Letter 49: Feelings and Meditation
Although I promised to introduce you to some of the demons that may play a role in our thoughts and actions on an unconscious level, it would be good to spend a little more time with our feelings.
We actually hardly ever take note of our feelings unless they overwhelm us; from our youth onwards we learn to ignore and suppress our irritation, anger and sadness. We store them unfortunately in our body, where they are held out of the way in a confined area by our energetic system, where they will not hinder our perceived chances of survival, being loved, accepted and secure. But this suppression requires an enormous amount of energy, causing tension and an obstruction to the general flow of energy. This may be manifested in some cases in physical symptoms.
Once we have managed to quieten our mind at times with the help of the mantra, we enjoy the silence, but after some time this is disturbed by further thoughts, now not of a superficial nature but deeper and more fundamental. We have reached the level of these buried feelings and memories. John Main called this: “the darker level of consciousness of repressed fears and anxieties” and Laurence Freeman: “psychological distractions” and sees the ego here as “dressed in the more dramatic period costumes of the different stages of our psychological history”. When we enter the forest of the silence of meditation, we meet both the beauty and the beast: both forgotten memories of beautiful moments and painful ones. Often feelings linked to this repressed material, rise to the surface first: joy bubbles up, peace reigns, tears flow unexpectedly and feelings of anger and irritation come to the fore.
These are the tears we did not cry when we were hurt, this is the anger and irritation we felt at a time when it was not appropriate to express them. Allowing them to rise to consciousness is healing: all this pent-up energy is freed and no longer causes a block in our emotional energetic being. They have been in our being for years as frozen emotions, blocks of ice; all we need to do is hold them up to the Light and Compassion of the Divine and they will melt. We often don’t know the causes of these feelings anymore but that does not matter; the fact that they are released is the important point. Let these feelings come up, don’t repress them again. Just take note of them and whatever you do, do not act them out. But they do need to be clearly accepted. Sometimes we may feel the need to understand these feelings, especially if their associations are to traumatic incidents. Here psychotherapy alongside meditation will be helpful.
At other times insights are afforded in the roots of our present behaviour, highlighting the causes of our habitual patterns of behaviour, our social and emotional conditioning. Then we become aware how conditioned we are and how unfree, but in doing so we are one step closer to loosening the bonds that bind us. The most important part of this process is acknowledging and lovingly accepting these rejected memories and emotions and learn from them. The key element in dealing with these issues is trust; trust that every step of the way we are accompanied by our spiritual ‘self’, nourished by the Cosmic Spirit.
In Hebrew, Greek and Latin the word for wind also means breath and spirit. When strong emotions surface during meditation it may help to think of the Spirit entering when you are breathing in and sweeping out fear and pain when breathing out. The energy needed for bottling up these emotions for so long is thus also released.
But at the same time we need to avoid adding to this store by becoming aware of our present feelings and sensations. Here is where mindfulness plays such a part, as explained by Evagrius. Don’t suppress your feelings. Instead really become aware of them, really feel your emotions, become totally aware of where in our body we feel them, what sensations are associated with them. By really paying attention, by mindfulness, we actually create a distance between ourselves and these particular feelings, so we are not overwhelmed by them and unconsciously steered by them.
One of the most important factor underlying all feelings and thoughts is the most basic need in human beings – survival. To survive we need the following: love, security, esteem, power, control and pleasure.Most psychologist agree on this but may lay more emphasis on one aspect or the other. Evagrius’ demons are the result of any of these needs not being met at all or only partially. When we are steered by these wounds our desires and actions are out of balance – disordered.
Next week we will really meet these demons hiding in our thoughts and actions.