Feel

Feel

2019.02.10

Mindfulness – The Human Spirit

 

 

My vacation is over and I realized through it all that some things never change.  Whether we are on vacation, at a spiritual retreat, or caught up in the busyness of everyday living, we continue to feel.  For the last decade, it seems like all we hear about are opinions rather than facts and how we should feel.  It is enough to make a person want to hide.  At a time when most people need to cool down and stop spreading the hateful, nonproductive rhetoric that marked the last several years of political mudslinging in the USA and worldwide, it might seem strange that I am encouraging you to be open and feel.

 

I sincerely hope I get some responses to this question:  How do you feel?  I am not asking just about how you feel regarding the political verbiage.  I am asking how you feel… in general and specifically.  How do you feel?  It really is not a trick question.  Nor is it a complex one.  How do you feel?  The reason I am asking you is that feelings matter.  They comprise the very core of who we are.

 

Feelings are important.  The University of Wisconsin encourages students to consider their feelings as a barometer of their own health and emotional well-being.  “Feelings provide essential information about our reactions to situations. They are often our best clue to the meaning of our current experience — they are less “processed” and more “raw” than our thoughts. They can provide accurate feedback on our current “inside” state.”

 

Eckhart Tolle explains the important of our feelings this way.  “Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet. It is the body’s reaction to your mind – or you might say, a reflection of your mind in the body. For example, an attack thought or a hostile thought will create a build-up of energy in the body that we call anger. The body is getting ready to fight. The thought that you are being threatened, physically or psychologically, causes the body to contract, and this is the physical side of what we call fear. Research has shown that strong emotions even cause changes in the biochemistry of the body. These biochemical changes represent the physical or material aspect of the emotion.”

 

Emotional competency is a popular phrase that is trending right now and learning to recognize the emotions of others as well as ourselves helps build strong relationships.  That brings me to my intention with today’s post.  How are you feeling?  Have you realized that others are feeling those same emotions?  We all experience the same feelings.  Perhaps not at the same time and not in the same consequential fashion but we all experience the same emotions.  At some point we have all felt happy, sad, proud, scared, jealous, hopeful, envious, sorry, tired, exasperated, sympathetic, upset, overjoyed, angry, elated, relieved, grateful, bored, excited….. The list could go on and on.  We all feel the exact same way although not at the exact same time.  Why?  Because we really are, at our core, similar. 

 

Some might argue that not all of these are emotions.  Some would characterize them as mental states of being.  In the 1991 book, “Emotion and Adaptation”, author Richard Lazarus lists several mental states that may be emotion related, but are not themselves actual emotions. The list includes the complex states of: grief and depression; the ambiguous positive states of: expansiveness, awe, confidence, challenge, determination, satisfaction, and being pleased; the ambiguous negative states of: threat, frustration, disappointment, helplessness, meaningless, and awe; the mental confusion states of bewilderment and confusion; the arousal states of: excitement, upset, distress, nervousness, tension, and agitation; and finally the pre-emotions of: interest, curiosity, amazement, anticipation, alertness, and surprise.

 

Again, we all experience those very same mental states of being.  Why?  Because they are related to our emotions, the very same emotions we all experience.  So how does this affect our actions?  After all, most words used to describe emotions are adjectives, not verbs.  It is relevant because our emotions often affect and determine our actions.  More importantly, when we criticize others for their feelings, we limit our right to experience those very same feelings.

 

No one is so good that they should not experience sadness and we all, at some point in time, will.  Even the bravest of us have felt fear and I sincerely hope that we all have hope.  My wish is that I get back hundreds of responses telling me people felt happy, relief, joy, gratitude, etc. but the reality is that some today experienced grief, uncertainty, or pain.  Life is not easy.  Not all feelings are going to be positive.

 

“Isn’t it odd how much fatter a book gets when you’ve read it several times? …As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells…and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower…both strange and familiar.”  This passage from Cornelia Funke’s book “Inkspell” refers to reading a book but I think it applies to our feelings.

 

Feelings broaden our perspective and when we allow others to have those very same feelings, we broaden our world.  We begin to see that the world is not made up of many different people but of different variations of ourselves.  The outside packaging might look very different but each is a version of one, at different stages.  When we learn to respond to the pain of others, listen to their feelings, then we can begin to be together, truly together, living in peace and harmony. 

Be

Be

Easter 31

 

At the beginning of this series I mentioned that it would not be the daily blog postings you have become accustomed to from me.  I believe I characterized that this series might seem “chaotic” at times.  That is because I wanted you to take time to participate in the series subject matter – mindfulness.  When we are practicing mindfulness, we are, quite simply, fully in the moment in which we are living.  More importantly, we are aware of every aspect of that moment.

 

Once upon a time I taught young children problem solving and anger management.  We used the hand in explaining to children there were steps they could take to react positively to the messy time of life.  In problem solving I taught them to first identify their problem.  That might sound silly but all too often, we get so caught up in our emotions that we are simply reacting instead of acting.

 

The second step in problem solving is to think of solutions and the third step is to imagine those solutions being put to good use.  The fourth step would be try the best possible solutions and the fifth step – to evaluate and, most importantly – do not be afraid or ashamed to start all over again.

 

The five steps of anger management sound fairly simply, especially compared to those of problem solving and yet, they are actually quite harder.  The first step is to take a deep breath.  Do not yell or scream but simply breathe.  Then we taught the children to count to five.  This puts some space between you and the root of your anger.  It also helps you to proceed with deliberate and hopefully positive action rather than simply react in a defensive and often unproductive manner.  And, we encouraged the children to count to five several times.  The fourth step was to feel good about one’s self and the fifth – well, the fifth was to problem solve the cause of one’s anger.

 

Both of these are examples of using mindfulness.  Life is messy and chaotic and we usually try to find the quickest way out of such situations.  The problem is that by doing that, taking a quick and easy way out, we tend to repeat the same actions over and over.  In other words, we create our own messes.  Take time to simply recognize the moment and simply “be”.  In your mindfulness journal record your feelings and then move forward.  Forgiving the anger does not mean you approve of what caused it.  It simply means you are moving forward and leaving it in the past.  Mindfulness is of value because it allows us to live more fully, to be that which we seek to be – the very best we can be.

Feel

Feel

Epiphany  21

 

At a time when most people need to cool down and stop spreading the hateful, nonproductive rhetoric that marked the last eighteen months of political mudslinging in the USA and now worldwide, it might seem strange that I am encouraging you to feel.

 

I sincerely hope I get some responses to this question:  How do you feel?  I am not asking just about how you feel regarding the political verbiage.  I am asking how you feel… in general and specifically.  How do you feel?  It really is not a trick question.  Nor is it a complex one.  How do you feel?

 

Feelings are important.  The University of Wisconsin encourages students to consider their feelings as a barometer of their own health and emotional well-being.  “Feelings provide essential information about our reactions to situations. They are often our best clue to the meaning of our current experience — they are less “processed” and more “raw” than our thoughts. They can provide accurate feedback on our current “inside” state.”

 

Eckhart Tolle explains the important of our feelings this way.  “Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet. It is the body’s reaction to your mind – or you might say, a reflection of your mind in the body. For example, an attack thought or a hostile thought will create a build-up of energy in the body that we call anger. The body is getting ready to fight. The thought that you are being threatened, physically or psychologically, causes the body to contract, and this is the physical side of what we call fear. Research has shown that strong emotions even cause changes in the biochemistry of the body. These biochemical changes represent the physical or material aspect of the emotion.”

 

Emotional competency is a popular phrase that is trending right now and learning to recognize the emotions of others as well as ourselves helps build strong relationships.  That brings me to my intention with today’s post.  How are you feeling?  And why do you not realize others are feeling those same emotions?

 

We all experience the same feelings.  Perhaps not at the same time and not in the same consequential fashion but we all experience the same emotions.  At some point we have all felt happy, sad, proud, scared, jealous, hopeful, envious, sorry, tired, exasperated, sympathetic, upset, overjoyed, angry, elated, relieved, grateful, bored, excited….. The list could go on and on.  We all feel the exact same way although not at the exact same time.  Why?  Because we really are, at our core, similar. 

 

Some might argue that not all of these are emotions.  Some would characterize them as mental states of being.  In the 1991 book, “Emotion and Adaptation”, author Richard Lazarus lists several mental states that may be emotion related, but are not themselves actual emotions. The list includes the complex states of: grief and depression; the ambiguous positive states of: expansiveness, awe, confidence, challenge, determination, satisfaction, and being pleased; the ambiguous negative states of: threat, frustration, disappointment, helplessness, meaningless, and awe; the mental confusion states of bewilderment and confusion; the arousal states of: excitement, upset, distress, nervousness, tension, and agitation; and finally the pre-emotions of: interest, curiosity, amazement, anticipation, alertness, and surprise.

 

Again, we all experience those very same mental states of being.  Why?  Because they are related to our emotions, the very same emotions we all experience.  So how does this affect our action this Epiphany season?  After all, most word used to describe emotions are adjectives, not verbs.  It is relevant because our emotions often affect and determine our actions.  More importantly, when we criticize others for their feelings, we limit our right to experience those very same feelings.

 

No one is so good that they should not experience sadness and we all, at some point in time, will.  Even the bravest of us have felt fear and I sincerely hope that we all have hope.  My wish is that I get back hundreds of responses telling me people felt happy, relief, joy, gratitude, etc. but the reality is that some today experienced grief, uncertainty, or pain.  Life is not easy.  Not all feelings are going to be positive.

 

“Isn’t it odd how much fatter a book gets when you’ve read it several times? …As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells…and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower…both strange and familiar.”  This passage from Cornelia Funke’s book “Inkspell” refers to reading a book but I think it applies to our feelings.

 

Feelings broaden our perspective and when we allow others to have those very same feelings, we broaden our world.  We begin to see that the world is not made up of many different people but of different variations of ourselves.  The outside packaging might look very different but each is a version of one, at different stages.  When we learn to respond to the pain of others, listen to their feelings, then we can begin to be together, truly together, living in peace and harmony. 

Reach Out and Touch

Reach Out and Touch
Epiphany 29

September 19, 1991 was a sunny day in the Italian Alps. Two German hikers were enjoying the scenery, terrain, and weather and decided to veer off the walking path and go exploring. Proud of their shortcut which took them along the banks of a gully, they noticed what they thought was trash at the bottom of the gully. Leaning over for a closer look they realized it was a human corpse. They photographed the scene and then reported what they thought was the tragic ending to another hiker’s story. And it was….just five thousand years earlier.

Named Otzi, the corpse, also referred to as “iceman” took four days to be removed due to the weather. The site where it was found is on part of a glacier which is responsible for the condition of the body and its mummification. Two archaeological digs resulted in numerous small “finds” at the site. Leather and bits of animal hides were found along with string, pieces of skin, muscle fibers, hairs, and a fingernail. Parts of a broken longbow and the iceman’s bearskin cap were also located.

Of particular interest, though, were the sixty-one tattoos found on Otzi’s body. With scientific testing, DNA results proved the lineage to be similar to the people of central Europe and his last meal was deer meat, vegetables, and grains. At an estimated age of forty-five years, the iceman would have been considered an elder in his village and it is thought the tattoos were a type of therapeutic medicine to help with his obvious arthritis and prior fractures.

Many modern tattoos are symbols, selected because they remind the bearer of special events or people. Otzi, however, had tattoos that corresponded to acupressure points. There were groups of vertical lines on either side of the spinal column, on the calf of one leg, the instep of the other foot, his chest, one wrist, and even cross shapes on the back of one knee and an Achilles tendon. The significance of the meridian lines used to channel the body’s energy or life force was deemed remarkable since it was not thought acupressure existed outside of China at this time in history.

The practice of acupressure is seldom regulated and practitioners may or may not be well-trained. Like many things, the basic concepts can be used for a variety of things. While acupressure is most commonly used for medicinal and/or therapeutic purposes, it is also used in martial arts. The practice of Chin Na involves using basic acupressure knowledge to lock an opponent’s joints, thus preventing him movement or defense.

There is an old spiritual saying: “How you treat me is your karma. How I respond is mine.” There are many ways to touch people and acupressure and chin na are just two. We all have had instances where we have been drawn into negative situations; someone has “pushed out buttons”. The saying means that another person has determined what your emotional pressure points are and is using them to get a reaction from you. “Our anger or annoyance is more detrimental to us than the things themselves which anger or annoy us,” said Marcus Aurelius. The Roman philosopher knew the wisdom of what he was saying. Just because someone invites us to argue does not mean we must accept the invitation. Anger seldom solves anything.

Over the past two decades a popular television commercial for mobile phones involved a man walking around various locations asking “Can you hear me now?” Perhaps we should be asking “Can you feel me now?” The epiphany of the two German hikers in their discovery of a fifty-three hundred year old tattooed corpse shows the importance man has for the science of touch. Beneath the skin’s surface lies a network of cells called Merkel cells which transmit sensory impression to the brain. Based upon the signals received, the brain then responds with a release of hormones.

Jeanne AbateMarco of New York University’s Langone Medical Center explains: “Touch is our body’s largest and oldest sense. It’s a channel of communication. It’s integral to the human experience.” The type and number of times people touch each other physically differs based upon culture, ethnicity, age, and gender. Psychologist Sidney Jourard studied groups of friends over fifty years ago as they conversed and discovered that in England, the friends never touched each other. In the United States, the friends touched each other only twice but in France they touched up to one hundred times an hour and in Puerto Rico the number was one hundred and eighty times.

The science of touch and the history of acupressure all measure the importance and need mankind has to connect with each other. Physical touch has its place and importance but the bright idea for all of us is to realize and recognize that we are touching others by our every thought and action and deed. Our lives are interwoven into the fabric of life. When we reach out and touch we really do make the world a better place.

Pentecost 94

Pentecost 94
My Psalm 94

Compassion

“We don’t need another machine in the world. We already have a bunch of them. We need more emotion.” So said Adrian Romoff, a nine-year-old pianist from Atlanta, Georgia as he auditioned this year for a popular television talent program. There is a formula for musical performance and in his original audition piece, Romoff followed that formula. He played something with technical difficulty but more importantly, he played something with a “wow” factor. However, he was called on it and so, firmly believing in the above quote, he asked to play something else. His second piece backed up another quote of his: “There can never be a [successful] piano-playing robot.” Romoff let the emotion of his soul be the “wow” in his second performance and his audition was successful.

Sitting in a waiting area, whether at an airport or a hospital venue, one can hear amazing aspects of the human condition. The airport became a place of intense tension in the days after September 11, 2001. What had been seen as means of supersonic transport became tools of mass destruction. That irritating passenger who hogged your arm rest suddenly became a suspect who might just hold the rest of your life in their coat pocket. Still, life went on, almost defiantly and so, people continued their travel.

In late January 2002, an international cosmetics company held their annual convention and distributors traveled from around the world to the temperate locale of their meeting. Wearing the world-known colors of their company, the representatives, mostly women, streamed off planes and into the airport terminal. A week later, their pilgrimage reversed as they prepared to return home. Full of energy from their week of meetings and greetings, they viewed each person coming into the airport with a smile, sharing their energy. Per the new security procedures, though, most found themselves waiting in long lines to be checked. The cosmetics representatives, with hours of seminar trainings and sales techniques in their minds, began doing mini demonstrations to their fellow line-waiters. Flights were delayed as boarding procedures were complicated and one saw full-out facials being given in the waiting area seats. The smiles were contagious and the willingness to share alleviated the tension. Men and women alike felt the benefit of this accidental compassion in dealing with the unspoken fear of the situation.

A person in that airport on that day found themselves in a similar situation of “hurry up and wait” a few years later in a hospital emergency room waiting area. This time, though, the only thing on everyone’s mind was the misery that had brought them. The wait became protracted, even longer than the airport wait. The only communication between those waiting was to gripe about how long they had been there. The old adage “Misery loves company” had no takers that early morning. A young mother with two small children found herself with too much to bear and suddenly broke down crying. Our person who by now felt like an expert in waiting offered a package of crackers to the young mother and in doing so, a helping hand. Because of the airport experience several years earlier, our expert in waiting now kept a snack pack with them when waiting. Once again compassion alleviated a tense situation.

Compassion to many people is the offering of assistance. It actually means sharing misery or grief. It is a combination of two Latin words: “pati”, meaning suffer, and “com”, a prefix used to mean together or coming together. When we compassionate, according to the original definition, we are sharing the suffering and in doing so, making it better or, at least, bearable.

What does it take to offer compassion? How self-confident does one have to be to share in the emotion of the moment, to step outside of their own head space and share the feeling? “A human being is a part of a whole, called by us, the universe,” believed Einstein. Whether or not you think he was correct, it is an inescapable fact that we all live on this planet and thus, all live together, excepting for the three or four who may be on the International Space Station at any given moment. They, however, are dependent upon their life supports systems operated by those here on earth so, in my opinion, we all live together.

Recently I was asked to consider compassion but what I think I was asked to consider was really empathy. Empathy is the ability to put one’s self in the place of another and then offer compassion. Compassion would have been to join in the griping of those waiting in the hospital waiting area. If everyone gripes, then no one is seen as impatient and the group shares in the misery. Empathy was recognizing the situation, the lack of an easy and quick resolution for the parent, and then sharing the package of crackers with the young mother and children. Empathy does ot mean becoming a doormat for someone, though.

There are countless studies one can read about the mental development needed for developing compassion. I like some and dislike others. I feel I have that right because none of us are clones of each other and I think development is a unique process that each of us partakes in with similarities but no exactness. However, look at a twenty-four hour infant in a nursery and it is undisputable that the crying of other babies does not distress the infant. However, put that same baby is a nursery environment three months later and that baby recognizes the crying as a sign of distress and will look towards the baby crying and often, extend a hand. The infant, hopefully, has been nurtured in those three months and thus, compassion has subconsciously begun to take place and grow.

Gandhi advised us to “Be the change you want to see in the world.” There is no better place to start than with compassion and the resulting empathy. Perhaps it is to listen as the young girl in the waiting room seeks to be seen for herself, the cuts on her wrist evidence that she felt bereft of presence and the need to continue living. The simple act of a smile, especially to someone who feels invisible, can be life-saving. A facial might be extravagant and perhaps for many a useless luxury, but the exercise can be stress-relieving and valuable for those with anxiety. Taking a few seconds out of a busy schedule to look outside of your own situation, to forget one’s self and view the larger world might just be the best favor you ever do yourself. Like Adrian Romoff said: “We need more emotion.” We need more people not afraid to show emotion and share life.

My Psalm 94

O Lord, let me think kindly on those who do not.
Let me remember they also suffer who do not see the suffering of others.
They think I deserve my pain.
They think their refusal to help another is done in secret.
They forget, O Creator, that the Great One who made our eyes
Also sees.
They forget that he/she who fashioned our ears also hears the cries of life.
Let me walk in my own conscience and not follow their steps.
Let me not take own their problems and guilt.
Help me, O Lord, to be what I want to be.
Help me remember you are my greatest Source;
You are a constant help in everything.
Let me act in love and not turn away in fear.