The Empathic Civilisation

A wonderfully illustrated talk – or better, fragment of a talk – by Jeremy Rifkin that I would love all my friends “world-change agents” to see and contemplate.

A good question to go with this is: “What is the most strategic contribution I can make?”

Woman – or a man’s apocalypse

1985-aug-21Woman is a masculine apocalypse, or can be – actually, she really is.

Once I started to open up to the area of feeling into the world as it is – which obviously means, as I feel it to be – I find that women, and my beloved is the closest woman nearby, know this ‘terrain’ much better. Actually it is almost their home ground. From the very beginning they’re into the games of relationship and seem, in my eyes, much smarter at playing that game: and if it is playing that game to win, woman wins, hands down.

“Anima” – the term C.G. Jung used to designate what I would call soul, or the innermost being – is a female word, it is what animates us, makes us move and be the way we are in the rivers of life.
The first woman a man meets, the first woman I met was Mother, the source of all life – but as a baby I didn’t care about life, I cared about food and kisses and stroking and cuddling and all that. Mother was the source. That is a broken relationship for most of us, because as all women, my mother was limited by, well, her own limits.

Woman is the giver of all good feelings. No, not all – the blessing for a man is to find a whole realm that is not really women’s territory; it’s a man’s world. And I don’t mean soccer, beer and lusting. I mean measuring up occasions, accessing one’s own strengths and courage, and deciding: “I will conquer this.”
I know, conquering is really “out” these days, laying a claim to this, that and the other is really spiritually or philosophically incorrect, using one’s power and might to get what you want is totally out of whack, but it is part of being a man, as is pulling things apart and putting them back together, and being proud of being able to do so.

51c5eeb3c7fab0b7acd6186fb0150936a7a73dc7_mCrossing over in women’s terrain is dangerous, and really, I wouldn’t advise anyone to do so unless his “anima” forces him, and there is really no choice. It is dangerous because, since winning and losing is an important happening for a man, you’re going to lose most of the time. If a man’s mastery is playing the game of heroics in some form or another good enough to be proud of himself, than a woman’s mastery is playing the relationship game in such a way that she ends up in the center of a relational vortex, where being close to her is the prize.

To put it rather bluntly (a masculine ‘thing’ I guess), a women’s game is for closeness to her, and a man’s game is to being the top of the heap. Both places offer a sense of great security.
Ooops. I’m sorry, if I tread on some toes here. Being paradoxical, crying out of nowhere, almost dying because of the feeling’s strength that one encounters, being shaken by a scene on the street, endlessly mulling over how this relates to that… that’s become a major “new” part of me and all of these seem ‘female’. And I’m just beginning to study this first hand (including the f…ing feelings). Doing so I find that the women around me are expertly wielding the little knives and chisels, are in possession of all the tricks and arts that are so very necessary when conflicts arise – and arise they must. So, again, why is it dangerous ‘here’? That’s easy: woman has all the weapons in a conflict, and you don’t (if you don’t want to take back on your male armour etc.)

Well, why I write all this?
I just lost another battle – and in the end got an honorable settlement in which I could put out some claims and be heard. It’s not that women fight better or worse than men, it’s that they fight using different means. And if you have started to develop opening up on feeling levels, which means you cannot really hit the table with a fist any more and play the conflict in the way you know best (loudness, restrained violence, mental fitness, maybe)… you lose.Which means that it’s now up to her to ‘make up’, because that’s what the winner does; eitrher ‘take the cup’ and shit on the loser or draw the loser in and make him/her part of the reconciliation.

nach-klimt-2Apocalypse means revelation. The revelation is, woman is expert in feeling-field, or the feeling connection to relationship and life. Woman is expert in ‘being the womb’, in ‘holding the space’.

So, being a man, this is what I do: I turn a lost battle into a great lesson that then I write about. There is, of course, an interesting feeling dimension to this – a dimension that is typically overrated by woman and underestimated by man. The soul is an apocalyptic teacher, to a man like me…

Life is Irritating

We need to recall the angel aspect of the word, recognizing words as independent carriers of soul between people. We need to recall that we do not just make words up or learn them in school, or ever have them fully under control. Words, like angels, are powers which have invisible power over us. They are personal presences which have whole mythologies: genders, genealogies (etymologies concerning origins and creations), histories, and vogues; and their own guarding, blaspheming, creating, and annihilating effects. For words are persons. This aspect of the word transcends their nominalistic definitions and contexts and evokes in our soul a universal resonance. — ‘A Blue Fire’ by James Hillman

909a07636e51036a64c09e64aa4e4f808202af7e_mWhat, if we own every feeling?

Standing on my balcony this evening I was feeling this slight tinge of irritation creep up on me. As I realized that I own this feeling, that this is indeed my feeling, a deep breath happened upon me. I stood upright. “This too is me, this is mine,” I thought.

Looking a few inches deeper the idea of possession became strange. What could I possibly own? Where could I store what I own? Do I own a memory? Is this memory about the day of today my memory?
We say these things but more often than not, when my mind can freewheel, they lose a lot of sense just a few inches below the surface. Nevertheless, owning that feeling of irritation I was nourished and strengthened. Making this feeling mine made me stand tall. So the idea of ownership my be strange a few inches deep into the realm of the soul, the process of owning makes very good sense.

What reveals itself in thinking about the relationship between me and what I own is static thinking. As if I was something permanent that could have a relationship to something else, that is permanent, and that relationship is a one-way street in which I own whatever-it-is. When my thinking goes a bit deeper still the flow of “I” and “it” is more apparent, and from that view “owning my irritation” is as if I would take in something of myself that was externalized.
105111_c450I differentiated myself from the irritation – which is a good move for a child needing to come to express predictable and reliable behavior. I externalized my irritation and placed it with the cause. Now “it”, whatever “it” is, irritates me; it is irritating me – I become the recipient of irritation, its victim.

Growing up, being ‘adult’, over time “I” was insulating myself from my feelings and impressions, and finally also concepts, ideas, whatever it was – I was not that. I was the “eternal witness” disengaged from life in many ways (even though often enough not really, because I behaved like many other men in situations with a strong emotional load), or I at least aimed for being/living That.
Going through periods of softening up to the other(s), discovering we-fullness and the amazing energies and being that can unfold and come into being between us, in critical times a critical ripening happened.

Coming back to re-internalizing what I have externalized over the last 50 years or so might take a while 🙂 But it is maybe not so much a goal as an orientation. Owning my feelings is a practice, not a goal; it is something that becomes part of the way I live.

Static think believes in things, and relationships between beings and other beings and beings and things. In this constellation of people and things there is more or less rigid limits between everybody and everything. In this scenario you can make me feel things, you are the cause of what happens to me. Or also things and situations are the causes of how I feel, and think and last but not least behave.

kiss-under-waterMore fluid thinking probably out of the practice of owning what it feels and sees and hears leads to much more respect towards others and things and situations. O yes, feelings and thoughts and behavior can still be triggered, but the triggering event itself or the feelings triggered are a much more fluid affair. What happens is much more happening within processes which do have a mysterious end; this end does have a name but in itself is another process: living.

The irritation that the child externalizes is not the same irritation that I re-internalize, or own. Both the irritation and I have been passing through a great number of processes – and yet we both are still recognizable. Re-internalized irritation is – most likely – a driving energy behind this investigation that turned into a blog post.

Desire is a meeting place

matteo_tranchelliniDesire is a meeting place. And it’s a matter of timing, aligning so much that synchronicity of desiring is much more likely. Have to have your ‘eye’ on the feeling-field, and keep the connection.

This is an inner gesture, an immediate expression of what you have learnt before. Like walking.
Ever looked at how a child learns to walk. They trie again and again until they can. And everybody celebrates the achievement. This is how we learn that it’s a pleasure we can share our achievements with those we love. And it’s wonderful to be applauded when following deep inclinations – like the strong desire to walk; all the Big Ones walk, I’ll follow the overwhelming desire to trie until I can walk just like them.

We have no examples for a tuned-in life, a life where we’re tuning in continually to the songs and melodies our destiny comes up with. We have to be the ones, we and all those that come after us, that we have been waiting for. If there is no example, let’s be it. What do we need to bring to this laborator?

  • a heart that has come alive
  • a heart that dares to be naked
  • our brightest intelligence
  • soul to soul relationship(s)
  • deep respect for natural development(s); and if possible:
  • the alchemy of a relationship with someone, possibly a life-partner

That’s it, I believe. Being open to the refining processes inherent in life as labratory – and this very wording of it – gives me a degree of freedom that is closely connected with respecting my limits.

What is transmuted is the forces of feelings that are connected with sad, with desperate, with “negative” emotions. The strength of these forces probably remain. The force, for instance, captured in the complex feeling of jealousy doesn’t disappear but is most likely one of the driving energies behind accepting my destiny as it reveals itself to be; the power that allows me to “face it” – facing whatever needs to see my face.
From my point of view this is just the case. Certainly the circumstances now make this a very natural part of the process. In life we can never repeat our experiments to verify if another outcome would be possible – what we would have done if this, that or the other happened?. So given the present state of the laboratory it is much easier for me to “face it” than at other moments in recent weeks 🙂

Since, as Heraclit said more than 2000 years ago, pantha rei, “everything flows” and “you cannot dip into the same river twice”, we are learning the art of navigation in this flow, and what are supportive ecologies to this flow.
I have been speaking of giving an example, and by that I don’t mean to say teaching people this particular metaphor but by being an example, by being beautiful, joyous, understanding, and by loving, wise navigation. Trusting life and each other, authentically being alive, continually enlarging our comfort-zone until it maybe encompasses everyone and all, becoming quite naturally comfortable with life in this existence (willing at any moment to face it when it needs our face)… maybe that’s the ones we truly are, the ones we have been waiting for.jeanbaptiste_mondino

Enlightening the Passions – Day 6 (Jealousy)

As I was sitting this morning, scanning the list of the ingredients in the alchemical mix that is cooking in the cauldron of my heart (yes, my heart is also a cauldron; actually it’s the whole region between my lower throat and my pelvis) I finally was ready to face one that isn’t even on there, and it surely needs to be: Jealousy and it’s close cousin Envy.

Some background:
I never thought I was jealous; or that it posed a real problem. When in the past my girlfriends had a lover I hardly felt jealous about it, maybe a little pang in my heart now and then but nothing serious. A possible reason for that might have been that more often than not I was having an affair myself. And at other times, when I was not having one and was ‘on my own’ when my girlfriend was in somebody else’s arms, then still it didn’t bother me too much. Maybe I never really got very close to them, maybe I wasn’t that open, at least not in the way that I’m open now. So I really wasn’t really jealous like I always heard other people to be…
My guess is that this was so also because in some way when my girlfriends had a lover it alleviated some of my fear of not being good enough, I didn’t need to cover all bases and provide all their love-needs (which, I thought then and until quite recently, are much more than a man’s needs). That’s how I would’ve explained it. Now, I really don’t know; whatever I did or didn’t do, it was very effective in saving me from feeling ‘real jealous’.

So when this morning I decided to have a go at it it wasn’t too easy to invoke at first. It took some time to really get into, maybe because jealousy really isn’t one feeling, it rather is a conglomerate of feelings, a mixture of thwarted longing/desire, the fear of being left, the sense of being victimized – which is different from feeling abused as the action is not actively against me; there also is a sense of being suffocated, and very deep down a feeling of forlornness.
So it’s a mixture of all these feelings, and depending what part of a story comes up in my imagination/mind the appropriate mixture of feelings is activated… or is it the other way around, or even a synchrony? Whichever way it might be, when being jealous there is an automatically triggered behavior: ‘closing down’.
It’s truly hard to remain open with your partner when you’re feeling jealous, whatever form the ‘pain’ takes. It seems inescapable to want to protect yourself against what you feel is your partners ‘fault’ – after all, it is what she is doing that triggers the feeling of jealousy, and if only she would stop the feeling would not be triggered and everything would be alright; at least that’s the story that justifies and almost automatically causes closure of the heart. The irony, of course, is that the very ‘thing’ you want, being/feeling close, feeling really connected, is not really possible when you’re closing down.
But staying open is “just too painful”.
Here is the stark splendor of what this experiment is also about: Staying with the ebb and flow, the ‘just too painful’ and whatever else the feelings morph into; staying in touch with the ‘naked feeling’. And, what shall I say, it is indeed possible. It is possible to not escape into the multitude of tactics that insulate me against feeling all that, that ‘disown’ (as a psychologist might say) those parts of the melody of my character.

Jealousy is a “Blow against the Empire” of myself; from a developmental point of view it is mortifying the “I am the center of the universe” sense of self where one believes, “It’s all about me.” Just being with it, with it’s eddies of thwarted longing, it’s ripples of fear-of-loss, it’s waves of suffocated sadness, it’s deep currents of forlornness, is good enough. Yes, there is the desire to do something about it, to change the situation, to dive away, to put on an armor and take a sword and cut the knot… and those are feelings that are also part of the tangled knot of feelings called jealousy.

When one really enters the ‘field of feeling’ from any point regardless of its signature or name then it always connects – there is a flow that, if I were to use a big word, could be called the “flow of being”, but then “being” is a word that suggests something being static where there is really nothing static there; it designates something that is ‘really real’, it’s substantial, so the best I can do is call it ‘connecting flow’. One discovery, or ‘uncovering’ of these first 6 days is the connecting quality of the “feeling field” and it’s “substantial reality”.

Now, as I said before, an important part of jealousy is that you don’t want to connect, you don’t want to feel the flow between yourself and the person that triggers the jealousy because it is painful; by that I mean, the ‘jealous imagination’ (like in the Munch paintings above) is getting refreshed again and again as long as the jealousy is there.
This puts one in the midst of a paradox; the nature of feeling being to flow in an open field – even so called negative feelings – and it is the nature of the jealous imagination to want to distance and/or protect you. So I’m happy to have decided almost a week ago to explore being with whatever I’m feeling unconditionally, so that in this paradoxical situation I simply be with the flow. Never mind the paradox…


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 4 (Powerlessness)

Powerlessness, limitations, the powers of those and that beyond me… this day was filled with intimate encounters with that very feeling.

But first I need to touch on some considerations that have come up in me regarding this exploration as a whole.
It’s next to impossible to separate feelings, the essential emotions that I’m exploring in this experiment, from basic story lines or concepts. Anger in and as itself really is “just an energy”, to quote a teacher I used to be with for a long, long time, that one cannot say anything about, for instance, if it has purpose, direction or whatever, without the use of concepts. Actually outside of symbols, ideas, language, concepts there is no such feeling as anger; there is actually no feelings and thoughts and bodies and things and energies – there is really not anything and not nothing; and most of all there is no difference, no differentiation and thus no communication except maybe a very general, boundless flowingness – and even saying that is already using concepts.
Anybody wanting to disagree with this can only do so by using the medium of communication and its accompanying concepts (or kiss or smack me, of course) – and she can only disagree because she can follow what I write here using her own concepts and sentences with subjects and objects (and all the other stuff)…

I mention this here because of its role that I saw very clearly saw this morning as I was starting my day (after a good cuddle and sweetness) with opening myself up to my awareness meandering and focusing in on one of the top 7 – 10 feelings. And as you can see from the first lines of this post, I landed with what looks presently to be a very likely candidate for the number 1 on my list of uncomfortable feelings: Powerlessness.
Once this was clear – and it took a few moments before I got an uncanny sense of certainty that, when it appears, clarifies the way for me – I needed to keep invoking it because the tendency to drift away, to dream off, to land in an internal mist that diffuses everything was very strong. So like I have been doing in my morning meanderings in the days before with the other feelings that then I explored, I invoked powerlessness again and again by remembering situations and (self)images from situations in which I felt utterly powerless, moving from the present into the past to uncover the many aspects of this.

The powerless anger I was mentioning yesterday is a most prominent member of this family of feelings, but this feeling has a very important brother (or is it a sister?) in powerless fear and sister (or is it brother?) in powerless grief.
“Today is the day of a family reunion of family Powerlessness,” I thought. And since it was hard to focus, or hard to stay in this company, I used a focusing question, repeating it again and again when I found I had drifted off, “How do I feel when I have no power at all?” When I am at the mercy of whoever happens to be in power, whoever has the upper hand. O, and I know how I feel! By God! Put anger, fear and grief in a pot, stir it well and spice with a sense of guilt and suffocation…

As I was exploring the traces of this feeling, it’s signature – what makes it so strong that I try in so many ways to avoid it – I saw that it is in a way the ‘flip side’ of surrender. To be powerless means “to be forced to surrender” – other than ‘being surrendered’ which just happens and is beyond one’s control to begin with, and happens ‘out of the blue’; being forced to surrender, historically and evolutionary is a man’s nightmare, and in my life something that happened when I was very young and many times after. Not only did I have to surrender what I wanted, but I also had to give up what I sorely needed, loving attention and whatever else a child needs from his parents or the grown ups that are to take care of him, and really don’t.

So what I learnt was suffocating powerlessness, burning powerlessness, sad-sad powerlessness, unreasonable powerlessness, and many other shades of forced surrender – and how to shield myself against actually feeling this, how to create imaginations and imagi-notions that made me feel powerful and influential again, how to manipulate at least my perception in such a way that I did not need to feel powerless. And, you might imagine, there is not much breathing in there!

So then allowing and breathing with powerlessness I felt limits solve, I felt flow happen in deep regions out of sight, I felt a sense of relief touch me deeply. And I think, “Yes, sometimes surrender is forced, or maybe even often, but do I therefor need to struggle, fight and cause a terribly time for me and/or my surround? Do I need an escape? Do I need in some way to do away with this feeling? What for? Does it change thereby? (No, it doesn’t.)”

And all day long little – and in the evening a bigger – matters appeared that kindled that feeling and, as much as was in me, I abided by the family Powerlessness that was called to be with me that moment.
And I wasn’t really amazed at all taht, as the day was almost done, I was confronted with a situation that showed my powerlessness in full bloom, and it was not too hard anymore to just be with it and have no blame for anyone, including me. And for moments I could even embrace it…


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)

Enlightening the Passions – Day 1 (Exploring feelings)

After having looked at the videos I posted about yesterday I decided to do an experiment testing in practice what Michael Brown speaks about in those videos. I will blog about this experiment and practice here because it will help me keep it up and reflect upon it daily, and it might help some of the people who read these blogs.

Let me give you a bit of background:
In the recent very challenging time in my relationship I discovered – or better, uncovered – a constant pattern of behavior: Deeply opening up to – trusting – someone will lead to abuse sooner or later. This pattern comes from my very young years when my mother gave me away to my grandparents who then put me in a boarding school that then kicked me out… don’t want to relate the long sad story of what f****d me up emotionally in my young years, only want to indicate an important influence to the present experiment.

Another important one is that I actually have a very fine-grained ability to feel my emotions; 30 years of therapy and a spiritual path that has been very adventurous has ‘helped’ me discern many shades of, for instance, grief, fear and anger.
And also: Looking at my feelings has almost exclusively happened with the intention of either healing, overcoming or transcending, and even if I did embrace my feelings – as in the meditations I used to do some years ago in which I did “Satsang with my demons” – it was always with the intention of finally healing them.

And finally one more piece of background to my experiment:
In this recent crisis I’ve discovered – or actually uncovered – the indisputable fact that my emotions, the dynamics of my feelings, are out of control; I cannot determine what I feel in almost every situation. For many people, especially women, this is certainly no surprise, and maybe it shouldn’t be one for me, but it is. This is absolutely clear to me now because as part of the crisis – how it came about – was me expressibly allowing, out of my conviction, something that, when it became a reality, deeply hurt, unexpectedly so.

The premises of the experiment

Being unconditionally with what is right now – flowing with life – is of supreme value (it feeds the soul, not only mine but of everybody I’m with, it is joyful and beautiful, it is needed for true love to unfold, and the foundation for understanding any kind of meaningful truth).

Being unconditionally with what/how I feel is an integral, and necessary, part of flowing with life as an actual experience here and now.

What matters experientally has (at least) 3 facets/components: physical, mental and emotional. By physical I mean the person(s) I’m with or the situation I’m in as a physical presence that ’cause’ or ‘trigger’ (partly) what I experience; the mental is the story I tell myself and/or others about this, my interpretation; and finally what I feel actually – feelings being the prime movers and motivators for my actions and behaviors and words in any given situation.

Feelings/emotions are neither good nor bad in an ethical sense, yet there are feelings I greatly value and seek and those I shun, flee and or want to get rid of. Some of them are ‘good’ in one circumstance and ‘bad’ in another.

The premise to be tested in this experiment is that all feelings, especially the uncomfortable ones, are potentially soul-food and enliven or quicken my present being-alive; they inspire in a most profound way by re-connecting me with the flow of life by intentional/willing/conscious participation. This is so as long as I am with these feelings unconditionally (not to heal, change, or in any way influence them).
An important aspect of feelings, maybe their raison d’etre, is to enliven my present state of being.

What this experiment has led to so far

Considering all this in one way or another I’ve identified a number of uncomfortable feelings that are an important part of the ‘melody of feelings’ that in some depth keep repeating themselves (at least when now I remember what goes on in general). I’ve identified 7 that seem to be basic and given them a label for easier identification. They are all situated in the lower breast and stomach area, 2 of them in the gut area.

Much of my behavior seems to be directed at influencing the situations I find myself in in such a way as to not ‘give reason’ for these feelings to come up, and if they come up to immediately avoid feeling them or if that’s unavoidable to diffuse them, throw some nebulae around them etc. If all of that doesn’t work I (like to) blame the other or situation for me having them, suggesting that if I could only change them/it everything would be alright again.

It also led me to, in my conversations – and at moments in other situations – keep an eye on the emotional melody playing. Since there were no overwhelming emotions it was easy to just be with them, ‘unconditionally’, dipping into their flow.

A very interesting effect: I haven’t been ‘reacting’ to what was communicated and could then much more easily respond to the content of what was said…

Design for next few days

In the morning after getting up spend 20 – 30 minutes with both contemplating my ‘feeling life’ and see if there are more primary uncomfortable feelings that need to be part of the Top Ten, and exploring the ones on the list already, that means:
* Remember situations that trigger  those feelings
* Unconditionally embrace the feeling
* Notice what comes up doing that (not pursuing it)

During the day keep an eye on the feelings, also scan for yet ‘unlisted primary feelings’.

Write about this in the evening.


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)

Help comes from amazing places

Being with my feeling – or as Michael Brown whom you’ll hear from in this interview with Jordan Shafer, that I discovered after receiving an email from Gilles Asselin who spoke with high regard about his book The Presence Process – without condition everything I require in life comes… this is a most amazing inspiration at this moment in time as I’m going through a rough situation in my private life, where it is as if a can of ugly worms of feelings has been opened. Feelings I know very well, feelings that have been part of my life’s story for a long time already; actually a melody of feelings that I liked NOT to listen to 🙂

So here they are. Hope they’ll help you as well.

If you don’t want to make view all of them, here is the gist: “If I can feel my discomfort and allow myself to be with it without condition consistently I’ll receive what I require to bring resolution.”

And here is a jewel:
“Once someone enters the experience being without condition upon their uncomfortable (emotional) signatures that very experience becomes the teacher.”

(Addendum: I have since started my an expiriment “Enlightening the Passions” in which I take my feelings, emotions and experience as a teacher… and it has proven to be an amazing teacher indeed; the best I ever had.


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)