On Being Embodied: Feeling what’s Feel-able

By Dr Anna Friis
November 16, 2020

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:

  • Multiple times in a day, practise stopping, turning inward, being curious about what’s happening, feeling what’s feel-able in the body. Is there are tightness, an ease, where is it? Is it changing, is it moving? Can I name it? Perhaps being playful about finding words to name how you feel, experimenting with the words that feel right for you, trying them on for size, your body will let you know what’s right. Can I then keep my feelings company while they are present?
  • When I feel my mind go blank in connection with another, can I give myself permission for that to be ok, to take a  breath, to see that as a cue to drop down into my body and be curious? What helps me stay present to myself? How can I support this dear body in its very human moment of tightness and confusion. Can I find refuge back in my  breath? Can I give myself the permission to silently resonate with feelings that might have no words. When we do this is connection with another – even during inquiry – this is a gift in itself.
  • Can I trust myself that what I am feeling is real, is true?. Am I open to it, or am I closed, and how do I know that. Can I allow it to be ok just like this?. How can I help myself feel just that little bit safer. What helps me to stay held – as much as possible – down there in the safe hammock of my heart?
  • In addition to informal and formal meditation, mind-body practises such as yoga can also very helpful in finding our way back to ‘home’ base. Research has shown that long-term yoga practitioners who were exposed to psychological stress were able to return to homeostasis more quickly than even an equally physically-fit control group. This suggests there is something about the regular practise of yoga that is good for strengthening  that mind-body connection and the capacity to find the still place even in the midst of the storm.




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.


- JeffFoster