Today was one of those rare occasions when I got to sleep in. I went to bed early and managed to get 9 hours of sleep in my big, comfy bed. It felt amazing.
I enjoyed some of my favorite music and a hot cup of coffee on my screened porch, soaking in the view of the canal that I love so much in sunny 70* weather. Then, I set out on a long walk.
I am a runner. So by nature, when I set out on foot, I am gone for a long time and I cover a lot of ground. But, a few months ago, I discovered the beauty of the long walk. No hydration belt. No timer. No gear whatsoever.
I began to call these my “clarity walks” and I try to take at least one each week. On them, I listen to music that inspires and empowers me. I don’t take any calls. If there is a special message that I have been waiting to send or a song I really want to hear, I wait until I reach a bench halfway through my walk and I do it there.
I love these nature walks because I have so many “aha” moments. Ideas flow freely to me after I have been out on foot long enough and my mind is clear.
Currently, I am about halfway through reading Brené Brown’s ‘Rising Strong.’ (I already highly recommend it.) Through her book, I have truly been able to embrace my vulnerability and my rawness and it has challenged me to really examine and embrace my feelings. Even the “bad” ones.
Just last night there was a part that really stood out for me. Brené introduced the concept of “bouncing hurt” – the ego’s response to emotion. She states:
“It’s much easier to say, ‘I don’t give a damn,’ than it is to say, ‘I’m hurt.’ The ego likes blaming, finding fault, making excuses, inflicting payback, and lashing out, all of which are ultimate illusions for self-protection. The ego is also a fan of avoidance – assuring the offender that we’re fine, pretending that it doesn’t matter, that we’re impervious. We adopt a pose of indifference or stoicism, or we deflect with humor and cynicism. Whatever. Who cares?”
Ironically, I was only minutes into my walk and I was thinking about an emotionally charged situation that has been weighing heavily on my mind. I quickly became annoyed with myself for wasting so much of my time and energy on thinking about this situation, especially when I was supposed to be taking some “me time” and I literally angrily exclaimed out loud to myself “Whatever. Who cares!!!!!!!” And, then I gasped. I was so obviously bouncing hurt. I even used the EXACT words that Brené used in her example!
Hours later I read the story of the Buddha and the two arrows. If you are not familiar with it:
“The Buddha once asked a student, “If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful?” The student replied, “It is." The Buddha then asked, "If the person is struck by a second arrow, is that even more painful?” The student replied again, “It is.” The Buddha then explained, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. The second arrow is optional.”
Physical pain is the first arrow. Mental or emotional pain is the second arrow. Through our thoughts, we tend to create more pain and self-suffering than is ever needed. But, the way to avoid the pain of the second arrow is to experience, acknowledge, and accept our feelings without reacting negatively or judgmentally to them.
Christine Kane also discusses the importance of *feeling* your feelings. She explains that too often we trick ourselves into believing that we are feeling our feelings, but we are actually *thinking* about our feelings. And, that’s not the same.
So with this synchronistic knowledge all coming together for me within the past 24 hours, I challenged myself to do something different. I decided that I was going to stop thinking about my feelings and finally allow myself to truly feel my feelings. I knew it was time. So I lit a healing reiki-charged candle, put on Dave Matthews Band, and began the process of feeling.
And guess what?? NOTHING. HAPPENED.
I had a million *thoughts* about this, of course. One of them was that I should definitely send my personal coach an email and let her know this process is not working for me and that I need to figure out what I am doing wrong. (Go figure – judgment about the process, too!)
Thankfully it struck me that I was STILL *thinking* about my feelings instead of just feeling them already. So I said out loud to myself, “I know what I am THINKING. But, what am I FEELING??? No more sentences. What are one word answers to this question?? No more vast psychological analysis. Just feelings.”
Next thing I knew I was straight up sobbing. (Last month I learned that when this happens, you just let the tears flow. It is more healing than anything I have ever experienced. Give it a try.)
And, with the tears, I found my words: Sadness. Hurt. Disappointment with myself. Disappointment and disillusion with someone else. Unsure. Vulnerable. Pained. Offended. Wronged. Dismayed. Bold. Confident.
That's a lot. No wonder the ego wanted to "bounce" all of that. This ended up being a truly valuable experience for me.
Remember, a lot of different “types” of feelings can coexist – vulnerable and bold, for instance. Give yourself the chance to experience them all. Really feel them. Don’t think about them. Don’t question them. Don’t analyze them. And, please don’t tell yourself you shouldn’t be feeling them at all. Because when you embrace and just sit with your feelings, there is no second arrow.
Let me know how this experience goes for you in the comments below or send me an email. (Just click the link.) I'm looking forward to hearing from you.