Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Permission to Feel

My teacher, Peter Fenner, talks a fair amount about what he calls "spiritual bypassing."

There are a lot of people who engage in some kind of spiritual search as a kind of mental salve. Perhaps there is pain (emotional or physical) that can be numbed through meditation, or through hiding is some kind of empty state. After working at meditation for awhile, it can be relatively easy to float in a state where we can't really feel anymore. And one can substitute that practice for living. But that really isn't practice.

The hard part is to use practice to more fully open. There are so many things that we are afraid to feel. We may feel frustration about something going on at work, or we may feel like we really need to make some changes in our lives. It can be difficult to summon the courage to confront those feelings.

I have found that one of the most difficult things to do is to give myself permission to feel the way that I feel. To really dig in. If I am in pain, for example, the tendency is to push it away, or to find something to distract myself. But instead, if I can just say "it is okay to feel exactly how I am feeling right now," something different happens entirely.

When I have truly opened myself to what I am experiencing, I find that it is not nearly as bad as I thought it might be. In fact, I find that most of the bad stuff (sometimes all of it) was residing in my resistance, rather than in the experience or memory or thoughts themselves.

When I truly open to pain, I often can't find it anymore.

This isn't just another kind of salve. Sometimes I find a lot to explore, and that is okay, too. But the important thing to note is that opening oneself to an experience changes the experience. And there is power, and transformation in that.


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