Walking home a few nights ago, I found myself feeling very happy. This was probably due to a variety of factors, not the least being the Yellowtail Shiraz my good friend and I shared over a lovely dinner at his home, followed by a book chat with cheese! I had been thinking about my life a year ago and how utterly trapped I felt. Like when Ani DiFranco sings "There's got to be more than this boat I'm in." I had prayed to somehow find my way out of the dissatisfaction, the feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy. And then it suddenly occurred to me in that one cold, crisp moment that my prayers HAD been answered last year. I rediscovered church and my spirituality. I learned about inner joy and peace. I dealt with the reality of my relationship instead of obsessing on the past or longing for the future. My life is now full of potential and possibilty and now I realize that it always was.
And that's just the funny thing I've come to discover about emotions. They are 1) fleeting and temporary and therefore 2) not part of the essence that is me. Being aware of my emotions is not only to acknowledge them but also to separate/depersonalize them from who I am. So instead of being a happy/sad/bitter person, I am merely someone who experiences these feelings. As with all external experiences, these can influence me (if I so choose) but don't determine who I am or my actions(also my choice).
I caught myself personalizing feelings the other day when I was talking to a friend on the phone about my least favourite part of church. I don't particularly care for the "stand and greet those brothers and sisters in Christ" part. I stopped talking and thought about what I was feeling and came to realize that I wasn't upset about that at all. I was actually embarrassed that I was in church alone- feeling uncomfortable, outside my "comfort zone" if you will. I switched gears from a negative place to one that was more peaceful and in tune with my essence.
I've also noticed that my feelings often "overwhelm me" when I'm in periods of stress due to physical pain, lack of sleep or other outside factors. Knowing that these triggers exist, I can make allowances, being aware that I may experience stronger, more ego-driven emotions on that day. It's a bit like a weather forecast I suppose.
Merely being aware of this actually diminishes the intensity of the emotion. It's okay to feel things of course and I value emotions because that's what makes me alive, human. In addition, I treasure the positive joyful feelings I have so much more, knowing that they are precious and fleeting but are not the essence of me.
At this point you may be asking- what IS our essence then? If it isn't our ego, experiences, feelings or ideas? I think Jesus already revealed this when he said "Right now three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love (1 Cor.13:13)." When we are born, these are what we come into the world with, everything else is baggage that we choose to carry (or not). And when we die, we leave all that baggage behind. The only things we can take with us are peace, hope and love.
As you go about your day today try to be aware of the difference between your feelings and your center, your essence, your core, your chi, your spirit or your soul. Just like the sun, it's always there, even though (much like the winter lately) you can't always see it!