Honoring Your Feelings
I have a new practice.
Recently, I found myself in a flow of adjustments throughout the day. After traveling for three weeks, I arrived back to my community house with bed and work location changes happening. More guests were staying in the house than usual. So, where I was sleeping, where I was working kept changing and one person moved out and three people were moving in.
It went on like this for five days. I slept in a different bed every night. I walked throughout the house to find a quiet place to lead Heal My Voice phone calls and that changed with each phone call.
Until one day, I realized that underneath my yes, sure, going with the flow, “I can share a room with anyone”…I became aware of a feeling of sadness. I was about to push it down and not feel it and adjust, but something inside of me said, “Stop. Feel. Say it out loud.”
This inspired me to start a new practice: Take a moment throughout the day to see how I am feeling. To acknowledge the feelings that are under the desire to flow with change and to give my desires and feelings a voice. It may not change the direction of where I am flowing next. The practice is a commitment to feel and communicate. No more stuffing or being the person who flows so easily without a voice.
“How am I feeling” is the question and then a moment or two or more to honor it all.
Three years ago, I wrote an article where I talked about honoring the feelings in grieving. All change involves loss. You let go of one thing to open to another. Even the loss of a roommate and the gain of a roommate you are excited to get to know is a change of loss and gain.
Originally written in summer of 2010:
Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet. ~Bob Dylan
The quote from Bob Dylan reminds me of the most important step in grieving, honoring your feelings. You can stand in the rain and get wet or you can let the rain into your heart and soul. Your feelings are there for a reason. Whatever event has opened the door to grief, the loss of a loved one; a health challenge; the loss of a job or the loss of a dream; there is a gift in grieving.
The gift is in the feelings and they deserve respect. Feelings can be anger, sadness, disappointment, hurt, shock, betrayal and even relief. Why is it so important to feel the feelings? When you can feel and grieve, you open your heart to experience more love, joy and happiness.
In the Art of Loving, the author, Erich Fromm said, “To spare oneself from grief at all cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness.”
In other words, by detaching from the feelings around grief we place our heart in a box. Nothing can touch it. We cannot feel the pain and we cannot feel love. The gift of grieving is the ability to go deeply within ourselves and to open our heart to feel more emotion. Ultimately that leads us to feel more joy.
The greatest gifts in my life have been the moments when I loved so deeply that I felt like my heart was breaking. The truth is that the heart muscle was being stretched and expanded in this moment of pain. There is a gift in the ability to love and feel all the feelings.
My son, Cooper was born with a congenital heart defect. He had an absent pulmonary valve and an enlarged lung. After his first open heart surgery at the age of two weeks old, the doctor told my husband and me that he might not make it through the night.
As I looked at my little boy in an infant bed I knew that I loved him more than I had ever loved before. In the pain of the thought of losing him, my heart expanded to be with him and love him. With tears streaming down my face, I told my son that no matter what he chose, life or death, I would be by his side. I told him that if he wanted to fight for his life, I would be with him every step of the way. And if living was too hard and he wanted to die I would still love him with all of my heart. My heart expanded to love him unconditionally. Five minutes later the nurse told me his vital signs were improving. In this moment, he had chosen life.
For 19 months, I loved my son for who he was through two open-heart surgeries, shunt and hernia operations. I threw away the developmental books that told me who he should be at a certain age and I loved him unconditionally for who he was. Ultimately, he died from a 4th stage neuroblastoma cancer. In my heart I knew that he had completed his mission in life and had made the decision to let go and die.
He was one of the greatest teachers in my life. One big lesson was to love people for who they are and let go of trying to change anyone. Grieving the loss and feeling all of the emotions opened my heart to love everyone in my life deeply.
When you open your heart to grieve, you open your heart to love.