain skills by becoming aware of our energy dynamics. How do we experience energy? Mainly as emotions and bodily sensations with some kinds of thoughts. Things that are blocked or incomplete have a sense of charge or reactivity and resistance has a sense of friction or contraction.
In many cases, we learned as children to repress energy (and emotions) like the adults around us. We didn’t take out the trash but collected it within, partially digested. The result is what Eckhart Tolle calls the pain body. Most people are walking bags of unresolved pain. No wonder we try to repress it.
The first step is noticing how you feel. This is why many teachers have you do body scans to check for sensations and make you aware of how this or that area is doing. Or they ask you to notice how you are in this moment. The emotional-energy body infuses the physical body.
Also notice what emotions are arising. How do I feel right now? Or less personally, what emotions are here? (identification with our emotions can cause more resistance to letting them go) If you get a blank, that’s fine. It means things are in shadow. This is common.
The mind doesn’t like to just have emotions in the experience for no reason, so it looks for reasons for what you’re feeling and tells a story, often one of blame. I feel sad because X did that. But the story justifies the feeling rather than resolving it. I found it easier to just recognize that a lot of the inner babble and sensations are a symptom of processing going on – a kind of taking out the trash. That’s story enough and I can let it be as it is then.
Also, beware the mind thinking what we’re supposed to be feeling. As mentioned, this isn’t a thinking process. Difficult challenges can bring with them “supposed to” stories about emotions and behavior. X died so we’re supposed to feel Y. Or the mind judges right and wrong or emotions as good or bad. That just gets us back in the mind, away from what we feel. This can be a deep habit too.
Remember these are your emotions, your responses. It’s not about what someone did but how you’ve responded. And that’s OK. Blame is mind. It’s natural to be angry if someone is a jerk. But it’s unhealthy to hold on to that anger. That will do you more harm than the jerk ever did.
Of course, if we have very difficult events in our history, some professional support may be needed.
When you master the art of just feeling emotions, you’ll notice them coming up and then passing. The big ones may wash over you. Most times, they’ll be gone in a few moments. Fully experienced, they’re done. As the backlog is cleared, you’ll come to find quiet peace, happiness, or similar there most of the time. If we’re in a more challenging period, there may be more ongoing emotions. But if we stay out of the way and give ourselves time to process they won’t overshadow for long.
Once we’re in the flow of it, we can allow big ones to come to the surface to be processed, like unresolved grief. Grief arises because of loss due to change. Death, job loss, illness, even a friend moving away. I found unresolved grief in all important relationships that had ended. But this didn’t become conscious until I was ready to resolve it.
But please – this is not something we do all the time or obsess over. It’s about changing how we are with life as it comes up and becoming more conscious. Most of our day will be on work and others.
As we clear the deck, we gain the opportunity to favour more uplifting emotions. This becomes especially important after we wake up. The power of attention has become much greater. We want to steer our attention to the positive. What we put our attention on grows stronger.
As we deepen into this, we open to deeper feelings and intuition from beyond the mind. Then the heart can open in ways beyond expectation. And we can step back into the flows of nature itself. When enough people make these shifts, the world will change.
LOVE that post!!! (who would have guessed?! 😉
And just hours after i enjoyed (and i wanted to comment, but it did not feel right) your post i got something on facebook. And now it feels right! 🙂
Closely related, a really, really powerful short interview with Scott Kiloby about disolving the trash after the initial awakening: http://kiloby.com/a-dialogue-on-awakening-the-body/
Interesting article. I agree there’s an awakening of the body but I usually frame a descent prior to that. (heart, gut, root)
I suspect he means a more embodied form of the “head” shift, beyond the detached early period.
I would suspect that too David.
I do not think he talks about divine descent in this article as he talks very seldom about that. He once said “first wake up, do your clearing work and then we talk about god”.
I just found that article so beautifuly uncompromisingly direct with the describtions of our “bypass habits”.
Right. I also find it interesting the way someone attracts certain kinds of students who steer the teaching in certain directions. Or how they’re guided.
Francis Bennett only talks about divine beings privately, for example.
Yeah, that is a very interesting subject. How what we share with others is guided by the divine and that of course attracts different People and also makes one an “expert” in certain areas.
much love! 🙂
Partly, it’s also the local laws of nature and who resonates with that. Some respond much better to poetic descriptions than my heady stuff, for example.
When the channels open, the divine can then flow through those laws and express that flavour.
Wonderful, wonderful stuff, David.
After nearly 50 years of “effortless meditation” I am living this experience. It is not a “thinking process” anymore for me, but the regular experience of “stories of suffering wind[ing] down and [my] life becom[ing] smoother and happier.” It is just so simple: more and more I experience these “uplifting emotions.”
And one of my favorite feelings comes when I see evidence that more and more people are experiencing these same shifts and that the world is starting to change.
Thank you for the reminder.
It’s such a joy, joy, such a joy joy…
Yes, I regularly see people shift and have been observing a bunch of them mature into it as they unpack and embody. Others contact me through the blog.
It’s quite remarkable, more so in what is yet to unfold. Early days yet.
Fantastic post. SO rich and compassionate.
Merci, Oh grace of S-ness.
Readers, do follow the name link to his new web site…
Very practical advice.
I found it very helpful if you are in the presence of a teacher who has unconditional love and who has that soft cloud of being around them to buffer any extreme pain that arises.
Yes, presence or darshan is very valuable. But usually only after there is some depth of presence here that can recognize it.
Then a living example of an unconditional being encourages that here and allows deeper knots to be released in that space.
I wonder if some more expressive cultures, are less prone to having a huge emotional back log. I could be wrong but would children who are supported and allowed to express themselves and whose feelings are validated have less of a back log? Do people who journal their feelings regularly have less backlog? Note to Michael: Thanks for recommending the Presence Process. I have started reading it with some trepidation. Don’t know what it will lead to 🙂
It’s a good point, K. Mind oriented cultures like the west do tend to have trouble with emotions.
But it depends. Some cultures have healthy expressions of emotion, allowing time for real grief and the open expression of feelings. But it depends on how they are with that. Is it an open expression and completion? Or is it investing in the drama to justify one’s story? Look what the world has done to me!
We’ve all met drama queens of both sexes and there are certainly people in the west with a rich and healthy emotional life. It just tends to have been less common.
On children, yes. If said validation was healthy – allowing emotion but being responsible and not making it more solid.
Journaling your feelings can help make them more conscious. But again, it depends on what we do with that.
Also keep in mind that we’re all in different places on our journey. Some will have a massive backlog, some much less. Some will be more challenged emotionally than others, yet may have less of a backlog. There are all sorts of combinations.
It’s much less about what is happening and more about how we are with that. Finding a way to be OK with how we are helps too. Identification is such a tangled mess. But it has an end.
Trepidation…had to look that word up. 🙂
I have seen that with quite some people, it shows that our structures fear the loss of control because we have controlled our inner world for our entire live and this work leads to surrender.
Acknowledge that fear and do not push just through it. Be gentle with this work, it is deeply rewarding and beautiful, it is just my observation that this is really hard for most people both awake and not awake. All the best on your way!! 🙂
During the day it helps me a lot to remember that it is okay to have feelings, which paradoxically helps clear them.
The emphasis on purification in many practices can sometimes give a experience of feelings being “bad” and that I have to let them go, which becomes a push rather than a non-doing. Of course that is not the intention from these people, but words can be tricky for me sometimes.
There is also a recognition that the heart is easier for me to approach while the lower belly and legs are harder to digest because the material is deeper there. I’m better able to start with the heart then things gradually let go into the solar plexus and then the rest of the belly and root. Beginning in the belly is sometimes to big of a jump.
Right, N. A good point. But really, it’s not being OK that helps clear them. Emotions naturally clear themselves if they’re allowed to run their course. All we have to do is get out of the way of that process and they can arise in experience and complete. Being OK helps us do that.
And yes, it’s easy to see them as bad or a problem. The backlog is part of what gets in the way of joy and enlightenment. But emotions continue throughout life so it’s good to learn better ways of being with them.
Yes, the lower centers are more “solid”. And the belly is the fire center and is well protected. This requires a little different style. But you’ll learn from experience.
It’s quite the adventure really – like spelunking. (laughs)
(another one to look up Herr Michael 🙂
lol …….yup….but now i know….thanks to dict.cc
it is Höhlenerforschung 🙂
actually a very good word for it. I have used that as a metaphor myself.
(laughs) My favorite is Dutch for words like that. They have words that are like entire sentences. 🙂
Yeah, dutch is often hilarious! 🙂
extremely important and powerful words for me. Thank heaven for my TM program. and yet there is important unresolved things that rise due to my “relationship” with my brother – and that’s jus the one I’m aware of. Then there’s Dad.
Oh yeah – early relationships create dynamics when we’re very young that are often quite unconscious. Often, they also show up in our lives due to unresolved stuff from prior lifetimes. And the relationship we had then was often very different. Not a brother for example.
Another reason expectations can get in the way.
Happily, you don’t have to go into all that. Just allow the energy of resistance and control to resolve when it arises. When we heal our side, it changes the relationship and their junk no longer has a place to land/ a button to push. But this takes time…