Emotions Are Your Guidance System

When on the openhearted life journey, we each have experiences that can take us to some deep places.  Depth invites exploration – if we want it to, of course. In a conversation awhile back,  a good friend who is near and dear to my heart asked me how I was.  In that moment, I said, “I’m discombobulated and my emotions are near the surface.”

“My emotions are near the surface.”  What an interesting turn of phrase.  What I meant was that sadness, sorrow, angst, tears were all near the surface and tears would spill easily and effortlessly with the slightest provocation – sorrow or joy.

I dug a little deeper to discover what was stirring in my soul that caused these emotions to be so near the surface.  In that exploration, I identified and released things that had been swirling around and in me about decisions and choices I have no idea if I will even need to make.  I began to settle into a place of not knowing and not needing to know in this moment, trusting clarity will arise in due course.  No need for decisions or choices today.

a moment of reflection

I surrendered back into peace, joy and delight as I had a little realization, an aha moment.  My emotions were near the surface again.  They were just different emotions than previously.  Which got me to wondering.  Do I even think of joy, delight, peace as emotions?  Seems I do.  But not in the same way as I think of sorrow, sadness, anger and grief as emotions.  Without being conscious of it, I’ve been making value judgments about my emotional experiences – just like I tell people we do in the coaching and teaching work I do.

Yup.  There I was, doing it too.  Sorrow, sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety – bad.  To have those emotions near the surface is bad.  Like they need to be contained.  We don’t really know what to do with them but many of us have learned that trying to contain them, while it might work in the short term, just doesn’t work in the longer term.

How many times people apologize for their tears, one on one, in circle, in some meeting or gathering, and how many times I say, “I look forward to the time we no longer feel the need to apologize for our tears.”  I have, for the most part, stopped apologizing for mine.  So it is always delicious to discover what all is still alive in me when I explore my own emotional state.

Today, when my emotions are near the surface, instead of a tear sliding down the side of my face, a smile might break out for no reason in particular, when I’m by myself, with my son, with my partner or directed at a stranger.

The strange thing is, just like we don’t necessarily know what to do with the emotions we judge as bad or negative, many of us also don’t know what to do with joy, love, peace, delight.  We can be pretty good if it’s episodic.  If there is a reason – like we have to have a reason.  We’re not so good at knowing what to do with prolonged bouts of happiness, joy or delight – but what a beautiful challenge to embrace.

If we are used to chaos and negativity in our lives, it just feels different to shift into a new normal – of peacefulness.  A new pattern.  A new way of being in the world. Shifting the shape of our experience. Quite delightful to cultivate actually.  And this state of being does grow on a person.  Thankfully.

What I’ve been learning in the course of my life’s journey is that our emotions – the full range of them – offer us guidance.  I used to think they made me weak – at least the ones I judged as bad.  I use to think being vulnerable was the opportunity for someone to attack me.  Now I know differently.  There is strength and power in vulnerability when it comes from authentic open hearted space.  And it takes courage to step into vulnerability.

My emotions are my guidance system.  They tell me how close or far away I am from my centre, from my soul essence. They are a clue to what I’m thinking, whether I am present or living in the past or future.  If I inquire into my emotional state I can find myself.  And I can change my state of well being by paying attention to my thoughts, discovering what I’m holding onto that doesn’t serve me.

I like finding myself in a place of peace and joy but it’s okay if I find myself somewhere else too.  My preference now, through the journey of life, is to find my way, continuously, through daily practice, back to a steady state of feeling good.

Untangling the Messiness of Transitions

My mother died on February 8, 2012. That night, as I drove from Lunenburg to Halifax by the light of the full moon, I felt her dancing spirit, free of the confines of a deteriorated physical body and I felt joyous and euphoric, recognizing the beauty and tragedy of transition all alive at the same time in the same moment. ~ Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness

 Last night I awoke to the light of another full moon and I had a flash of insight. Full moons signal times of completion. In my life and my family right now we have been experiencing a number of life transitions and I am celebrating the five year anniversary of  a significant life transition. Some of the transitions are easily named and obvious, some lie in the more intangible spaces and are not so easily named.

In the last few weeks, having been at home for an extended period of time (for me), I have been experiencing a whole gamut of emotions and they are all tangled together in the messiness of transitions. Celebrating and reminiscing. Joy and grief. Delight and general malaise. Acknowledging life and loss.

IMG_1353In my family, we are celebrating graduations, new jobs, new cars, moves and the animated energy of new pets. We are also grieving the loss of a beloved pet a few months ago and I am grieving changes in my household as a result of one move while celebrating the next steps in my son’s life just as much as I am appreciating the alone time for reflection and my own rhythm of life’s patterns.

IMG_1533 Jacobs car

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is the five year anniversary of moving into my house, post divorce. Five years provides a significant marker for reflection on all that has transpired in that time – new growth, what was achieved, what was not achieved, the joy of finding my way, my voice, my life and the disappointments of not realizing all I dreamt possible in this time while feeling immense gratitude for the unexpected gifts that showed up, particularly my new partner with whom I am in an intentional, whole hearted, cross border, life and work journey. With new and inspiring visions for our work together.

IMG_1120

 

In this moment, there is a transition working its way through me yet again. It is intangible, energetic, spiritual. It is another aspect of my soul journey manifesting itself in physical form. There are not adequate words to capture the essence of the moment and sometimes words are not what is needed. While this is going on I am struggling with my current body image as I reinstitute my fitness regime that has been sadly lacking over the last few months of interrupted patterns.

 

 

Mary Ritcey Jourdain, 1970s

Mary Ritcey Jourdain, 1970s

And, I find myself missing my mother – unexpectedly and deeply. This might not be the “right” thing to say, but mostly I don’t miss her much. We are connected in spirit and in soul journey. She is in the next stage of her soul journey and I am cool with that. Partly sparked by family friends posting pictures from another moment in her life when she was young. Partly sparked by upcoming consulting work for a long term care facility – not the one my mother was in for four years, but sparking memory just the same. Partly sparked by mother/daughter Mother’s Day promotions and my mother’s birthday being in the month of May.  You never know when these moments will hit.

All of these things (and maybe more) are tangled together in this moment of new and old transitions. I am grateful for the full range of emotional experiences because our emotions are our guidance system. The contrast of emotions helps us know we are alive, helps me know I am alive. Each moment is temporary. This too shall pass. The sight of the full moon last night reminded me about completions. I am ready to cross the threshold that is waiting now. To welcome what wants to flow while honouring all that has transpired in the multitude of transitions all alive in this moment.

 

Embracing Projection

One of the ways we distance ourselves from the stranger within is by projecting our issues, our own shadow, on to someone else, as if they were really someone else’s issues or someone else’s fault.  We do this with greater and lessor degrees of consciousness.  Every one of us has projected onto others at some point and we have all been the subject of projection too.

Projecting onto others is a way of externalizing the source of our pain.  This happens when we are afraid to examine how we might be the source of our own pain.  It is easier to blame someone else and we can become quite skilled in rationalizing why it is about someone else rather than ourselves.  It is one more way of giving power and voice away.

“We cannot get from others what we have not given ourselves. We cannot receive all the goodness, love, beauty, and joy that is awaiting us if we shut it out, if we believe ourselves unworthy.” ~ Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness

Sunset at the lake in Lake Park, MN

Sunset at the lake in Lake Park, MN

Learning to embrace that which we want to project, brings it home for healing. When we can do this we reclaim our power, reclaim our voice.

The other side of this is when we are the subject of projection.  It can be confusing when we are on the receiving end of projection.  It can appear in many ways from an angry outburst to a very logical rationalization of why we are portrayed as the antagonizer of the other person, why they somehow cannot do better, why they are stuck – because of something they believe we have done, somehow we have held them back – or so they want to believe.

One of the ways we can recognize projection is by the energetic impact that comes with it.  This energetic impact is often what creates the confusion within us, especially if we are new to the awareness of being projected upon.  For myself, I use to take it on, figuring there must be something wrong with me, something I could fix to make everything all right.  I gradually became aware that not all that was being projected onto me was mine. Then I needed to learn to discern what was mine to work on and what belonged to the person doing the projecting so I could let it go.  The mantra, “no one can create in my reality unless I let them” became a life affirming guide in the journey.

The fear was that what was projected on to me was my stranger in action, the stranger in me that I felt needed to be disarmed.  But the only way to disarm what we perceive to be the stranger is to embrace it. In the embracing of it we “take whole”, as my partner Jerry Nagel says in his work on World View, and we once again step into our power and our voice, inviting us into openheartedness in whole new ways.

The journey to open heartedness is not about being exposed in a way that is threatening or harmful.  It is about waking up and opening to the full range of emotional melody that resides within us—the full range, the rich textures of symphony that wants to make itself heard, not just a narrow range of notes played in isolation.  Through the journey to openheartedness, I am learning to live in and with vulnerability—not as weakness but as strength—and I am relying on emotions as a guidance system that is unfailing the more I learn how to use it.” ~ Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness

My emotional guidance system will tell me when I am projecting, when I am being projected on, as I listen to it. It then is also a guide on what aspects of me, of the stranger in me, need to be embraced into wholeness of being.