“Loving is listening. Loving is feeling. Loving is embodied.”
I wrote these words in my journal this Valentine’s Day morning. I had woken up with a feeling of trepidation about an event I had on my schedule today, and I felt myself push that feeling away.
I noticed myself not listening to my heart.
I learned not to “do feelings” as a kid. I grew up in a family where feelings weren’t especially welcome.
Growing up in a family that “doesn’t do feelings” is common.
I think many middle-aged Americans grew up in families that greeted our feelings with irritation or even hostility. My mom used to say, “If you’re going to cry, I’ll give you something to cry about.”
I learned from my parents, and from the culture, that my feelings were best ignored. What I felt was both unimportant AND something to be feared, controlled, and sequestered. Very confusing.
Over time, I learned to ignore my emotions myself before anyone else got the chance to tell me they were silly, and I got really good at it. Why have feelings, or desires, if they only cause pain? Ignoring my feelings, or judging myself for my feelings, is probably the most common way that I’m mean to myself.
Unfortunately for me, and for all of us who have learned to ignore our feelings, they don’t go away. Feelings exist to be felt, and when they’re not felt, they do all sorts of damage.
What I’m finally learning, in ripe middle age, is that my feelings are precious pearls of wisdom. My feelings are jewels. My feelings are signposts. My feelings are priceless.
My word for 2016 is “heart,” and the Lenten discipline that chose me this year is to listen. (Is it a coincidence that the first four letters of “heart” spell “hear”?)
I’m feeling led to further refine my Lenten discipline. I’m committing to listening to other people with intention and presence. I’m also committing to listening to myself with compassion — to hearing and honoring my feelings.
I’m finding two tools very useful in practicing compassionate listening to myself.
The first one is Dr. Tara Brach’s RAIN process: Recognize the feeling. Allow the feeling. Investigate the feeling. Non-identify with the feeling.
The second tool I’m finding useful is the Awareness Wheel, a tool developed to help couples communicate more effectively. I find “doing a wheel” an extremely helpful tool for clarifying what’s going on with me on many levels, and to help my brain talk to my heart. Here’s a link.
If you, like me, have gotten really good at being mean to yourself by ignoring or belittling your feelings, I invite you to join me in giving yourself the gift of feeling what you feel. You’ll survive, and your life will be enriched beyond your wildest hopes.
Loving is listening. Loving is feeling. Loving is being in this miraculous body on this amazing Earth with gratitude and compassion.