Gabor Maté, MD. When the body says No. (2004).
At The Light Tree We have been looking at stress and trauma in order to understand how we have given priority to our beliefs by ignoring our basic instincts and body sensations. I have noticed that disregarding body sensations throughout my life has had a profound effect on my nervous system. This has almost certainly created or contributed to my experience of the collection of symptoms we call Multiple Sclerosis.
We have been reading Steven Levine’s work on trauma and it’s been very insightful to understanding how ignoring body sensations can lead to illness. In the following article, Annie describes her own experience of ‘the felt sense’ and how it contributes to increased spiritual awareness and a greater sense of peace.
The felt sense: what’s it got to do with anything spiritual?
Am I wrong or do “spiritual” people (let alone people generally) avoid the subject of feelings and the felt sense? Feelings, after all, are transient, fickle, unreliable, volatile, turbulent, deceptive, destabilizing, and basically not to be trusted. So what do feelings, especially the so-called negative emotions, such as anger, grief, guilt, and terror, have to do with spiritual awareness?
On my healing journey, I’ve come to regard the felt sense as lying at the heart of the matter. The felt sense is the path of the heart. When we talk about the difference between head knowing and heart knowing, aren’t we talking precisely about the difference between thinking and feeling? The challenge, in our heady society, is getting acquainted with the felt sense. What is it? What does it actually feel like? How do we recover our connection with it? We need to start trusting it.
In a recent A Course In Miracles healing circle, one of the participants said with frustration: “I am fed up with my feelings. If I give in to them, I just wallow in anxiety, depression, loneliness, despair. Why would I want to indulge them anymore than I have to?” My response is this: Yes, a person may be dwelling in the full-blown drama of strong emotion, but simultaneously she is actually resisting that emotion like crazy. With every seeming fibre of her being, she is bracing against what she does not want to feel. She is screaming (usually just on the inside): “Get me out of here! And now is not soon enough!” In ACIM terms, it’s the ego that’s doing all that resisting. And where the mind goes, the body follows: it is as tight as a drum and riddled with a morass of resistance or holding patterns.
What would happen if we did the opposite, that is, stopped resisting feeling? What if instead of turning on our heels and running, we stopped for a nanosecond and faced the disquiet or pain. What if we recognized this as a threshold for the most key decision we can make: to run or stay put. And if we choose to stay, we might actually greet the disquiet with: “You know, I’d rather not feel you, but I’m going to anyway. I can at least name you. And depending on how safe that feels, I can perhaps soften into you a little. I can be curious about you, rather than attack and hate you. I could fall open to the feeling of you. I could even dwell with you for a bit. I could rest right here. I will forget about the story behind my emotion, unless that helps me feel more fully, and instead keep my focus on the feeling itself. I might even extend the invitation (only if and when it feels safe) to feel fully whatever I have withheld in fear.
And, here, in this place of non-resistance, this place of fearlessness (fearlessness does not mean without fear, it means willingness to face fear), this embodied place, this place of authenticity, this place of deep present moment awareness, this place of unconditional love, this place of direct knowing, I can invite Spirit to show me, teach me, guide me. It is here, in this place of alchemy and transformation, that I will be guided to authentically forgive and release my imaginings that there is any power other than love, light and oneness. Misperceptions, and the emotions they engender, start dissolving. I am home, resting in the felt knowing of expanding peace, tenderness, and true joining, ie. love.
I encourage you to pause here, to notice what your breath is doing right now (without changing it or “fixing” it in anyway)........ And in the slight delay that occurs when you check in with your breath, you perceptibly switch from the thinking mode to the felt mode. Your awareness travels within, perhaps dropping below your neck as you feel your breath rise and fall in your chest. Here, in this embodied place, dwells your felt sense and the authenticity meter of your healing journey.