Rediscovering the Ability to Feel

One of the fruitions of practice is becoming conscious of the inner energy field of the body – the sensations, heat and movement that make up our felt-sense of being alive.

When we ground the system to the earth and bring gentle, loving awareness to the body, what we experience are a series of sensations and energy appearing now. This is the real body before we conceptualize it.

What we notice about this body is that it moves and flows. Sensations, tingling, heat, particles, waves all come and go, gently vibrating. We all feel this in our own unique way and it is not particularly mystical (although many people are almost completely unaware of it).

The more we sit and become conscious of this inner body, the more subtle layers reveal themselves. In other words, we slowly reclaim our ability to feel.

This reclaiming takes time, because for most of us, there is a deep taboo (often linked to early development) around feeling fully.

There is pervasive unconscious sense that if we felt everything fully, we would die, or become totally overwhelmed, or totally lose control of our lives. This insistence that feeling should be suppressed or avoided lies at the root of almost all egoic defense mechanisms.

At the same time, there is something so innocent in it. Of course we formed defenses to not feel when we were young. We were not capable of processing pain at that stage. So, we don’t blame. We simply look. We investigate whether resisting or avoiding still serves.

One way to view stillness practice in this context is that we are slowly, over time, building our capacity to feel challenging states that would have previously resulted in dissociation or overwhelm.

When we say “building capacity,” we do not simply mean a cognitive willingness to face what is difficult, but also the actual ability for the nervous system and energy body to channel the challenging sensations and energies that are at the root of conditioned patterns.

Reframing How Core Wounds are Healed

Building up our ability to directly experience and channel the energy of our core wounds is an organic process that takes time. Part of navigating this process skillfully is getting clear about how core wounds come to rest.

Many of us harbor a fantasy of just “wanting to be done with it” all at once. There is a sense of exhaustion of facing what seems like the same pattern, over and over again, for years and decades. There is a wish for some final battle where we face whatever leftovers are in there in an epic showdown!

This is understandable. Transformation is not for the faint of heart! At the same time, we want to take a closer look at how transformation occurs. The first thing we find is that we are not simply transforming thought structures. If that were the case, we would all be enlightened after a few sessions of cognitive therapy! Instead, what makes something a pattern or a syndrome is the connection of our thinking to the deepest, most instinctual layers of the self.

Releasing these layers is serious business. It is also a profoundly feeling-based process that requires significant periods of time to integrate. A good data point is the energetic intensity we experience in the compulsion to check our smartphone. If such a small compulsion carries that much charge, what does that say about the sense of being abandoned, or never seen, or never understood?

It says that these energies must be allowed to unravel organically in cycles over time so that the transformation can actually integrate and stick.

It says that, despite our infinite nature, we can only process so much at once.

It says that the healing process has a natural rhythm to it that is way beyond our pay grade to understand.

So we go slowly. Fortunately our system has an innate intelligence for how we unfold. Our "training" is really a learning in how to not hijack that process, interfere with it, or overlay our limited understanding on it.

In developing the felt-sense and learning to channel sensation and feeling, there are two basic ways we interfere:

  • The first is that we push too much while ignoring the signals the system is giving us to rest, get up, and do something else. Basically, we push the system over-threshold, and while we may still look like we are sitting there "diligently doing the practice," internally we are disassociated (over-threshold means the intensity of the energy was too great for us to remain conscious with - this is the root of dissociative states both in the spiritual and trauma contexts).

  • The second is that we are constantly "opening the oven door." While it is currently popular to point out the dangers of over-activation, under-activation is actually just as much of a problem (even in trauma healing). You cannot deactivate something unless it is brought to threshold in awareness! This means that if we are constantly avoiding intensity of any kind, there is really no way to make progress with our conditioned patterns.

These tendencies are not "types of people" per se - most of us do both at one time or another. We work with these tendencies by asking questions and letting Wisdom-Mind answer. As we sit and we don't know what to do, we ask:

  • "Is it time for me to get up?"

  • "Is it time to stay with?"

We grow accustomed to communicating with awareness-itself about what the next move is, rather than relying on second-hand information or external authority.