The word “path” has been adopted by people who are on an inner spiritual journey, but it has much wider implications. Everyone is on a path, even if they don’t always realize it.
There are two basic paths we take through life: thinking and feeling. To think your way through life appeals to rationalists, but they are fooling themselves. Feeling is always a part of every experience, every decision, and every life choice. Here are some examples of how the mixture of thought and feeling operates, often to our confusions.
The point of these different examples is that we all feel our way through life far more than we realize. We assume that we are thinking logically from one decision to another. In reality, how we feel is much more dominant. The ancients used to believe that the heart was the seat of intelligence, and in that they really weren’t wrong. Feeling has its own deep intelligence.
It is limiting and often damaging to overlook that fact. Someone will say that they feel too much; they always lead with the heart, for example, and because of this they get their heart broken a lot. Yet as often as not, the opportunity to love is lost by overthinking and not paying enough attention to feeling with an attitude of trust. I think “heartfulness” is just as present as mindfulness.
Here is a practice in awareness that uses the feeling level of your own awareness to connect with your body in the present moment.
For most people, the discomfort or painful thought that they began with will diminish, sometimes remarkably. Extreme, persistent pain and anguish can vanish. One session isn’t a permanent cure, naturally, but this exercise is really about learning not to pay attention.
Any kind of pain demands attention. It is up to you whether to passively give in. If that happens, you will aggravate the pain, like the way your tongue will worry about a sore tooth or cold sore by constantly touching it over and over.
To get out of this automatic reaction, you can consciously move your awareness wherever you want it to go. That’s what you are learning to do in this exercise. It’s a perfect example of how to free yourself from a stuck response simply by taking control over your awareness.
In the end, learning how to feel your way through life offers the best hope of happiness and success. Feeling occurs in the whole bodymind, which gives us a practical reason to unite body and mind rather than trying to keep them separate.
Reprinted from San Francisco Chronicle with permission
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