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A follower, exasperated, said to the Sage, "I seem to be losing touch with my feelings. I'm concerned I'll just become a spiritualized robot, emotionless."
"This is good," laughed the Sage, clapping his hands in a celebratory manner.
Surprised, the follower said, "Good! what do you mean?"
"You're being weaned off relying on feelings about life, so you can feel life."
* * *
I laughed with a friend recently, when we were talking about meditation. I had said humorously, "Meditation is a good exercise in being humiliated, by not getting what we want." What being in the silence does is dissolve inordinate attachment to experiences and their accompanying emotions. This is a passive purging of reliance on the bodily senses. Through this, we move down into a deeper, richer relationship with life, not denying the senses, but not controlled by them either. The senses, in this process, are themselves transformed from inordinate to celebrations of life.
In the silence, learning not to reply on experiences with their accompanying emotions, we will often feel like nothing is happening. We will feel what has often been termed "aridity," a spiritual dryness in which even apparent sacred feelings are absent. We will get disappointed repeatedly, until we learn to relax into this nothing-happening as a happening. So, this passage from feelings about life to feeling life is not easy, for we are socialized to seek so-called good emotions in contrast to so-called bad emotions. Then, rather than the emotions serving us, we serve slavishly the emotions.
Yet, the suffering world is bouncing from feeling to feeling, looking for the next high or addicted to a familiar, even if sorrowful, low. When you feel life, the incessant emotional bouncing stops. Here, as says Chuang Tzu (ca. 4th Century), we merge our spirits with the vastness.
* * *
I often use Feeling for this feeling of life. Here, there is no severance between life and feeling. In living through the emotions, our emotions separate us from intimacy with life. Interesting in this regard is the derivation of "emotion," which derives from a Latin assimilated form of ex, "out," and movere, "to move," so, "to move out." Hence, emotion moves out, while Feeling is total intimacy. Feeling remains with life, so is in Harmony with the spirit-of-Things. And that is what one is seeking, hopefully, to learn in silence to be-with life, not moving away from life.
* * *
This Feeling, this Harmony, is why the great Taoist sage Heshang Gong, the River Master, born about 203 BCE, could say, "The Taoist glows with Inner Light, but seems outwardly dull and foolish." Grace can present as unimpressive to those who want a spiritual high or to persons who think a spiritualized being should be somehow sensational. The sagacious one is not attached to the feeling-life, the ceaseless parade of emotions, as others are, nor does he or she want to be impressive in the usual sense of captivating. He or she is interested, rather, in living calmly in the Harmony, inner and outer being one, bearing a subtle radiance of the Feeling-of-Life. This one is not over-concerned with the doings of others, but his or her being, as wrote the Christian mystic John of the Cross (b. 1542 CE), "It is great wisdom to know how to be silent and to look at neither the remarks, nor the deeds, nor the lives of others." This inner disposition, Harmony and Contentment, manifests in body and movement, inviting to Peace without one having to say anything to invite to Peace, this Peace that is not an emotion but is a quality of Life Itself.
Pedro. 'Percurso Rio Uíma VIII'. Creative Commons
(C)Brian Wilcox, 2020
*Reference from Chuang Tzu, in Zhuangzi. The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu. Trans. Burton Watson, et al.; Quotes. Heshang Gong, from Lao Tzu. Tao Te Ching. Trans. John Minford; John of the Cross, from The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross. Trans. Kieran Kavanaugh, Otilio Rodriguez.
*Photo 'Lilies' and 'Percurso Rio Uíma VIII'. No alterations made to photos. Link to license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode .