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.
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.