Enlightening the Passions – Day 19 (Dark Waves)

Providence has hidden a charm in difficult undertakings which is appreciated only by those who dare to grapple with them. — Anne-Sophie Swetchine; The Writings of Madame Swetchine

The day has only just begun and Madam J. dropped by much more forcefully than she did yesterday. Only now, given the right circumstance for this investigation, I could uncover again the deep, and in a way soft sadness that’s underneath Madam J’s trappings. I don’t know where this somewhat paralyzing feeling comes from. It is connected with a feeling of being forlorn and seems to want to be beyond consolation.
Do I need to go through this again and again and again?
I would so much love to be in my generous heart, and in my sadness I also know, that this cannot be ‘done’. I remember the change I wrote about yesterday, and keep reminding myself of it. And looking out of my window across the street to the houses on the other side of the street I know that behind those windows there are all kinds of people with a multitude of feelings, some maybe even with the type of sad feelings I’m having. All of us are casted in roles and a play that we have both chosen and not chosen, moved or at least effected by the feelings that go with that. And then I think if I should choose a very different course than the one I’m taking now, “Would that make a real difference?”

Reflecting on my life and its different periods, full of all kinds of searches and journeys towards change, toward exploration, towards an enlightened life. And I see now that I’ve always moved, even in the times that were very much enlightened, with my general feeling. Never mind the period of my life, there were always irritating, challenging and even desperate times. Surely there seems to be an overall movement into more encompassing levels of being with and in this world we all share, but that doesn’t seem to effect the feelings other than allowing me to feel more intensely, more fine-grained and more unrestrictedly.
“No salvation from feeling,” I think. But then, would I want to be in a place where there are no feelings at all? No bodies that are prerequisite to feeling? (Not that I remember how it was without a body, but I seem to be convinced that feeling needs a warm-blooded vessel, at least the kind that I’m looking at now – including the extatic and blissfull ones.)
Thinking of the people that I’ve hung out with more or less intensely that are deemed to be ‘enlightened’, they also where feeling everything, and, come to think of it, some were quite unconscious about what they were feeling and how it influenced their behavior. Actually in their teaching and in what they expressed it was clear that they regarded themselves as having transcended this. But from where I stand now I would say that transcending this is not an option. From my perspective, enlightenment as I’ve seen it manifested is just the most sophisticated denial of the fires of the living available for us.

So would I exchange what I’m going through in this situation for another one? If I could pick and choose from the shelves of destiny like it were a super-market, yes certainly, I would. Real life is different though, and there is – apart from miracles that are just that, miraculous – real limits to what is possible.
I’ve chosen to not do the classical things, separate, create pressure, sulk, etc. But even if I would go, there would always be “negative feelings” and the challenge that comes with that. So really, the only true choice is between being fully alive with feeling and opening up to unforeseen possibilities that come out of the feelings themselves…

When the larger waves of sadness crash on me, what I said above doesn’t come to mind, that’s obvious of course. What comes to mind is headlines and scenes that reinforce me feeling sad. And “unrestricting myelf”, being with my feeling, also means to simply not take the easy ways out what most of these headlines and scenes offer – “Close down”, “Create more distance”, “Get angry and take revenge”, “At least change the topic”, etc.. So sadness remains, even if I really have no idea where it comes from, what it does mean beyond the obvious phrases that can be used in such a situation – and which actually are used by some friends if I don’t stop them from consoling me, offering help, advise or righteous anger.
The sadness makes me tired, is incapacitating me. So in the course of the day a slight tinge of anger, a kind of “leave me alone!” vibration, has helped to keep me going, though. If I were to boldly exaggerate I’d say that the sadness makes me want to lie down and fade away whereas the anger channels enough energy to me to keep on going.

In all of this there is also the notion that even though ‘challenging’ feelings might be specific to the state I’m in, feelings of bliss are also state-specific – they come, for instance, in times when my whole soul expands to embrace all existence and non-spacetime as well. So feelings are state-specific, and the states to which these feelings belong exist independent of the developmental level I’m generally on. They can be likened to parts of our body that remain more or less the same, regardless of our development: Just as a hand so is the pain of a baby the same hand and pain that an old, wise man might feel, and the joy of a little kid is the same a wise old lady feels.
If this is more than a notion and holds true – and right now I can’t remember situations in my own life where it hasn’t – then as much as inner growth and maturation is beautiful, the basic challenges remain, at least if one goes for being “aware and feelingly presenct;” this being shorthand for the continual practice of ‘unrestricting’ myself, reality-dialoging my hunches, ideas and yes also what the feelings tell me. By reality-dialoging I mean, if a person is involved asking them, if this or that feeling is correct,  or telling them what touches or moves my heart right now. Even if that is in itself something that makes me feel “ashamed to ask”.


Starting up the experiment
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4 (Powerlessness)
Day 5
Day 6 (Jealousy)
Day 7 (Guilt & Jealousy)
Day 8
Day 9 (Shame)
Day 10 (Interlude)
Day 11 (Under Pressure)
Day 12
Day 13 (Clear Delight)

Day 14
Day 15 & 16
Day 17
Day 18
Day 19 (Dark Waves)
Day 20 (Time Out)
Day 21 (Splash)
Day 22 (Understanding)
Day 23 (Fear & Imagination)
Day 24 (Vulnerable)
Day 25
Day 26 (The Presence of The Past)
Ending the Experiment – Day 27 (Intentional Vulnerability)

Enlightening the Passions – Day 3 (Powerless Anger)

Today was challenging – yes indeed.
Maybe because I took another close look at “powerless anger” (ohnmächtige Wut), and maybe also because a major triggering event recurred today in my relationship. Maybe also because I experienced strong waves of (unfulfilled) desire, and maybe because all of this came on strong together.
What’s clear is that the stories around these challenging waves are basically legitimate, and that this very legitimacy in turn fuels the feelings. When I feel that, for instance, my anger is righteous or just (that it is right to want to do away with the cause), than that is not very helpful in supporting me to embrace the feeling but rather it pushes me to do something about the cause and thereby ‘resolve’ the feeling. The conviction that my feeling is “right” or appropriate or justified exaggerates and escalates me “doing something about it” rather than “being with it”. There is nothing wrong with that, it’s just not in keeping with what I’ve decided to find out: “Are feelings soul-food; do they enliven my being-flow with life if embraced unconditionally?”

Obviously there’s a a distinction to be made here. As much as it is legitimate to want to change the situation that triggers the feeling, attempting to change the situation being fueled by the very feeling that was ignited by the situation – for instance anger – is most probably counter-productive. And if, sticking to the example of anger here, if I’m doing something out of or with anger than I will most likely awaken or fuel the anger of the person(s) within this situation, and thereby I will indeed change it, but it will be a change to the worse.
Reaction breeds counter-reaction in an escalating cycle in which all participants tend to loose; and even if one wins in the short run, one will loose in the long run, because the looser will want to somehow ‘even the score’.
So if we take the anger kindled by a socially unjust situation to propel us into action, this will be a reaction and most likely cause nothing but trouble and no lasting or sutainable, positive change. However, this is not an article of faith but a hypothesis that seems to be true on the more individual social level, within my personal relationships, for instance.

It was utterly clear a couple of times today, that reaction – which for human beings seems to be always fueled by ‘unenlightened feelings’ – has recognizable consequences: loss of consciousness, loss of happiness or satisfaction, loss of a sense of roundness with oneself and the environment.
This is obvious, and I guess I’ve known it all along – and to know this is almost a commonplace in the culture I live in – but it is one thing to know this, another thing to reflect on it, and still much of another thing actually experiencing it within the flow of ones sense of aliveness (which feels spacious, dynamic, ‘full of air’, deep, bubbling, beautiful etc.). To react is to loose clarity, energy, aliveness – to respond keeps me connected with the life-flow of the situation. And real responses seem to be called forth from this mysterious what-shall-we-call-it…

So in my mornings contemplation, guess what?, my mind and heart and belly meandered around powerless anger; I saw that this feeling is like a partial paralysis that stops me as soon as anger lashes out; the anger is paralyzed the moment it appears. I could also say it’s an automatic and immediate attempt to smother and suffocate it.
In these meanderings some scenes from my youth appeared – suggesting that in certain situations where I had to stop my anger this proved to be the most adequate manner. But I didn’t dwell on this as my experiment is not about finding out the stories that go with or even justify my feelings (and very plausibly so, psychotherapy is full of this); rather my experiment is about embracing feelings, it is about being with the feelings that are part of my melody unconditionally.

Exploring powerless anger this way I noticed that, like with the feeling I explored yesterday, it also is taking my breath away. The suffocation is to be taken as much more than a figure of speech.
Then the question appeared, “Do my feelings stay if I breathe deeper when being with them?” So I breathed with it, allowing, inviting the feeling to flourish, to dance its dance inside me and sigh and breathe deeply. And far from disappearing the powerless anger felt “rich”, more rounded, as if it started flowing… for a while it was even beautiful. As if the breathing with it enabled me to feel it more compassionately; it gives a more encompassing meaning to the statement, “I embrace my powerless anger.”

And during the day, especially around midday wave upon wave of desire washed over me. This seems to suggest that I wasn’t involved in it; actually the desire and my thoughts formed, at times, a escalating system in which “I” participated by not allowing it to simply be. Desire was burning inside me wanting to move me into action strongly, almost irresistibly – again, almost. There is my resolution to keep within the confines of the experiment, and there is the wish to just give in; a flip-flop back and forth, a most tiresome experience.
So I wanted, and also escaped into all kinds of alleviating entertainments – looking up my friends blogs, playing around with new plugins, reading news, cleaning my desktop, etc. – I wanted, and at times managed to drift away into some daydreaming; I wanted, and even got quite some work done of what I needed to do. And then some 2, 3 hours later the desiring disappeared and I went into ordinary mode again; feeling slightly wounded, sighing, delving into my work again more lightly, feeling fine, enjoying it – the ordinary wavicles of emotion that are in the background of everything that goes on…

And now I’m a bit tired, and I want to – and will – watch Dr. House do his nasty healing work…


Starting up the experiment
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4 (Powerlessness)
Day 5
Day 6 (Jealousy)
Day 7 (Guilt & Jealousy)
Day 8
Day 9 (Shame)
Day 10 (Interlude)
Day 11 (Under Pressure)
Day 12
Day 13 (Clear Delight)


Day 14
Day 15 & 16
Day 17
Day 18
Day 19 (Dark Waves)
Day 20 (Time Out)
Day 21 (Splash)
Day 22 (Understanding)
Day 23 (Fear & Imagination)
Day 24 (Vulnerable)
Day 25
Day 26 (The Presence of The Past)
Ending the Experiment – Day 27 (Intentional Vulnerability)

Enlightening the Passions – Day 2

Once there is the resolve to move in a certain direction out of a basic understanding that this is “the call of my destiny”, things are more easy, even if from another point of view they might be hard.

Last night I was reading about suffering from a Buddhist point of view – suffering’s nature, origin, cessation and the path leading to the cessation – and it occurred to me that the thinking behind this both in the East and the West. and certainly the search to free oneself from the suffering that is thought to be caused by desire and attachment, is maybe a bit mistaken – or at least I used to be.
Suffering seems at first sight to be a feeling, and it is uncomfortable – sometimes it is somehow uncomfortable and at other times almost unbearable; almost because if indeed it is unbearable I’d loose all consciousness or drop dead aor I’d stop bearing it immediately. But what I keep finding as I put some light on my uncomfortable feelings is that they are not at all what suffering is; it’s the stories I tell myself, and eventually others, about the causes or “reasons for being” of these feelings – suffering is a story, the feeling is… well, (most) uncomfortable.
The same goes for desire and attachment (both basically have the same ‘signature’, only the one seems to be more agentive than the other); when now I inspect my desires as they make their appearance in the field of my awareness – it is the story that I tell myself about the feeling: “This is a desire for that,” that turns the feeling into ‘desire’. Embracing what is called desire, and somewhat stripping away the need to do something about it, actually experiencing it like I would a piece of art that I do not necessarily understand, it turns out to be quite ok to have, it’s actually interesting to be with.
Now I don’t know if I would say the same thing if much stronger desires arise… if it happens within the next days that I conduct this experiment, I’ll report it here. Promise.

Another thing I’ve noticed yesterday night and today so far (when writing this) is the amazing amount of small irritations that dance their (mostly little) dance in many situations. And being irritated seems to not only be triggered by not getting what I want in those moments but by remarks, small gestures, almost ‘nothings’. And, it’s an interesting feeling, really. It seems to manifest bodily somewhere in the lower throat area and consist of little needly bubbles (hmm, I just made those words up to indicate something I’ve never tried to paint in words before).
An interesting aspect of this I’ve noticed in a team meeting around noon is that simply noticing and ‘yessing’ the basic irritation feeling it doesn’t play out in the conversation or discussion anymore. Patience, something I’ve cherished over the years being an impatient person – or so I thought -, patience isn’t needed at all because the irritation doesn’t cause anything, it doesn’t flow into behavior or words or even concepts. One could say it’s there as the waves on a lake, just rippling away…
In my morning’s contemplation my awareness drifted into close inspection and then embrace of one of my Top Seven (or so) uncomfortable feelings that has a major novel as accompanying story. 🙂 It’s name not being important enough to mention in this context here… (which is an amazing discovery in itself, as this experiemnt is about shedding light on the feelings in their very essence, not in how they play out as story in life; a story that is malleable whereas the feeling itself seems not to be so malleable, but simply very present.)
I circled it and found that when the feeling and I really touch I almost don’t breathe anymore. This feeling takes my breath away / I stop to breathe “spontaneously” when this feeling appears on the horizon. In the safe bounds of my morning’s contemplation I can embrace it, trace it’s signature in my body and mind, and can quite easily be with it. This is when I invoke a feeling…

… but when during dinner this evening I was confronted with enough trigger for my anger to appear and at the same time being basically powerless – I got angry, legitimately so my mind tells me, and at the same time knowing that I couldn’t do anything to change the situation (damn if I shout, damn if I don’t, damned if I run away etc.), powerless anger (“ohnm�chte Wut”, in German) – confronted with this… I had to leave the room, “and now embrace this!” I thought to myself.
Actually I didn’t – I was just about to say I couldn’t, but that’s not correct; the feeling became so powerful� very, very fast. So all I could do was leave the room and breathe very deeply a couple of times until it subsided enough so I could be with it – and still can be with the residues of the feeling.

Looking forward to continue this experiment, actually. A deep value seems to unfold in real time experience…


Starting up the experiment
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4 (Powerlessness)
Day 5
Day 6 (Jealousy)
Day 7 (Guilt & Jealousy)
Day 8
Day 9 (Shame)
Day 10 (Interlude)
Day 11 (Under Pressure)
Day 12
Day 13 (Clear Delight)


Day 14
Day 15 & 16
Day 17
Day 18
Day 19 (Dark Waves)
Day 20 (Time Out)
Day 21 (Splash)
Day 22 (Understanding)
Day 23 (Fear & Imagination)
Day 24 (Vulnerable)
Day 25
Day 26 (The Presence of The Past)
Ending the Experiment – Day 27 (Intentional Vulnerability)