Monday, January 16, 2012

Not Born Equals With Feelings

What is the one thing:

that precipitates us 
into reacting right away
rather than pause, and respond?

that makes it hard for us to sit 
more than a few minutes 
before leaving our seat?

that causes us to bypass the present
and escape instead, into the future
or memories from the past?

that drives us to anesthetize ourselves
into oblivion, with alcohol, pot,
shopping, work, sex . . . ?

that puts us at odds 
with the person closest to us,
i.e. ourselves?

That one thing is our difficulty in tolerating feelings, particularly difficult of painful ones. We are naturally wired to shy away from physical and emotional pain. And we are addicted to pleasure. 

We are all born with different levels of feelings tolerance. Some of us rush to pain pills, others are more able to stay with unpleasantness of all sorts. I am somewhat in the middle. 

Of course, feeling tolerance can be cultivated. One sitting at a time, we can practice meeting the inevitable suffering that is part of life. Each day a little more. Each second, acknowledging the pain and staying with it enough to witness our resistance to it, relaxing ever so slightly around the tightness . . . before we turn away, and distract ourselves.

Where do you stand on the feelings tolerance continuum? 


  1. Since I have begun practicing formal meditation, I have noticed that my mindfulness is increasing exponentially. I am a cigarette smoker. I would like to change that. I have begun to make my mind tell my body to wait a few minutes. After that few minutes is up, I have forgotten all about the craving for nicotine. I continue to do this. I have seen a huge decrease in my smoking. I believe it is being able to fully live in the present moment that makes up take a step back and look objectively at our actions after an urge or idea arises. Then, after further consideration, we are then able to make a more informed, wholesome decision.

  2. A beautiful post Marguerite. I think I am somewhere toward center too...depends on the day, on how many different stressors have been piled on top of one another...but mostly I am open to feeling and being present to what arises. I was just talking with someone about this exact thing yesterday, so I love that I happened by here to read what you've written.

    Staying is hard, but once we realize that we don't have a choice really, that what is IS, pushing it away or down is illusion the emotions flow through and we(I?)understand that I am completely safe...maybe that is what is ultimately what the running-pushing-hiding is about, fear for our safety.

  3. ahh, and protecting ourselves (so we/I think) from the possibility of disappointment...which is not at all logical...but how mind often works. So again, protection-safety. Maybe that is just me, but I suspect it may ring true for others as well.

  4. Thank you, Laura. And always such a pleasure to be visited by you!

    I agree with you, that at the bottom lies the delusion that we can run away from the suffering. And that sitting still with all of ourselves is probably the safest, wisest thing we can do.

  5. Elle, thank you for sharing your practice. Gil Fronsdal has this wonderful practice that he calls 'Riding the Desire' that addresses just what you talk about here. (I believe I wrote a post about Gil's practice a while ago)

  6. I like to sit and invite my feelings to flow through me even if I can't feel them.

    I see feelings as an important part of my inner balance and although I may not be able to be aware of them, they are still there.

    I encourage them to do whatever they need to do.

    At times I notice them. They can be excruciating or delightful, sometimes both. I sit with them until I know I can sit with them forever. Then I search for a lesson inside them.

    Some of my deepest insights come this way.