Uncomfortable Feelings – March 23 2020

The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.

Brene´ Brown

In this moment of our lives we all are living in the great unknown. None of us know how long we will be sequestered, whether we will or will not contract the virus, how our lives will change as a result of this world-wide upheaval.

The unknown triggers us into fight/flight/freeze. (This is why we’re always trying to ‘figure things out;’ as if knowing will take away our fear and anxiety.) The loss – of life, of wealth, of opportunity, personal as well as societal – of this experience will break our hearts. The restriction of our movement, of our social interaction, will make us anxious and vulnerable. The anger of our need to survive will cause us to seek out an enemy – our partners, parents, politicians, ethnic groups, God, even ourselves.

Most of these feelings we will not want to feel at all. Who wants to be frightened, angry, vulnerable, sad? Whole industries are built on how to avoid these feelings. But now we are at home, some of us completely alone, and stuck with ourselves. If ever there were a time we needed to feel our feelings, it would be now.

To feel our feelings we must insist on being present to the sensations of our body. We must get in touch with the ugly, uncomfortable churning of our guts, the flutter in our chest, the clenching of our muscles. We must settle into the experience of gravity on our body and see where we are trying to hold ourselves up, trying to avoid how it ‘feels to be me.’ Breathe into the uncomfortable areas, and the seemingly void areas, and ask what is the sensation here? Notice if we hold our breath. Notice how our mind wants to skip to story, or dismiss this process. Notice the sensations, feel them as deeply as possible and pay no attention at all to the stories set in motion by the experience.

Perhaps it will feel like a punch in the gut. Or black snakes swirling in the belly. Like pins and needles all through our chest. Like an electric eel wrapped around our throat. Perhaps we will need to cry. Or yell into a pillow. Or punch the bed. Anything that won’t hurt ourselves or anyone else.

Do this for five minutes. Or ten. Or 15. Set a timer. When it goes off, stop. Then go about the business of the day.

Once a day, at least. Be present in the way it feels to be in a body, rather than in an intellect.

And don’t forget to breathe.

Today I will spend five or ten or 15 minutes feeling the sensations of my body, without listening to the stories my head wants to tell me about them, or about me, or about the world. And I will remind myself to breathe (and wash your hands and take care of yourself. Radical self-care for the good of all.)

Bud Powell in the Garden, tintype, Studio City CA

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