A Full Awareness of the Feelings

A Full Awareness of the Feelings

By Jack Kornfield

This is a second principle for releasing repeated patterns-Open to a Full Awareness of the Feelings. It is the feeling level that controls most of our inner life, yet often we are truly unconscious of our feelings. Our culture has taught us contraction and suppression-“showing emotions” is not seemly for a man, and only certain emotions are allowed for women. One cartoon depicting our ambivalence showed a woman consulting her fortune-teller about why her husband would not talk about his feelings. Looking into her crystal ball, the fortune-teller declared that “Next January, American men will begin to talk about their feelings. Women all over the country will be sorry within minutes.” This is the conflict we face.

When we have not learned to talk about feelings or even to be aware of them, our life remains entangled. For many meditators, reclaiming an awareness of feelings is a long and difficult process. Yet in Buddhist psychology bringing consciousness to feelings is critical for awakening. In a teaching called the Cycle of the Arising Conditions, the Buddha explains how humans become entangled. It is the place of feeling that binds us or frees us. When pleasant feelings arise and we automatically grasp them, or when unpleasant feelings arise and we try to avoid them, we set up a chain reaction of entanglement and suffering. This perpetuates the body of fear. However, if we learn to be aware of feelings without grasping or aversion, then they can move through us like changing weather, and we can be free to feel them and move on like the wind. It can be a very interesting meditation exercise to focus specifically on our feelings for several days. We can name each one and see which ones we are afraid of, which we are entangled by, which generate stories, and how we become free. “Free” is not free from feelings, but free to feel each one and let it move on, unafraid of the movement of life. We can apply this to the difficult patterns that arise for us. We can sense what feeling is at the center of each experience and open to it fully. This is a movement toward freedom.

This excerpt is taken from the book, “A Path With Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life

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