Feeling All the Feels
Last week, a student from the Yoga Teacher Training program I co-direct approached me after class. “There’s something I’ve been wanting to talk with you about,” she said.
She shared that the more she practices yoga, the more she feels. And that she’s not so sure she likes it. She described how practicing observation of breath, body sensations, thoughts, and emotions on the mat directly translates to being more mindful and aware of her sensory and emotional experiences off the mat. The more heightened her awareness, the more acute her experience of feeling.
I nodded. Sighed. Probably grimaced a little. “Yes. I know.”
We discussed how opening ourselves up to our uncensored in-the-moment experience is not the path of least resistance. As much as we might want to, we cannot isolate just the easy, pleasant feelings. Experiencing full potency of the good stuff means we must be willing to also be present with the hard stuff, the shitty stuff, the stuff we might wish to numb or push away. It means embracing emotions that are at a “10” on an intensity scale of 0-10, even when 10 is consuming despair. Because it also means that sometimes, 10 can be a flood of joy. The alternative is a life of 0-5 complacency. I’ve been there, and chose to leave the shelter of comfort in favor of Feeling All the Feels.
In a separate conversation with a friend, in the throes of grief and anger and confusion I said to her, “I wish I didn’t feel everything so strongly.” The look in her eyes implored otherwise. “But it’s what makes you you,” she said.
Again: I nodded. Sighed. Probably grimaced again. “Yes. I know.”
My experience with allowing the poignancy of full spectrum feelings has been life-affirming, heartbreaking, and at times almost too much to contain. In these moments, I was truly alive:
Being slumped on the bathroom floor, the exhaust fan on full speed to conceal the sounds of my gulping for air as I cried.
Still being moved to tears by a few hymns, years (decades, almost) after any regular participation in church.
The dizzy breathlessness of resting together after one of the most connected sexual experiences of my life.
Sitting across from my friend at the coffee shop, tears streaming down her face because there were tears streaming down my face. No coffee for me that day; already I didn’t sleep the night before.
Same friend, years earlier: tears streaming down my face because there were tears streaming down her face. Her world as she knew it had been shattered.
Sitting around a table of new and old friends, laughing so hard my face hurt, and then my belly hurt, and then I realized I felt more alive than I had in a long time.
The heat of sun on my face and the sounds of birds and monkeys in the trees as my body floated still and buoyant on the Golfo Dulce, the Sweet Water, in Costa Rica. For a moment, my mind was still, too.
My throat closing up around my breath and my body looping between shivering chills and sweating heat when I approach that part of town, as I flashback to that summer, and him, and feeling there was no other way.
Being tossed into the air overhead by a group of skillful strangers at an AcroYoga convention, my spirit feeling lighter the higher I went.
Stepping into the embrace of one of my oldest friends, her body so warm and accepting it felt like Home.
My tears transforming into grateful, disbelieving laughter and relief as not one, not two, not three, but four lady warrior friends showed up on my doorstep, care packages of flowers, chocolate, and wine in hand. “You throw the best breakup parties,” one said. “This is what love really feels like,” I said.
The purity and sweetness of holding my friend’s baby, her joyful cackle like music that I didn’t know I knew the tune to.
I could go on. I’m sure you could, too. If you’d like, perhaps wade into the waters of vulnerability with me, and send me a note with your own experience of Feeling All the Feels. Because being more conscious and present means experiencing the whole gamut. This is the choice to fully live.