Don't Follow your Feelings

By Gail Brenner

I know what it’s like to live a life driven by emotion, and believe me, it won’t make you happy. Someone shows up late, and you’re angry. You get some negative feedback, and you sulk in sadness. You live in anxiety, chewing on thoughts about what will happen next and if it will all be okay.
It’s like you’re a yo-yo on a string, with your happiness tied to all the circumstances in your life that you can’t control. If you ask me, this is no way to live.
So what’s the alternative? Bring loving, spacious awareness to your emotions. Get curious about them. Know them intimately so they lose their power to control your every move.
Until you become fully aware of your inner experiences, emotions will rule. They’re highly conditioned reactions that take up residence in your body, mind, and heart. They’re so automatic that you’re in deep way before you realize it.
Out of the blue, a memory gets triggered. If you don’t catch it, you’re immediately consumed in a cloud of sadness and frustration that can color your whole day…and life.
And the effects of feelings ripple out.
If you make decisions based on unexplored emotions, you’re unlikely to be happy and fulfilled. You feel empty and choose the first potential partner who comes along, even though the red flags are flying everywhere. Because you’re afraid, you don’t reach out to engage fully in the world. Your resentment keeps your heart closed and your relationships stuck year after year.
Shining the spotlight of awareness on emotions changes everything. Instead of avoiding or trying to change your feelings, you become aware of them.
Then, amazingly, you realize you don’t need to follow them into chaos and confusion.
You can follow the truth speaking through you that is in harmony with all of life.
Get to know how feelings move in you so you can learn to spot them.

  • What triggers you?  
  • What repetitive story runs in your mind?

Difficult feelings are like old friends who have overstayed their welcome. You’re used to them being around, but you don’t really enjoy their company.
Know this, in your heart of hearts: Feelings are temporary, and you can let them go. They don’t have to guide and define you. Moment after moment, you can find the place in you that is free of emotion. And when you do, you’ll live there happily with clarity, intelligence, and love.

PRACTICE: When you’re caught in a problem or struggle, go right to the feeling that is causing the trouble.
Take a look at the big picture so you can see how the emotion isn’t serving you. Is it fear or anger? Sadness or jealousy? Is it helping or hurting?
Acknowledge the feeling, welcome it, and breathe into the space around it. And when you’re ready, bundle it up and place it to the side. Experience your body free of the weight of the feeling and your mind no longer entangled in thinking.

Excerpt from Gail’s latest book, At the Core of Every Heart: Reflections, Insights, and Practices for Waking Up and Living Free

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