Friday, June 24, 2011

Emotion as a bridge to compassion

Last night during our meditation period, a Mary Oliver piece entitled "The Bird" was read aloud to us.  It's beautiful, and very moving; I definitely recommend you read it but it's far too long to include here.

So when we hear or read things like that, things that awaken an emotional response, what do we do with that?  It can be challenging to look at that emotion too closely -- as Welwood says in "Toward a Psychology of Awakening,"  "If ego is the tendency to hold on to ourselves and control our experience, then feeling our emotions directly and letting their energy flow freely threatens ego's whole control structure.  

When we open to the actual texture and quality of a feeling, instead of trying to control or judge it, "I" -- the activity of trying to hold ourselves together -- starts to dissolve into "it" -- the larger aliveness present in the feeling.  If I fully open to my sorrow, it may intensify for a while and I may feel all the grief of it.  Yet opening to this pain, without stories, also makes me feel more alive.  As I turn to face my demons, they reveal themselves as my very own life energy.

Emotions, we could say, are the blood shed by ego -- they start to flow whenever we are touched, whenever the defensive shell around the heart is pierced.  Trying to control them is an attempt to keep this shell from cracking.  Letting ego bleed, on the other hand, opens the heart.  Then we rediscover ourselves as living beings who are exposed to the world, interconnected with all other beings.  Letting go of judgments and story lines and feeling this naked quality of being alive wakes us up and nurtures compassion for ourselves and others."

Ah.  That explains it.  As I finally begin to allow myself to feel ALL that I feel, with acceptance rather than condemnation, the sense of connection to all life arises, and the barriers between self and other begin to fall away.


Maureen said...

I imagine your retreat must be quite serene and moving. Your new image is beautiful. I like the anticipation of the about-to-open wings.

Louise Gallagher said...

And... in your retreat I am feeling quite serene and moving!

Your image lifts me up and out and into myself.