What are feelings anyway?

As a writer there are words I really like, but don’t use because it never seems appropriate. When do you need mellifluous in a sentence? When does communication justify apogee, let alone demand it (outside astronomy)?

But if you know these words, you can use them! You are the master of your own vocabulary and you don’t need an excuse or a chance to use words you love to read and sound.

Favourite feelings

Life has introduced us not only to wonderful words but wonderful feelings; yet we treat them in the same way. I once felt exquisite joy, and maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to have an excuse to feel it again!

Circumstances once dictated a buoyant felicity but lately things have been utterly crap so I’ve put that good feeling in the archives for now.

These days everyday life seems to demand a grinding slog, so I keep that feeling near at hand to save me having to go look for it.

Feeling good is the goal

We’ve fallen hard for a big mistake: we think our feelings are by-products, epiphenomena, of material causes. We think things make us feel a certain way.

And even with the Abraham-Hicks material we can persist with this mistake, believing that our thoughts make us feel a certain way.

That’s not the worst interpretation to hold, but how about this instead: Feeling is what makes us feel a certain way, and reality helps inspire us to better and better feeling, but it doesn’t make us feel.

If you like the word mellifluous then use it wherever and however you like. If you like the feeling of freedom, relief, and peace, you can find those feelings and indulge in them anytime.

If we could take the feeling as prior and substantial instead of subsequent and ephemeral, then life would be very different. If I had sought feeling as the spiritual treasure instead of using it to keep score of how well I was doing, then I’d be there right now, feeling good and not caring about anything else.

What are feelings anyway?

I’m not going to launch into some deep-dive philosophical or historical, but I’ve been fascinated by past glimpses of the old view of human emotions in the medieval and classical world.

Back when I used to read Aquinas, he would describe, as if it were obvious, how feelings of love and joy are physically expansive and warming of the body, while in sadness and fear the vitality is suppressed or shrinks as evidenced by cold and shaking in the extremities and loss of colour in the complexion.

It’s fascinating not only that they had such a holistic view of the mind and body working together, but that joy and love were synonymous wth vitality whereas sorrow was directly opposed to it!

Feelings could be interpreted not as some messy and unnecessary mental by-product but as the very experience of life expanding and shrinking in response to our perceptions and experiences.

Consider in that context the significance of divinely infused love and joy, life eternal that did not shrink from worldly circumstances but trusted in the undying nature of the spirit that sustained it.

Participation in life, felt as joy and love, or to put it another way: the realisation that love and joy are our human experience of life itself.

Feeling is life itself

If we could understand our feelings as our experience of the life in us, the spirit that animates us, then reaching for and allowing good feelings to flow is literally the substance of our life and happiness here and now. And (to tie it all back) what could be more mellifluous than that? ūüėĄ

Life is meant to be fun

My wife told me last night that winning a Nobel Prize extends your lifespan. Assuming the researchers did their homework, that means fame and adulation for one’s life’s work actually helps you live longer.

Good feelings are good. Life is not meant to be grim and miserable, it is meant to be fun and enjoyable. All it takes to let it be fun and enjoyable is to stop focusing on thoughts that feel bad and start focusing on thoughts that feel good.

Gradual improvements

If you persist with this practice, your feelings will gradually change and so will your circumstances. When we focus on thoughts that feel bad, we are drawn to more thoughts and circumstances that match. We unwittingly refuse, resist, and sabotage the good things in life because we’re not willing or practiced at going along with them.

When you focus on thoughts that feel good, thoughts of fun and enjoyment and appreciation, you allow those feelings to gain momentum in your life and open yourself to receive circumstances and conditions that match these good feelings.

Making fun of life

If you can find a feeling of fun in yourself, then you can expect fun to fill your life as well. It just depends on how consistently you can enjoy a feeling of fun without getting thrown off by negative thoughts.

The more frequently you enjoy good feelings, the better your life will feel. You’ll start to see that people who once looked like “victims” of their reality are steadfastly focused on bad-feeling thoughts and circumstances; and the baddest-feeling thought of all is that “I have no control over my circumstances”.

Focusing on fun feelings today is helping me appreciate that I have great potential in this. There’s a lot of fun available to me, and I’m inspired to see how this fun feeling will unfold in my experience, what signs and manifestations will turn up in response to my new point of focus.

Feel good all day 13

Would you like to feel deserving of all good things?

It’s hard to suddenly feel worthy after decades or even a lifetime of feeling unworthy.

But it’s just momentum, old habits of thought. And while it takes time and practice to slow the momentum of negative thoughts and build up positive thoughts, you don’t have to wait to feel deserving, worthy, and full of joy.

Imagine how you would feel

Can you imagine how you might feel if you did think you were worthy of all good things, and deserving of the most profound and beautiful happiness?

Can you imagine how you would feel if you right now believed God dwelt within you and you were pure and whole and worthy of all the joy and love you desire?

Can you go to the feeling place, the feeling you will have one day, when you accept to your very core that God loves you, that you are an extension of pure positive energy, of pure being, and you completely deserve a life aligned with all the goodness and joy that is you?

If you can feel how it would feel…that’s the path of least resistance. That’s bootstrapping, time-travelling, paradoxical awesomeness right there.

If you can imagine it (might take some focus) then you can feel it. And if you can feel it, you’re right then and there building momentum of it and draining the momentum of negative thoughts.

The next step is to look at life with that feeling still in you. Look at your life with the feeling of someone who deserves happiness and ease and joy and love and all good things!

Let this wonderful feeling gently seep into your reality. Respond to life from this feeling place of worthiness and desert and life will reflect this change in you.

Breaking all the rules

What do the rules mean to you?

To me the rules always seemed bland, boring and miserable.

Whatever success or happiness I enjoyed always seemed to be an exception to the rules.

So I came to expect that my happiness in life had to be “different” and “exceptional” by other people’s standards.

There are no such rules

But what I thought were “the rules” were never any such thing. They were merely the preferences and opinions of the people around me.

Those people were creating their own reality, just as I create mine. Yet by giving priority to those who had “been around longer” I ended up treating my own preferences and perspective as unusual.

I couldn’t get them to validate my perspective, so I viewed it as anomalous myself.

That’s a recipe for frustration because everything I want became, by definition, exceptional, and I grew averse to anything “ordinary” or “normal”.

Yet saying “this is what I want” and in the next breath “but I know it’s unusual, exceptional, and not the norm” means I’ve created a sense of conflict and implausibility to the things I desire.

Imagine someone who tells you their dream is to be an astronaut or a famous actor or a concert pianist, and hurriedly goes on to explain how unlikely that is!

What is normal for me?

I would probably feel a whole lot better if I stopped using other people’s lives as the measure of mine.

Better yet, if I stop using my impression of other people’s perceptions and experiences as the standard.

Why not let my own preferences and desires become normal for me? Why not use my own feelings as the guide, rather than my fear of others’ misunderstanding of me?

I found great strength in the realisation that no one else will live my life for me. Why not take the next logical step of endorsing my own life, opinions, preferences and perspectives as the norm for me?

The feeling of freedom

I saw some kid sitting against a fence by the bus stop waiting for his bus.

Seeing him there alone and waiting, somewhere to go but no hurry to be there, reminded me of a feeling I used to have.

The feeling of freedom. The freedom of no cares and no worries, walking out into the world and feeling existence surround me.

Feeling my own solitude against the world. The isolation and potential of nothing I need to be doing.

Having kids, a home, a wife; people and things to come back to. Yes, they tether me. But they don’t have to.

Freedom is a mental condition. Driving a car can feel like freedom, or it can be a tense, white-knuckle experience.

You can relax behind the wheel and hit some kind of zen-like trance where everything feels connected and flowy.

So why not relax behind life? Loosen your grip on the reins or the wheel, take your foot off the brake. Trust your instincts, trust the journey, trust the flow.

The world is still completely free. It never changed from when I was young and solitary.

I’m still alone, but I also have people I care about, and do you think that’s not part of the flow too?

It’s not my efforts or worry that keep the world going. My heart won’t stop beating if I let go nor will I forget to take my next breath.

If I’m tied down, let the ties do their work! Relax and know that nothing I want will drift away or be lost.

I’m just another ingredient in this beautiful medley. Counting heart beats or following my breath, I’m free to be just a piece of this grand composition that is living me.

That’s what freedom means. Life is loving me and not an atom of my whole experience needs my work to hold it in place.

And on the contrary there are many many wonderful things waiting to join in if I just give them the space to enter, and my willingness to appreciate what they bring.

Happiness Challenge Day 10

Feeling good is your magic power.

I used to love fantasy stories as a kid, and even as I grew up I longed to find magic in the real world.

Eventually I grew disenchanted, and sought my magic in spiritual teachings instead.

But I’ve found my magic power after all. It’s called feeling good, and though I’m only a novice at it I can already see the effects of this magic in myself and in my world.

If I could go back in time I would teach my younger self exactly what I’m learning now.

Feeling good is the key; practice reaching for thoughts that feel good, no matter what the circumstances.

My favourite thing to do right now is to sit and simply feel good.

Well I say “simply” but I’m also aware that by feeling good I’m allowing this magic to spread within myself and through the farthest reaches of my reality.

In untold and mysterious ways, my feeling good benefits and improves everything and everyone around me.

My feeling good works magic on the whole of life, because in fact it is “life” itself that causes the good feeling in me.

It might make more sense to some readers if instead of “feeling good” I called it meditation or contemplative prayer.

All those monks and nuns and hermits and spiritual people around the world, sitting daily or on their knees communing with God or drawing on the great reserve of love and compassion and radiating it out to the entire world: they know what they’re doing is magical. They feel their part in the deep wellspring of peace and joy that flows to all of us, even if we are not ready to receive it.

Do you know that what we call God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and exists outside of time and space? So when we pray or meditate on this pure Being we participate in something totally transcendent.

And at the same time we allow that totally transcendent Being of pure love to participate in us and in our reality.

That is why this practice feels so good that it might as well be magic.

Your beliefs do shape your experience

Every experience tells a story. Every experience has something to teach you.

I’ve been turning these ideas over in my mind lately, and in the past day or two¬†it’s become even more important to me.

An example I like to use is when my wife and a good friend were having a conversation and I suddenly felt left out and ignored. I waited, but they continued to ignore me, both in the conversation and in terms of their body language.

I ended up feeling put out by this, and later I brought it up with my wife and my friend separately.

My friend said “if you felt left out, why didn’t you join in?”

and my wife said “actually I was waiting for you to join in the conversation but you didn’t for some reason.”

So why hadn’t I just joined in?

The truth (though I had to search for it) was that I was too afraid to jump into the conversation in case they didn’t want me to be a part of it. I had read distance in their body language, and that made me anticipate a risk of failure if I came close and tried to take part.

But the irony is that I was already standing back from them from the moment the three of us met. My own body language was retreating from the engagement, leaving a vacuum that they filled with their own conversation.

The weren’t distancing themselves from me, they were responding to my own distance, which I had failed to acknowledge in myself.

How many times do we create the circumstances we fear?

Time and time again I’ve noticed in hindsight that I had produced, or imagined, the challenges and obstacles that shape my life for the worst. I have unwittingly created¬†the very incidents and experiences that reinforce my pessimism, my hostility, my self-pity, and most of the time I haven’t even stopped to question the beliefs and assumptions behind those experiences.

In all aspects of life, my experiences are a reflection of my own beliefs about reality and about the way the world works.

My sense of what is possible and what is impossible. My sense of what is proper and improper. My attempts to ‘read’ other people’s attitudes to me….The truth is that we don’t know what is possible and impossible, and from that point every other assumption is thrown into doubt as well.

Every experience I have is reflecting something about my beliefs and my expectations within that context.

For instance, right now I’m brewing a beer. Brewing takes about four hours, and though it’s very much a worthwhile process, for me the experience feels like work. It’s a chore, and I fully expect to be tired and worn out by the end of it.

But why?

If I examine it more closely, there’s no reason I can’t relax and take it easy while still brewing. It’s not physically or mentally demanding, so long as you’re organised.

If you set a timer, you can forget about it until the timer reminds you. You don’t have to keep watching the clock.

You can worry about whether you’re doing the process correctly, but if you’ve already researched it then further worry is just a choice.

What is this experience telling me? It’s telling me that I view work as something burdensome and incompatible with a happy and relaxed frame of mind. Work is not enjoyable. Work is hard, monotonous, dull, and stressful.

There are aspects of brewing beer that are intrinsic to the process, but countless components of my personal brewing experience are entirely dependent on my choices, which are in turn dependent on my beliefs about life and reality.

Every instance, every experience is like this. I can’t fault or blame the experience or reality for being the way that it is. Or if I do, I am once again creating a situation that reflects my beliefs and expectations. If I want to feel helpless, then I need only believe that I am.

If I want to feel that life is difficult and challenging and ultimately disappointing, if I want to believe that all good things must fail, then I need only act accordingly.

You’d be amazed at how efficiently and unfailingly an individual can sabotage their own life so as to feel the disappointment and suffering they expect to find.

But what’s the alternative?

Well, I firmly believe (and so increasingly experience) that if we become aware of our own stake in these conflicts, our own role in creating them, we will gradually cease to create them this way.

When something good in your life looks like it’s coming to an end, must it really be so? Isn’t it reflecting back to you your own deepest expectations and beliefs about life?

I guarantee that if you look at it this way, if you ask yourself why you haven’t done things differently, why you accept the limitations, or why you feel powerless to change, you will arrive not at absolute obstacles but at your own self-imposed limits. You’ll discover that you’ve ruled out any alternative answers already, and so you’re not willing to try anything different.

Ignorance blinds us.

I didn’t know that I had distanced myself from my wife and my friend long before I felt excluded. Once I knew that I had done that, I could choose not to do it.

Maybe your mind works differently, but for me this is always the case.

I didn’t realise I had already decided that brewing must be onerous and time-consuming and must monopolise my attention for four hours. It doesn’t have to. There are steps where I have to pay attention, but there are also periods where I can ignore it. Likewise, if the time commitment really bothers me, I could buy equipment that would make heating and cooling much faster, or automate parts of the process. But that would touch on a whole slew of complicated beliefs about money!

The moral of the story is that our experiences are shaped far more than we realise by our own beliefs and expectations. Accordingly, our experiences can teach us a great deal about those beliefs and expectations.

We worry about external things, but our understanding of those external things Рeven our experience of them Рis profoundly mediated by our beliefs and expectations.

We think we know how people will act and react to us. And so long as we act and react in the same old ways, we’re probably right. But the moment we change, everything¬†changes.