May 13 – Feeling Our Way Through – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
Underneath, there is only one emotion.
I used to struggle, fighting off sadness or trying not to be anxious, but as most of us learn, once that drop of melancholy or unrest beads on the heart, trying to feel anything else is denial. Once the mind like a long guitar string is somehow plucked with the slightest agitation, there is nothing to do but let it ring itself out.
We all know of the tears that turn to laugher. Or the laughing that breaks open to a cry. Or the anger that crumbles into a tender loneliness. Or the cool face of indifference that cracks, eventually showing its adhesive of fear. Amazingly, as the infinite forms of flowers all rise from the same earth, the early garden of emotions – in all their delicate shapes and colours – all rise from the same earth of heart.
What this opens for us is the often hard to accept fact that underneath there is only one unnamable emotion, which all feelings know as home. Despite our efforts to be happy and not sad, to be calm and not anxious, to be clear and not confused, to be understanding and not angry; despite all the ways we carve up our reactions to living and then run from one to the other; despite our fear of certain feelings, it is feeling each of them all the way through that lands us in the vibrant ache that undersides our being alive. To reach this vibrant place is often healing.
It is a hard thing, though, to lean into sadness we don’t want, to let the tremor of anxiety work its way through. For myself, my resistance to unpleasant feelings has been my fear that if I give over to the sadness and anxiety or confusion or pain that is upon me, I will drown in it. I fear it will take over my life. I will become nothing but sadness or anxiety or confusion.
But what I discover, again and again, is that feeling any one feeling deeply enough – that is, thoroughly and completely – somehow opens me to the common source of all feeling. And at the source, not around them, we come upon the unnamable source of all feeling that can heal us of the pain of any one mood.