THROUGHOUT THE LAST three exercises, you have not only noticed your feelings, but taken time to identify where in your body you carry them. You have also sensed whether any symbol, like a word, image, or memory comes that fits or connects with how they feel inside.
In other words, what you have done is to enter into, and begin “going through your feelings” toward something more that lies within or just on the other side of what initially drew your attention inward.
It’s now time to examine more closely this “SOMETHING MORE.”
1. “Felt Sensing”
HAVE YOU EVER PACKED for a trip and experienced the nagging feeling that you’d forgotten something? Going through your list, you try to think what it might be, running options and possibilities past your vague inner unease. But nothing comes. Nothing changes. Then, you go to bed, tossing and turning as you repeat the same process over and over again.
Finally, you give up. “Que sera, sera,” you say to yourself. “What will be, will be.” Soon, when you finally let go of trying to figure it out with your head, and begin drifting off to sleep, the connection suddenly pops into your awareness. “The film! I packed my camera, but the film is still on the kitchen counter where I left it after coming back from the store.”
What happens inside when the right words connect with that vague uneasiness felt in your body? There’s a kind of inner shift, isn’t there? Release. Some inside tension relaxes. You now know what to do, where to go, how to act.
It’s helpful to realize that meaning is not only thought in your mind. It is also “felt” in your body. In addition to meanings we can think, there are also bodily-felt meanings. Eugene Gendlin calls them “felt senses” because they are felt in the body and sensed, not like the five senses, but more like, “She makes good sense,” where the word “sense” is a meaning word rather than a purely sensory experience.
A FELT SENSE IS LIKE some deeper current moving beneath the surface of our busy, hectic, often scattered and distracted living. Like the waters of a stream, these currents flow in, around, and through all the unfinished stories that our bodies carry.
Felt senses are very different from thinking. Your body knew you had forgotten to pack the film. That’s why it made you feel uneasy. But your reasoning mind couldn’t put your uncomfortableness in a clear concept. This more embodied level of knowing is very real, but still fuzzy to our thinking minds. So, we call it “felt sensing.”
Felt senses include, but are always far more than ordinary feelings, emotions, and physical sensations. The latter are generally more easily recognized and directly connected to something in our lives. We’re afraid. We’re lonely. We’re happy or sad. But a felt sense is more subtle and complex. We know “that” we sense something inside our body, but we often don’t quite yet know “what” it is or how it connects.
“The body is a multilingual being…The body remembers, the bones remember, even the little finger remembers. Memory is lodged in pictures and feelings, in the cells themselves.” — Clarissa Pinkola Estes
BUT THERE IS EVEN MORE here than remembering. Much more! Felt senses are not only about past experiencing. They contain an incredible treasure for the future! When noticed and nurtured, felt senses open new doors.
“The body can imply something new…Many theories hold that we can only find in experience what was first put into it from outside. Not so! Our bodies are more intricate than whatever we have experienced, whatever we were taught and the situations in which we lived. All that comes into our more intricate bodies is not just recorded there; it is lived further!…From the body come our next moves…Now we see that the body implies not just more, but a right next step.” — Eugene Gendlin
Felt senses, therefore, are living links etched into your body. They represent an inner world, a “withinness” waiting to be discovered. But how do you find a way through to these places of deeper story and often unexpected, gift-filled connections inside your body’s knowing? Where is the teacher who can show you the way?
Not surprisingly, it is your own body that already knows the way forward!
2. Sensing the Whole of It
IN PREVIOUS EXERCISES you began to notice some of your important feelings. These are your immediate doorways into a felt sense story that lies deeper within your body’s knowing. This first threshold of your important feelings is crossed when you proceed far enough into and through your body’s surface “feeling” to a point where you sense something MORE beginning to emerge from inside that feeling. There is a deeper meaning within or beneath the surface emotion.
For many, their felt sense meaning, or “more,” emerges as they become aware that their body not only feels something immediate and specific about an issue, it simultaneously knows and carries a sense for “the whole” of that issue.
For example, I may be angry in a relationship, but that “angry” never says THE WHOLE of how I experience this relationship inside me. It only says something about my current awareness of it. Yet, my body carries far more than just this isolated moment in the relationship. Let’s consider another example.
IT MAY SURPRISE YOU, but frequently when people go through the exercise on a person you love and another who is difficult, they often choose the same individual for both exercises! It’s a bit like the elderly lady who refers to her four year old great grandson as, “a charming nuisance.” We smile at the illustration because it so often fits our experience. Someone whom you really love and care for can, at one and the same time, be both warm and cuddly, as well as irritating and annoying!
It’s almost impossible for your mind to hold such a conflicted perspective together as a single whole. Yet, your body routinely does this with considerable ease. So, it is within your body’s knowing, within your “felt sensing,” that you can best work with seemingly irreconcilable opposites, because your body is able to include both pieces together within a single experience. Your body has a sense for the whole of a relationship, the whole of a situation, the whole of your experience.
Moreover, there is absolutely no way in which your mind can ever conceptualize or articulate that “whole” which your body immediately recognizes. It’s far too complex for your mind which can only grasp and analyze the individual parts. And, that is its important function!
Writing about this “sense for the whole” reminds us of workshops we gave years ago when we would invite participants to ask themselves a question:
- “MY LIFE IS GOING FINE THESE DAYS, ISN’T IT?”
On some occasions, as soon as the question was asked, a participant might spontaneously burst into tears. Yet, that person often had absolutely no explanation for why they had begun to weep. It was a complete surprise and mystery. But their body already knew something that their mind could not yet comprehend. With time, as they listened deeper into “the whole” or MORE of what was beneath those tears, answers began to emerge.
AS YOU DEVELOP THE HABIT of felt sensing, the questions you want to ask yourself are: “How does the whole of this issue feel in my body right now?” “How do I carry the whole of this relationship, this situation, this challenge, my excitement, my loneliness?” Then, allow yourself to grow quiet inside and listen for the MORE of what comes in a felt way inside your body. Listen for further connections, the felt links, the felt sense of all that is there.
Naturally, you begin with a specific feeling that stands out for you. But when you ask yourself, “How does the whole of this feel inside me?,” this allows your body’s inner sense to widen, including much more than the immediate feeling that first drew you inward.
It can also be helpful to ask yourself, “Does this feel familiar, or is it something new?” If you find any sense of “familiar” in what you’re attending to, then that’s already a widening out of the original feeling. Allow yourself some inner space to experience how that “familiar” feels in your body, where that might lead, and what it adds to your body-feel of the whole.
OFTEN, THE “FAMILIAR” will widen out in your body into other feelings. For example, expectations not achieved, comparisons between yourself and others, letting someone down, broken promises, unfulfilled dreams, etc.. It can also connect with more positive feelings–excitement, anticipation, prior hunches that were on target, a perennial longing for something that’s just over the horizon of your life, remembered enjoyment at getting close to achieving some goal.
The point is that all of this takes place in your body, which is much like a mini world-wide web. You touch one strand and another vibrates because they are “linked.” There is resonance here, as when a vibrating tuning fork is brought close to one that is stilled, and almost miraculously it, too, begins to vibrate!
Sensing “the whole of it” is an entire universe in itself. This is the embodied web of felt sensing, vibrating, connecting, linking inside yourself!
If you can quietly hold “the whole” of whatever emerges there in your body’s knowing, without trying to fix it, change it, make it go away or become better, this creates a special inner climate. Within this climate, more of your felt sensing world can emerge. More links become active in your awareness. More of your untold inner stories can unfold.
3. An Exercise in Sensing the Whole of It
THE NEXT EXERCISE is about recalling an experience of someone who played a pivotal and constructive role in your life. This could have been anyone–a teacher, a coach, a good friend, relative, co-worker, business associate, pastor, or whomever.
Recall someone who made a significant difference in your life, and who is not the same person as the one you chose in the earlier exercise on a person whom you really love.
Take a moment to grow quiet inside, and sense who that person might be. When you’ve identified her or him, then continue reading below.
Now, ask yourself:
- “HOW DO I CARRY THIS PERSON INSIDE ME RIGHT NOW?”
- “WHAT IS MY BODY’S SENSE FOR “THE WHOLE” OF HIS OR HER PRESENCE IN MY LIFE?”
a) Grow quiet inside and take time to notice if you have any body-feel for the whole of this person’s presence in your life.
When you’re ready, continue reading further.
b) Take more time to wait patiently with whatever body-feel you have, and notice whether anything, maybe a word, image, or special memory comes that fits the way you carry this person’s presence in your body.
When you’re ready, continue reading further.
c) Is there some further sense in your body for the impact this person has had in terms of choices made, careers followed, relationships entered into?
When you’re ready, continue reading further.
d) Take time, as well, to recall if there were important inner changes in you that may have occurred because of that person. For example, growing in self-confidence, skills learned, dreams fashioned, committments ignited.
When you’re ready, continue reading:
In just these few possible facets of the relationship, were you able to notice something of a body-feel for the difference between just thinking about this person in your mind, and actually sensing some of the lasting effects of “the whole” of this relationship in your body?
Are there other lasting effects of this relationship that it would feel right to notice and nurture now before you stop? Take whatever time you need to do this.
Then, pause again to check whether anything more has come that fits the way your entire experience of this person feels in your body.
Finally, allow some closing time in which to be grateful for how your body’s knowing has enriched your awareness of this relationship in your life.
Then, when you’re ready to stop, bring this exercise to a close.
4. Coming Home to Yourself
AS YOU SPEND TIME going inside and sensing more of the unfolding story within important feelings in your body, you will notice a pattern in how this generally unfolds.
Following upon the initial feeling that gets you started, there will be a vague sense for further connections and some dim awareness of “the whole of all that.”
A word, image or memory may come to connect in a way that brings a small or, on occasion, some large shift in the sense of how this all feels in your body.
That shifted feeling then becomes a fresh place to begin anew, if you wish, because it is not the same as whatever feeling was there just before it.
It may help to image this as being similar to the layers of an onion. There is an unfolding of one layer after another. Some describe this as a kind of “recycling.” You’re still working with your felt sense of the whole, but each time passing over or through it from a slightly different “body perspective.” Something changes in how you carry it in a felt way with each passing shift or slight inner transformation.
THE POINT, THOUGH, is that by beginning to learn the deeper language of felt sensing within your feelings, you enter upon a challenging inner journey! This is a process. There is movement. Unfolding. Sometimes surprise. Occasionally, there are quiet places of rest. Each has a story to tell.
Walking this inner path may be likened to what Joseph Campbell called, “The Hero’s Journey.” It is a form of pilgrimage into the unfolding story that is you, and the evolving mystery of human consciousness itself.
This is your personal inner journey! No one else can, or ever will make it for you. You are the only one who can walk this walk inside yourself. This is your sacred call and only your unique spirit can respond.
5. Learning to Use the “Check-In”
ON THE NEXT PAGE, we invite you to go inside your body with what we call, “A Check-In.” This simple exercise will help you begin getting a feel for developing the habit of noticing and nurturing your important feelings.
One of the great benefits of regular check-ins is that they soon help you to discover whatever blocks you from developing the habit of being more in touch with your body-knowing.
Hopefully, as you work your way through this site step-by-step, you will begin to recognize how this very unobtrusive little exercise can provide you with a new outlook along with surprising options, and sometimes even fresh new directions for living. The exercises and explanations can help you grow beyond inner blocks and limitations as you learn to develop your own personal “habit” of noticing and nurturing your important feelings.
The Check-In is an exercise you can easily do several times each day, even while going about ordinary, daily activities. It can either be a quick stop-in, just to notice and nurture what your body knows at any given moment. Or, if you have a little time, it can turn into a quiet pause during your day, allowing you to sense more deeply into the felt links and connections that influence your life.
Your own printed Check-In Card, “Checking-In with Yourself,” will be very useful as you work your way through this website. We encourage you to use this as a daily “homework” guide for doing your personal Check-Ins as you work your way through the information and interactive exercises on the site. Many of our members and workshop participants have found that by setting aside 15 minutes each day to do this little exercise, they find themselves gradually drawn inward on a remarkable journey.
THE BENEFITS INCLUDE not only a growing integration of our body’s knowing with your mind’s thinking, but the opening of a broader biospiritual horizon within which your body can make its own remarkable contribution to your individual spiritual development.
The link below takes you to the Check-In page which will guide you through your own interactive Check-In exercise. At the bottom of the Check-In page is a link to information about various card guides which you may download and print not only for yourself, but also for companioning another person in their Check-In, as well as responding to the important feelings of children, teens, and adults.
By downloading and printing these various cards you will have handy guides available to support your journey through this website. Take time each day, perhaps ten minutes or, even better, regular time in the morning and again at night, to do a Check-In for yourself as you work with learnings and interactive exercises here on the site.