In November of 2004, I suffered a grand mal seizure and was diagnosed with epilepsy. My life changed dramatically, and I began searching for answers. I read book after book with a hunger to find out more about the universe around me as well as the one inside my head.
I later realized that this was the beginning of my path toward self realization. All of my research on subjects ranging from physics to psychology, from cosmology to biology, from science to religion, lead me to the essence of my search: The answer to the question, "Who am I?"
During this period of time many people have come into my life offering me guidance of all kinds. This has always been the case, but I learned to welcome it because I knew there was a message meant for me in everything I experienced.
To paraphrase Eckhart Tolle, "Treat everyone you encounter as a noble messenger." I have done my best to heed his suggestions, as well as those of other spiritual teachers, in the search for my Self.
At one point in time along my journey, I was told by a very intuitive aunt-in-law that I was a highly sensitive person deep down and that I had put up barriers to protect this sensitive core, which had left me somewhat cut off from my feelings. She told me to open myself up to experience these feeling when they arise so that they too could experience freedom.
This message came after I had experienced over flowing tears of joy during my first ever satsang with Jeannie Zandi (www.jeanniezandi.com). So I took the advice to heart and became more mindful of my feelings.
I began to notice that I have a tendency to avoid feelings as they arise, especially the ones that might cause tears. In the case of hearing about some tragedy in the world or some other story that might cause sorrow, I would use my knowing that everything is innately perfect as a reassurance. However, I think there may be an inclination to hide out behind that knowing instead of actually experiencing these feelings to their fullest.
With all of the tragedy going on in the world today, it seems natural for us to avoid feelings to a degree, or at least turn off the part of us that might experience them on a personal level. Otherwise, we might get sucked into the endless drama and sorrow of the world. However, this too can create a disconnect or resistance toward what is.
Since I have been more aware of feelings lately, I have had a few glimpses of this sensitive inner core that I have been protecting. The triggers have come in various forms, such as listening to a moving song, hearing a touching news story, meditating with an open heart, having some body work done, etc.
I have noticed that when I start to experience the precursor to tears welling up, something akin to fear tends to step in trying to prevent them from fully developing. It may be disguised by thoughts like, "I can't just start crying for no reason, so and so will worry or think I'm crazy." But beyond that surface level egoic fear is a deeper fear. One that says "I can't open myself that much. It will open me up to a whole new level of vulnerability so great it could kill me."
Therein lies what I think the fear is truly about: The ego's fear of death and the unknown. This manifests as the fear of feeling free to express feelings over seemingly insignificant things, but can also be viewed as the fear of being without the protection of the ego.
As my life's events continued to unfold, I encountered a quote that came back to me while scanning through some audio clips on my computer. It is from an Adyashanti (www.adyashanti.org) track labeled "What freedom really is."
"[It is a] myth that [when I'm truly enlightened] I can rest in some assuredness that I will never again feel insecure, or feel fear, or feel doubt, or feel those emotions that we don't want to feel. Forget it. That's not it. That's the pipe dream. That's the opium that's sold to the masses. And they eat it up and they never get there, and they end up disillusioned. That's not how it works.
Freedom is never freedom "from." If it's freedom "from" anything, it's not freedom at all. It's freedom "to." Are you free enough to be afraid? Are you free enough to feel insecure? Are you free enough not to know? Are you free enough to know that you can't know?
Are you free enough to be totally comfortable, to know that you can't know what's around the next corner? How you will feel about it? How you will respond to it? That you literally can't know? Are you free enough to be totally at ease and comfort with the way things actually are? That's freedom. The other thing is the ego's idea of freedom."
Another quote came to me shortly thereafter while listening to a CD by Pamela Wilson (www.pamelasatsang.com), one of Jeannie Zandi's teachers. Pamela likes us to invite negative feelings into the light of our awareness and find out why they are arising. In this particular case a man in the audience was suffering from grief over a lost relationship and wanted some guidance in dealing with it.
After some inquiry, Pamela basically said, "Sorrow and love are the same. How could we feel such sorrow if we weren't capable of so much love? Sorrow comes to show us the depths of our love. We are caring itself, and always have been. We are love itself, and always have been. We just didn't realize it. Sorrow just brings love down into the body. It's funny how in the beginning emotions obscure who we are, then later they can help us realize who we are."
What I have taken from all of this is that behind every seemingly negative emotion is our ego, trying to protect our true loving essence from harm. Whether we are feeling anxiety, frustration, or sadness, when we trace those feelings back to their origin we will likely find a defensiveness trying to protect us.
Fear is at the center of it, which triggers the ego to step in with a response that has seemingly worked in the past to protect us. Once we see our "negative" feelings for what they truly are we can embrace those feelings as well. After all, they are happening out of love and for love's sake, but they are also preventing us from seeing our true Self. The freedom from fear is the freedom to feel.
Trey Carland is a consultant and Executive Director of Allied Academies, an international association of scholars. He lives in Candler near the base of Mount Pisgah with his wife Shelby and their four legged companions. He currently hosts an Awakening Practices group featuring the works of Eckhart Tolle and has been sharing his journey with the world through his blog. Contact him via email at Trey@QueDox.com or through his blog at www.compassion-blog.blogspot.com
PS Note from the editor. See 8 Tools for Allowing Higher Vibrations under the menu item, "Bright Ideas." Tool #8 is an easy way to transform negative feelings by feeling them fully.