Learn to feel what your body and your soul tell you, and use your feelings to improve your health rather than destroy it
LEARNING TO FEEL
By Walter Last
Feelings are the builder of the body, the glue that holds body and soul together. Tender feelings make us open and vulnerable. In order not to get hurt, we prefer to close up and not to feel. This has the added advantage of making us stronger in our career, because we do not need to take our feelings or the feelings of others into consideration.
Each time we suppress a feeling or do not express it in a suitable way, the generated energy solidifies into muscle tensions. Eventually, this leads to widespread muscle armoring, a permanent state of muscle contractions. This closes off the circulation of blood, lymph, bio-energy and, equally important, the flow of feeling energies.
Once we are in an armored condition, we simply cannot feel any more even when we want to. This applies especially to the tender feelings in the heart and all over the body. This is a great loss. Our conscious control is then out of touch with the body, with its needs, its wisdom and with the pleasure it could give us.
We are equally out of touch with the requirements of others, with the forces of nature and with our higher guidance. Everything is wrong if we are out of touch with ourselves and with everyone and everything else, and we have to rely exclusively on our ego-controlled mind. In order to heal our emotions we need a four-fold approach.
1. We need to 'let go' - release the accumulated negative emotions and associated tension.
2. We need to become aware again how we feel and express our emotions appropriately.
3. We need to learn feeling good about ourselves as well as others and generate positive feelings.
4. We need to live in our daily lives what we have learned in our exercises.
In addition, see also the article on Mind Tools.
Feelings which we have not expressed and often not allowed ourselves even to feel have accumulated within us in the form of repressed emotions. They choke our emotional body in the same way as accumulated metabolic residues obstruct our physical body. In our relationships and social interactions we react with emotions mainly to reactivated hurts within us and only to a lesser degree with true feeling to the actual situation itself. This causes endless frustration, misunderstandings and disappointments in our daily lives.
In order to free ourselves of these emotional obstructions from the past, we need 'emotional cleansing periods' - times and situations in which we feel safe enough to release and express our suppressed emotions. This will already partly be achieved and made easier as a result of bio-energetic exercises, deep muscle massage and other methods to relax our muscle armoring. In addition, there are several release techniques to induce emotional catharsis.
The key and cornerstone of emotional healing is forgiveness. As long as we cannot unconditionally forgive, ourselves as well all others, we remain trapped in past negative emotions. This prevents us from fully loving ourselves as well as all others.
A good way to do this is by writing a list of everyone that you feel has hurt you in the past or whom you may have hurt. Recall especially your relationships with each one of your parents, with your siblings, other relatives and partners. Think of incidents that may have caused anger, resentment, disappointment, sadness, fear or insecurity.
Then mentally go through each incidence and feel into yourself to see if there is still any trace of that old hurt feeling within you. If there is, then go more deeply into it, try to reach the bottom of it. Examine that hurt feeling from all sides. It may then just evaporate so that you cannot find it anymore. However, if there is still some or even a lot remaining, then you just make a mental decision to free yourself of this ballast. Do some deep breathing, and with each exhalation you imagine blowing it into a balloon. When you have transferred all the hurt into the balloon, close it up and let it float off into the blue sky for the universe to take care of.
Now you imagine being in the presence of the one that had hurt you and you formally and lovingly forgive this person. A very important person to forgive in this way is you. Forgive yourself for all the distress and hurt that you caused other people. If you are not quite ready to forgive everyone unconditionally, then come back to this step after you have worked some more on your belief systems and adopted a spiritual philosophy of life. Basically, you need to realize that you are not doing a favor to others by forgiving them, but to yourself by freeing yourself from destructive emotional toxins.
This is not different to cleaning your biological body of chemical toxins. An alternative possibility is to write a letter to everyone against whom you still feel a residual resentment and therefore, are not able to fully forgive. Write down in detail what exactly was it the other one did and how it affected you. Then formally forgive and express your love and appreciation. Finally you may either give or mail this letter to the recipient or you may just burn it and hand it over to the universe.
A simple and efficient way of emotional cleansing is possible in a secure relationship with an understanding and co-operating partner. When we feel angry, sad, or in any way upset, we can just tell our partner that there is something coming up which we want to release and then let go.
It is often necessary to exaggerate our expressions in order to get to the old emotions at the bottom of our feelings. Therefore, when you are angry during an intentional release, show that you are really angry, throw yourself on the bed or the floor, kick and punch a cushion, pillow or mattress, wring a towel, scream, shout or cry. Similarly with hatred, sadness, grief or any kind of frustration, bring it out as forcefully as you can. Your partner can help to deepen the feeling, telling you to get into it, to hit harder, cry louder.
Even in more restricted situations with other people, try to experience and express your immediate feelings in an appropriate way. When you are angry, say so and possibly hit with the fist on the table, when you have tender feelings, acknowledge them with a loving smile and, if appropriate, with a loving touch.
In many instances, however, an understanding partner is not available for immediate release or the situation is inappropriate. Then it is best to re-enact a recent hurtful or otherwise frustrating experience as long as it is still fresh in the memory and the feelings are easily aroused.
Do this at a convenient time in the privacy of your bedroom or even in a car parked with closed windows beside a busy highway. Recall the details of the scene and especially your feelings. Bring out these feelings as much as you are able to. Suddenly, a similar situation from the past may pop into your mind, when you felt hurt in the same way yet did not react to it. Then relive and exaggerate the memories of this past experience in order to get to the old emotion behind your present feeling.
Learn to do this quite habitually. Whenever you encounter an emotional situation to which you cannot react in an appropriate way because of inhibitions or conventions, then re-enact it and respond in an exaggerated form. This does not only apply to anger and hurts, but also to gratitude and tender feelings that you were unable to express at the time.
Our disease provides us with a great opportunity to learn not only how to care for our body, but also how to heal our mind and emotions and to become truly spiritual. Some of the inner causes of diseases are long-standing resentments, habitual worries, carrying inner hurt or grief, guilt, repressed sexuality and a lack of inner joy and spontaneity. All of these are expressions of fear in its many and varied forms which we need to overcome by developing unselfish love.
One of the most basic forms of fear to overcome is the fear of dying. This can best be done by seeing yourself as an immortal soul, which temporarily inhabits and operates a biological body in order to gain certain experiences. Numerous near-death experiences show that death or shedding the biological form is generally a liberating and pleasant event for the soul, and you may even have similar experiences during meditation.
Another aspect is a fear of pain and dependence on others and especially in an impersonal and technological hospital setting. However, by using a holistic program you remain in charge. There is hardly any pain, and even if you are too old or start holistic therapy too late, you can expect to spend your last days in a dignified way. Instead of trying to cling to the body or being drugged semi-conscious, this should become the spiritual high-point of your life, as you prepare in prayer and meditation for the liberation of your soul.
After the shock revelation that you have a serious disease you must gradually progress to hope, belief and faith - faith in your spiritual guidance and that all will be well. You just do your best and the rest is in God's hands: 'whatever will be will be', there is nothing to be afraid about. This inner transformation can be achieved with the indicated mind tools. Preferably develop a daily routine, which you start with prayer, affirmations, relaxation and followed by guided imagery and meditation.
In order to learn acting appropriately, we first need to become aware of our feelings and emotions when they do arise. An easy way is to start with simple body sensations before getting deeper into feeling our emotions.
Experiencing Body Sensations
As another step towards becoming fully feeling beings, we try to increase our awareness of body sensations. Whenever a sensation arises naturally, be it warmth, cold, tingling, hunger, thirst, the tastes during chewing or any other body sensation focus your attention on it. Soon the sensation will intensify and gradually you will learn to pick up even faint sensations that you normally would not have felt.
Unpleasant sensations will usually recede after a while and may disappear completely. This is especially the case with hunger or pain. In order not to feel hungry during a fast, tell your body beforehand that you are going to cleanse to make it feel better and that it will get food afterwards. Then ask for its fullest cooperation. If you forgot to do it beforehand, you can still start explaining when you feel hungry. Usually the craving for food disappears after this. It is similar with pain. By focusing your attention on it, the pain can tell its message, the reason why it is there and then it can withdraw helped by the muscle relaxation induced by your attention.
One of our most frequent sensations, important as well as pleasant, is our food taste. Use the excellent opportunity provided at each meal to savor the flavors that develop while placidly chewing. This not only increases our awareness, but greatly helps our digestion as well. For healing a specific problem also imagine that powerful nutrients in that food are now on its way to the problem area to improve it.
At other times try to feel the various parts of your body as you are moving, standing, sitting or lying-down. Gradually, you begin to sense which muscles are tight and which ones relaxed, warmth may develop wherever you focus your attention, yet you can also feel a refreshing coolness if you concentrate on it. An easy way to do this is by mentally transferring the warmth of the breath felt during exhalation or its coolness during inhalation to another part of the body.
Slightly move an arm, a leg or your head and experience how each move feels. Focus on the beating of your heart, feel the pulse at the sides of the neck. Put a hand on the chest to feel the movements caused by the heartbeat and the breathing activity. Shake your whole body or only one part and feel the energy flow when you stop. Lightly touch various objects, your own skin and that of others, tree bark, a stone, glass and feel the differences.
Slowly move your lightly cupped hands closely together but without touching, then move them apart. Repeat for a minute or two moving them slowly towards each other and away again. Can you feel a resistance developing when the hands are brought closer together, something like an air cushion? Do the same exercise after shaking your arms and hands for a minute. Move the tips of your outstretched fingers close to those of another person. Try with the same hands and also with opposite hands. Can you feel an energy, a tingling?
Focus your attention on any emotional feelings or moods that may arise from time to time. When you are angry, do not just remain angry in your head. Scan your body if you can feel it there. It may be in the form of an energy rushing upward from the lower centers. Is it activating your arm muscles like wanting to hit or your leg muscles like wanting to kick? Intensify any body feeling you that you have. Hit the table or a wall with the padded side of the fist, kick a cushion or into the air. How does it feel now?
If you are frustrated, where do you feel it, apart from your head? The same with all other emotional feelings - fear, anxiety, worry, jealousy, hatred, longing, compassion, love, devotion. With tender feelings focus your attention on the heart. Do you feel a stirring there, something moving?
When you succeed to feel an emotion in the body, try to stay with it and to intensify the sensation, even if it is anger or another negative emotion. At the same time, try to express whatever you feel in a suitable way. Certain muscles may want to move on their own accord; intensify the movement.
If you feel fine, try to sense that feeling of wellbeing all over the body. If you are dissatisfied, unhappy or discontented for no specific reason, relax and focus your attention on feeling dissatisfied, unhappy or discontented. Feel it in the body, where is its center and what does it want to tell you?
Some of our strongest feelings develop during sexual intercourse. Go right into these feelings. Try to spread them out from the sex organs into the whole pelvic area and all through the body. Radiate them out onto your partner. Do not let yourself be distracted by any fantasies, stay with the feelings. If, as a male, you want to delay ejaculation, move the center of the orgasmic feelings into your heart and concentrate your attention there.
Manfred Clynes (SENTICS, Anchor Press/Doubleday) developed a set of 'sentic exercises'. Clynes found that the same emotion in people all over the world produces the same kind of muscle response. He used the pressure of a finger on a measuring device to record the intensity and direction of the pressure generated by each emotion.
Even more important for us: this process can be reversed, a certain finger pressure tends to generate its associated emotional feeling. At the same time, this feeling is expressed through the pressure in a way that is satisfying for the body. You may press with one or more fingers or even with the whole hand against the surface on which the fingers or hand rest.
Negative feelings are best generated and expressed with the fingers pointing straight down to produce a kind of stabbing muscle response. Positive feelings, on the other hand, are more effectively produced if the lightly cupped hand rests on the surface and the pressure is mainly expressed with the fingertips. Even both hands may be used simultaneously.
To conduct these exercises, keep the executing arm in a relaxed position. If you sit on a chair, the jabbing pressure may be produced on the seat of a second chair or even on your thigh. For the whole hand to rest on a surface, you may use a table, your thigh, your other arm or your chest. Eyes may be open or closed.
The pressure patterns of the seven key emotions are as follows:
ANGER - A jabbing movement away from the body, like hitting out. The duration is much less than a second and is accompanied by a sharp exhalation and a corresponding sound. The gaze is slightly downward.
HATE - The pressure is stronger than in anger, but develops more and is somewhat longer sustained, it ends abruptly as in anger. The direction is away from the body. The action occurs during exhalation.
GRIEF - This may be expressed with the cupped hand. The finger pressure is straight down and increases slowly for half a second. Then follows a period of passive weakness and immobility during which the pressure gradually eases. The head may be tilted forward and to the right (for right-handers). Breathing is slow and shallow, pausing after the exhalation. The whole action lasts 3 - 5 seconds.
LOVE - Pressure is gently towards the body, increasing and relaxing very slowly in a deep, smooth movement. Exhale slowly with a sensual sound. The head remains level.
SEX - Push down and slightly away from the body, release quite quickly but finish with a gentle pressure towards the body. Breathing is rapid, panting-like puffs during exhalation; the head is slightly down. The action is longer than for hate but shorter than for love.
JOY - A quick moderate pressure straight down, immediately followed by an upward bounce with less finger pressure on the surface than before the action, resulting in a floating feeling until the pressure gradually increases again to normal. It is like jumping for joy and floating down. The action is best performed during inhalation, head and gaze slightly raised.
REVERENCE - Very gently increasing pressure nearly vertical or slightly away from the body. Very slow return to normal pressure in a smooth movement without any body tensions. Breathing is extremely slow with pause after inhalation. Head and gaze slightly up.
In order to increase our ability to feel and express our emotions, it is recommended to practice the described sentic exercises for about 30 minutes daily. This will help to release the emotional tension that has accumulated during a lifetime and enables us to respond in an appropriately feeling way to present and future emotional challenges.
Preferably start with a non-emotional expression. While relaxed repeatedly press straight down in a mechanical way like hitting a typewriter key. Then express each one of the listed emotions approximately 30 times. The emotion tends to build up gradually for several minutes and then reach a plateau before easing off again. Follow exactly the order as listed, starting with anger and finishing with reverence.
The emotional build-up is strongest, if there is a certain time interval between individual actions. This interval is different for each emotion. For anger it is 4.8 seconds, for hate 5.3, grief 8.2, love 7.4, sex 4.9, joy 5.2 and reverence 9.8 seconds. There may be timing tapes commercially available, otherwise you may initially experiment with the timing and develop a feeling for it.
Later on, when you feel that you are free of the desire to express negative emotions or that you do not derive any more benefits from it, you may just continue with those exercises that you like to experience. Sentic exercises may be combined with other feeling exercises. Such exercises can show you that it is not necessary to be a victim of unpleasant feelings. We do not need to wait for positive outside influences to produce pleasant feelings within us. Instead, with continued practice you can choose how you want to feel at any given moment, how you want to respond emotionally in any situation.
When we are conscious only in the head without being permeated with feelings, it is almost as if the body is not really alive. It is then more like a machine, a mechanical device operated by the brain. Because this has been the lifelong condition of most of us, we do not really know what we are missing until the body gradually awakens, vibrating with life-giving feelings and not just with pain.
We can even grow further, learning to choose our feelings, not just during an exercise, but during our daily activities. In order to feel good, to feel love or joy, we do not need to wait for the rare occasions when others or circumstances temporarily ignite such uplifting feelings within us. We are not our feelings and emotions, instead these are just energies that we can learn to use and enjoy according to our needs and preferences.
The various exercises described in the following can gradually be extended in a way that the generated feelings more and more become habits in our daily lives instead of just isolated instances of feeling good at specific times.
If you do not already feel alive and vibrating before starting a feeling exercise, it is helpful to energize the body for a few minutes with deep breathing and following shaking, especially of the arms and head. The use of mirrors, music and dancing are three valuable tools to further enhance our feeling capacity.
Sit or stand in front of a big mirror and smile at yourself. Look lovingly into your eyes and talk to your mirror image in a soft voice. You may say something endearing, such as: "I see love shining out of your eyes, it comes from your heart, your heart is filled with love, it shines out of your eyes."
Repeat it over and over again, slowly, with all the feeling that you are able to express. Pause, and just smile at yourself; smile with your eyes, a gentle, loving smile. While continuing with the mirror exercise, you may also use sentic hand pressure to increase the feeling in your heart center. Also try how it feels to make passes with your hands around your head and body, slowly moving downwards with palms facing the body.
Instead of addressing the mirror image as another person, as your Inner Self, you may also use 'my' instead of 'your' during your endearments. Just experiment to see what feels best.
When you have the opportunity, practice eye contact and smiling at each other with a partner or friend. Take turns lovingly praising each other.
Music is excellent for inducing feelings. For heart feelings, use soft music with an uplifting, melting quality. This may accompany any of the other feeling exercises. You may also use it during heart-feeling meditations while being quiet or during repetitive activities. At other times select stirring or uplifting music according to the feeling that you want to amplify.
Jazz may be useful for raising the energies, especially in the morning and during shaking exercises. Some blues are also good for inducing tender feelings. Rock music, on the other hand, is usually weakening to all muscle systems and should be avoided. This applies also to any music that conveys chaos and disharmony instead of harmony.
There is now a wide range of New Age music available. Most of it is designed simply for relaxation with the inclusion of sounds of waves and running brooks. Some is also suitable to generate an atmosphere of reverence and general emotional uplifting. In most instances, however, it provides just a pleasant, unobtrusive background for meditation and feeling exercises. It would be excellent if a series of tapes could be obtained for inducing various defined states of feeling.
Dancing is a moving expression of our feelings. We may even dance without music if we want to express a feeling. However, in order to generate feelings, it is preferable to dance to suitable music. You do not need to move your legs when dancing; you may dance with your head and body, but mainly with your arms, even while sitting. Most expressive are the hands.
Dance vigorously to lively rhythms in the morning to stimulate the energy flow. In the evening, as a prelude to meditation, dance softly to uplifting melodies. Dance often, simply to feel and express the joy of being alive. Try to express the various feelings through dancing, such as anger, sadness, compassion, joy, love, ecstasy, and so forth.