Suma Varughese wonders if her ongoing dance with feelings could be drawing to an end
What to do with feelings? All my life I have grappled with this question, for I was born with outsized emotions and a thinner skin than most. I felt everything intensely, while my poor self-esteem made it impossible for me to contain these feelings. My inner self often felt like a toxic cauldron bubbling away with anger, fear, confusion, frustration, jealousy, guilt, and shame.
My first attempt to handle these emotions was around the age of 17 or so, a year after I joined Sophia College and hostel. Displacement from my cosy and secure township life in a remote part of Orissa to a fancy South Mumbai environment sent my emotions to fever pitch. And unconsciously, I muted them by choosing indifference. Alas, muting the cacophony also muted my capacity to feel at all, and the next 16 years went by in a blank, cold haze. Then at age 33, I had a spiritual awakening, and the first thing it did for me was to restore my capacity to feel. With what gladness I received back my feelings, even the negative ones! For the depression had taught me that joy and sorrow went together, and getting rid of one eliminated the other too.
But I still did not know what to do with the negative emotions. I resisted them all the time, mostly unconsciously, and therefore trapped them within, where I was uncomfortably aware of their presence. Awareness and acceptance were the two mantras my inner guide had given me, and while I had no problem with awareness, accepting what I was aware of was a different ball game because my self-esteem was much too low to enable that.
However, I soldiered on for the last three decades, and my feelings definitely began to become a little more manageable. Even so, they were far from gone. And I went through the gamut of disowning them, rationalising them, beating myself up for them, consoling myself, giving them a positive twist, using them as an instrument for growth, and many other gambits. Then one fine day not too far back, I found I could simply just accept them because that was what was. Not all the time, but a good bit of the time. It was marvellous to experience the feelings simply flowing from my mind and body into the vast openness of the Higher Self, just exactly the way the rivers run into the ocean. Finally, I understood why this analogy was so apt. But even that was not the end.
Now I am learning there is yet one more curve to this journey, and that is the recognition that one simply has to do nothing with them for they are irrelevant. Why? Because they are not who we are. We are the Higher Self and not the body or mind. Anything that has to do with the mind or ego (both are synonymous) has nothing to do with me. I have not got to this space completely, but already it is having a remarkable effect of detaching me from my feelings. No matter what the feelings that course through me (and that includes the positive ones), they have nothing to do with me, and that is all there is to it.
I can already imagine how peaceful and empty my inner space is going to feel once this becomes my experiential reality. And I guess I really have to thank my feelings for bringing me to this space.
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