Feeling Inside: the Ordinary Experience of Being Alive

At a recent seminar, Sakyong Mipham, asked our group of meditators why we were sitting there thinking … about sitting there? What, he asked, were we feeling? Wasn’t that more to the point? It was an eye opening experience for me. I realized that as a student of meditation for twenty five years, perhaps I had spent sufficient time thinking about my experience and was ready to actually experience something. meditation and psychology

We are human beings, after all. Not analogs. We are the actual thing. Mammals, born of mammals who assimilate life by touching, tasting and  feeling. And, yes, thinking. Certainly we have developed an impressive higher cognitive functioning. That helps with some things. But, it complicates others. Our tendency to allow the temporal lobes to dominate, co-opt and interpret experience sometimes challenges our hard connection to life itself. We can understand life, but are we actually living in the process.

What are we feeling?

If you asked me that question at any point in my day, I’d probably look at you with the dog-hearing-a-trombone head tilt. Feeling whaaa… ? I walk around in my head thinking about the thoughts I’m thinking, trying to think of a way to think less and add more meaning to life. So, I chose meditation, and then proceeded to spend years looking at the thoughts I wished I wasn’t thinking. Often in meditation, people worry about how much they think. They think of how to think less, and how to stay on topic more. Thinking about thinking about thinking. And in this carnival hall of mirrors we become amazed by our own reflections, entrapped in their multifarious refractions, a dissociative identity narcissist with many heads, each trying to discern the next. One thing that might not occur to drop the thoughts and pay attention to the experience.

What is our actual experience?

Our experience is registered by, and stored within, the body. While the mind is busy planing our life, our body is actually living that life, experiencing the moments, tasting, touching, feeling. But, unregistered these sensations store within the system, and acute experience can actually embed. Tension wrapped around unprocessed painful experience create pockets of resistance in the system. Insurgent cells that actually strike out in pathology and emotional duress.  In order to protect ourselves from these painful moments, we lock the actual experience deep within our body, and escape into conceptual thoughts, plans and (sometimes toxic) psychologies.  Lost in our thoughts, we become disassociated from actual experience and live by proxy.

The idea of coming into the body and beginning to learn how we feel is an odd suggestion to the over-active mind. First of all, we don’t really know there is a body. We’ve heard of it, but it seems to exist someplace else, in some other dimension. Then when we do find it, its tense, stiff and inhospitable. The toothpaste analogy seems apt: the body squeezes, and the mind squirts out all over the place. In this way, we become separate from not only our experience, but ourselves, themselves. This is a very lonely situation. And that brings us to the heart.

How do we actually feel inside?

If we ask the mind who it is, we can never find an answer.  Nonetheless it is always seems to have answers for us. The body, on the other hand, seems to wants concrete things. Constantly. The heart, however, sometimes just seems to want. It yearns and dreams and seems to need desire and fixate on that which will mollify its pain, or complete   That longing which lies at the root of frequent bad behavior, is also the call to bring back the system to balance. Maybe what we want, and all the heart really needs is to reconnect to its basic nature.  Thus the heart can join the reptilian systems of the body to the higher cognition of the mind with its yearning for completeness. Of all the trouble made by the heart, looking under rocks to find what it would rather not see, stepping on emotional landmines, foraging in the dark for a face, a scent, a smell a taste or touch to wrest it from the bonds of loneliness. But that searching only makes us more lonely. It leaves us wanting all the more. We flick through our devices, texting, messaging, tweeting and conjuring, but the genies we create only serve to reinforce our separateness. We end up alone. Which is where we began and will end, and perhaps, have been all along. Alone.

But, what if there was another way? Instead of trying to change the world, as it has been for as long as we’ve been here, we could, perhaps, look inside -or even feel inside- and begin to try and solve the riddle from our most intimate proximity, our heart.

If all we’ve been looking to do, all along, was to reconnect, why not reconnect with ourselves, here and now? Why not reconnect with the actual experience of our being –rejoin the body, heart and mind and reconnect to life’s flow in synchronicity? Wow. . . . Sounds extreme.  How can we do that?

Well, its easier than you think. In fact, don’t think. Just feel inside. You may not realize it, but–you’ve been waiting to reconnect, to open, to let go, to forgive and release forever. Your body is dying to relax, your mind is trying to wake up, and your heart is crying for integration.  So, just relax.  By relaxing into this moment, you can realign the body, and settle the mind, and open the heart to the true experience of living.  All it takes is feeling that we deserve to experience our experience as it is and as we are.That’s right–we don’t need to change a thing. Not the environment, not ourselves. Just be. Its a practice of radical acceptance. Accept everything. Take the easy road out.

Arggh. cowardice!!! Surrender? Me?

Exactly. Surrender “me”. Its the bond demanded by the cosmos to allow our freedom. Surrender “Me”. Then walk away free to experience life as it is. And every time we are stolen away we can simply come back to the breath, the heart and the body. Every time the body aches, rather than tense up and make it worse, we can relax, and align and release the tension. Every time the mind wanders, we can relax into appreciation of what is, when the heart yearns, we can feel inside and settle ourselves into appreciation of ourselves, our moment and our life. As it is.

The key to joining the practicality of earth with the possibility of heaven, is the heart. The acceptance of ourselves and our life is the supreme act of kindness. Why not kindness to ourselves? If the mind travels too far too fast, the heart can slow it down. If the body refuses to move, the heart can find inspiration. All the heart needs is love, and … well, lovers. The mind and body are its family. So, the integration of the spheres brings the system – and the inner family – into alignment. In this way, we find ourselves in the center of our life. Into the thick of things. Into the true authentic presence of our moment and our life. All it takes is relaxing and feeling inside that we’re worth it. That we are an expression of a basic fundamental goodness, and our lives can become the extension of that. We can choose to disconnected, to separate out, to abandon our minds and betray our heart looking outside for solace and completeness and, by extension, create a world of confusion wrapped as a vicious blanket around us. Or, we can turn inside, find completeness in integration of body, heart and mind and synchronicity with life.

Feeling what we feel is key. Not hiding or looking forward, side to side, or back, but simply resting in the uncomfortable, incomplete feelings of being alive. Mammals alive and awake and seated in the center of their lives, touching the earth, feeling the wind, smelling the scent of the forest. Here. Now. Awake.


Just give up the pride and hope and distractions of me.  Surrender me, and allow the heart to open and feel the ordinary experience of its life. Surrender me, and find yourself.

On October 19th-20th, join Senior Shambhala Teacher Joseph Mauricio and Dr Joel Kaye for a weekend workshop on the intersection of Buddhist Philosophy and modern Psychology.  meditation and psychology meditation and psychology meditation and psychology meditation and psychology meditation and psychology meditation and psychology meditation and psychology meditation and psychology meditation and psychology meditation and psychology meditation and psychology meditation and psychology meditation and psychology