On Being Embodied: Feeling what’s Feel-able
"When I fall from my head past my words, there I am held lovingly by the hammock of my heart..." (Jane O’Shea)
Often in MSC we are called to get out of heads and into our bodies, to notice when we are caught up in thinking and to drop into feelings; in other words to feel what’s feel-able. When we tune into our bodies, we access what is true, what is present. Our emotions, be they subtle whispers or powerful floods of energy, never lie, they are never wrong, even if they are difficult or hard to bear. They have a purpose and a process, sometimes fleeting, sometimes long-lingering. Leaning in to our embodied experience, being open to that exquisite information source and being guided by its wisdom is a powerful practise that truly serves us as individuals and as MSC teachers.
Being embodied in this way is a vital capacity to develop because it enables us to recognise what is happening for us in realtime, and to ‘drop anchor’. Being able to access that ‘still’ place for ourselves really matters, and particularly so when we are leading inquiry as teachers of MSC. Being a calm, lovingly connected presence helps our students to feel safe enough to let go of some of their resistance and to begin to explore their feelings. At a subconscious level, we are letting them know that we can hold them, that we will “get it” when they speak to their suffering, and that we have the capacity to meet them in it.
As human beings, our mirror neurons mean we can feel and empathically resonate with the feelings of another. When we practise leaning into our emotions in the presence of another, we have a two-way information source. When Chris Germer talks about “listening to the pings” when we offer inquiry after an MSC meditation or exercise, he’s talking about this process of tuning in.
Here are a few thoughts on strengthening that mind-body connection that I personally find helpful:
GIVE FEELINGS A HOME
When a feeling comes to visit - shame, sadness, anger, joy, fear –
treat it like you would treat a precious, loveable child.
Don't ignore it and don't smother it.
Don't distract yourself and don't pretend it's not here.
It has come for love.
Offer it your presence, your good attention.
Breathe into its core, its heart. Listen to it.
Make room for it, offer it the warmth of your being.
Know it will be here only temporarily.
Give it sanctuary, oxygen, kindness, a place of safety.
Allow it to express, breathe, rest, and pass in peace.
It is not a mistake or a punishment.
It is Life.
All feelings are sacred; all of life moves through you;
you are infinite in nature, and pure of heart.