Let me ask you a question, how do you feel right now? Close your eyes. Check in. Ask yourself the question silently in your mind and listen to the answer. Then, I have another question for you, is that feeling what you want to feel in this moment? Close your eyes. Check in again by asking yourself this question silently. Listen to the answer.
Have you ever thought much about connecting with how you want to feel? With how your thoughts, behaviors, and choices can bring you closer or further away from how you want to feel? For years...years...it never occurred to me to think much about cultivating a specific feeling. When I started on a path of spiritual seeking some fifteen plus years ago my North Star was getting close to God. I'm not sure much of that journey in my mind was about feeling. It was more about doing the "right" thing. Saying the "right" things. Thinking the "right" things. Eventually feeling entered the picture when I experienced moments of intense bliss during certain practices. In some ways, I shifted to become a bliss junkie from that point forward. I became addicted to bliss. And when I couldn't find it, I was miserable. Here's what happened. I associated the feeling of bliss with the specific practices. The result was a painful dichotomy between a world of bliss I experienced in my spiritual practices and the stress I experienced in the rest my life. This eventually created a firestorm of anxiety inside of me.
It's about this time that I was introduced to meditation and mindfulness. These practices had me see clearly the impermanent nature of my feelings. The way my mind would create suffering for myself. I started taking space from my feelings through a regular mindfulness practice which helped me see the stories underneath that my mind was weaving about work, about my personal life, and how these stories I told myself all spun a web of stress. Finally I could see a way out of the mess I'd woven.
I reduced the grip of my mind on my stories. Any time I had intense feelings and experiences I took space to ask myself simple questions to bring awareness to the situation. This got me out of the pickle of being a bliss junkie where I wanted to hide away in a cave forever praying and in contemplation never to come out. But then it introduced another sticky phase in my life that I blogged about on Monday. A space where life became content, peaceful, but suddenly felt so lifeless. The sparkle in my eye was gone. The fire of enthusiasm for my passions started to dampen. And I suddenly found myself perplexed with how I'd lost the zest in life and how to get it back. Or was this the point?
The last few years of my life have been spent reawakening to feeling in a new way. The best way I can describe it is that I'm experiencing feeling not from a detached mindful way, but from an alive and mindful way. The feeling I wanted to experience in my life was Joy. It was calling me Home as it kept showing up in my life and so like a child curiously following a butterfly I followed Joy through my life. I used Her as my North Star for the thoughts I cultivated and put energy into, for the actions I took, for the choices I made, for the behaviors I favored. For the people I spent my time with. For the work I took and turned down. Joy became the center of my existence and suddenly life felt alive again.
Before we continue onto the practice for this week you might be thinking...well sure I can cultivate something like Joy when I'm alone, but when I'm at the mercy of other people, circumstances, I can't always do it. I get it. Trust me. Let me give you an example from my own life this week about how Joy won the day in a challenging situation.
On Mondays I teach back-to-back classes. I usually grab an Uber or Lyft to get between studios. This week, the metro was a mess, the Pope was coming to DC, streets were closing, which meant that all cars were busy. I ran into a rainy street to find a taxi and walked for blocks until I finally was able to catch one. Knowing that time was tight, I checked in with the taxi driver to see if we were on the same page about the route. But he understood little English and was hard of hearing. I told myself to just trust that I'd eventually get to the studio after many unsuccessful attempts to check in with him about the best streets. My ride could have been miserable. My driver was driving remarkably slow. And it was causing us to miss green light after green light. My mind wanted to be aggitated. My mind wanted me to jump out of the cab and grab another one. I could feel frustration building inside of me. I decided to embrace it. To understand the frustration and then I decided to dig deep for Joy. Because I knew that feeling frustrated wouldn't change my circumstances. The traffic would still be congested. The driver would still drive slowly. And timing would still I thought Marci, where's the Joy in this ride? This question brought my attention to the enchatment of the city in a rainstorm. Observing how there was a strange beauty in the chaos of traffic jams and the tetris-like movement of cars through intersections. I started reflecting on how many passengers my driver has probably had who got impatient with him and yelled. I noticed the Joy in his calm navigation of the busy streets. He didn't seem disturbed at all by the traffic. When he dropped me off, I decided to tip him. Because that's what felt most Joyful in that moment. He was so grateful and smiled so brightly. I knew in that instant that the worse taxi ride I could have had in a long time, became a beautiful journey. And it all had to do with choice.
According to Brene Brown's research, people change their lives through a "three-legged stool" approach to notice how their thinking, feeling, and behavior are connected. During my taxi cab, I knew that certain thoughts and behaviors could foster a feeling of agitation or joy. It took practice. It took a commitment to Joy. And in some moments it took digging deep to find the Joy underneath. Throughout my ride I was not denying the frustration coming up. I saw it clearly, I felt it, and then I decided to think and act differently to foster something differently. And in my own life, when I focus on what I want to feel, it draws me like a magnet there.
So now to our practice this week. Below is my adaptation of an exercise I really enjoy from Danielle LaPorte's Fire Starter Sessions that I've used in the past in my own life and revisited as inspiration this weekend.
- Go back to your original check-in I had you complete at the beginning of this blog post. What do you want to feel right now? Take this feeling and post it somewhere you will remember it in your apartment, your workspace, or on your phone home screen. Anywhere that will ensure you keep it in your mind.
- Decide one action step you will take today to specifically foster this feeling.
- Identify one person in your life that makes you feel this way and decide the next time you will connect with them by phone, by e-mail, in-person, or otherwise.
- Finally, decide one action step you can take today to share this feeling in the world. For example during my taxi ride, it was tipping my driver at the end. What can you do to share your feeling with others?
Life will continue to happen. Feelings our mind "dislikes" will continue to emerge. The point of following what you want to feel is not to deny what you don't want to feel. My experience is the opposite. Now I feel everything with much more life and awareness than ever before. The "good" and the "bad." In Brene Brown's vulnerability research she discovered that when people numb out to the "bad" they numb out to the "good." This practice is an invitation to numb out to nothing. But perhaps to feel life fully for the first time.
If your curious to learn more practices and techniques to help you create a life connected to how you want to feel join me for my Choose Joy Program where I'll be sharing all the tricks I've learned along the way. One of those secrets is that having group support paired with expert advice has been critical to supporting some of the biggest transformations in my life. This Program has both. I hope you'll join me for a powerful journey. Let me leave you with this question, what do you see could be possible in your life if you consistently choose to think and do in support of how you wanted to feel?