What’s so great about FEELING?!

If you’ve been to class the last couple of weeks, you know the theme has been feeling i.e. focusing on feeling, partly to move away from thinking so much, partly simply to get more anchored in the present moment instead of being so anchored in our thoughts, beliefs and stories about the present moment.   In the Path of Yoga group  we discussed feeling for 5 weeks (a total of over 5 hours of discussion time).  It’s potentially a BIG subject but here’s some brief thoughts on it.
What do I mean by “feeling?”  I use the term to mean giving the feeling sense to anything that is present to be felt at any given moment, i.e. anything we can FEEL, which could be simply physical sensations, but it could also be energy or emotions or other more subtle possibilities.  I use emotions to distinguish a particular kind of feeling, though in the common usage, “feelings” are often used interchangeably with “emotions,” which I think unnecessarily limits the term “feeling,” and I prefer a broader use.
The sensations could be very strong, as they are in some asanas (poses), or very subtle, as in some asanas. With practice, we can and will become more and more sensitive to subtler and subtler sensations so that we will inevitably, I believe, arrive at a kind of “super-sensuous” feeling where we are feeling things that are beyond physical, energetic or emotional… but don’t think too much about that.  We start where we’re at.  For most of us, the stronger sensations we find in our bodies during our yoga practice on the mat are what get the focus, which is a good and natural thing.  FINALLY then we find ourselves in our body, “out of our head” and IN the Present Moment, which alone is a healing event… which we can feel.  We also can feel tightnesses and tensions in our body, and the poses are good tools for helping to release those, which allows a more free flow of energy in our body, which again we can FEEL and which FEELS good!
With regular practice of some duration, we will probably also discover buried, or long-held emotion.  An important additional note to my last article, Resistance and Excuses, is that generally people start practicing yoga and find it to be very enjoyable.  Some people, after some amount of regular practice, which could range from a month or two to a year or so, find that it is not as enjoyable as it once was, and they stop practicing, sometimes with “good,” “logical” reasons.  Sadly, they are often stopping their yoga practice when it was really starting to work!
I see Yoga ultimately as a “subtractive” process, not an “additive” process, meaning that if we engage in long-term yoga practice, we are ultimately stripping away everything that is not the Essence of who we are in order to arrive at the Essence, the True, Underlying Self.  (and yes, in the beginning or at some time and for some time, we may experience and need yoga to be an “additive” process of learning and building of the ego-sense.)  At some point in the process, it (yoga/Life) will be uncomfortable, which will probably not come as any surprise to anyone reading this article.  As in the previous article, the ego’s defenses are very strong and it has an “army” of excuses and tricks at its disposal, and we can even convince ourselves in the most logical way that what is good for us is actually bad for us, or potentially even make what is good for us injurious to our body or being.
However, if we can persevere and be kind and non-harming to our body (for reminders about how to do this, some more good past reading), and we can stay awake and present and keep feeling!, we can pass through the difficult/challenging feelings and experience the inevitable shift for the better that will and does occur in the process.   Though some part of us would prefer to avoid feeling the “bad” stuff, to try to go around or over or…, it’s just not possible, and a saner and more positive approach is to be with it as it is, being careful not to get caught up in our justification or stories or excuses or anger and resentment or analysis of it, all of which is a giant smoke-screen for avoidance!
If you practice yoga regularly and then notice some resistance to the practice beginning to creep in or slam you full-blast, or you find that you are being less and less regular about your practice or coming to class, please talk with me about it, or with your teacher at the time.  I have given this advice to many people over the years and those who took me up on that discussion were able to get some clarity and insight and find a way to continue in the practice in a way that effected healing and positive change, though it was not without challenge.
Ultimately, if we continue our yoga practices regularly and long-term with dedication and commitment and faith, the inner world gets quieter and quieter and clearer and clearer and we will naturally and in due course, come to experience the Self (the True Self) which the Upanishads describe as “subtler than the subtlest.”  To get to that, we start at the “gross” level, which we could just as easily call the “obvious” level (though we all certainly have experience of missing even what is supposedly “obvious,” right?!  If you haven’t, hmmmmm….. maybe look more deeply and honestly?)  In the end, feeling is one beautiful way into a deeper part of ourself.

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