How I Feel Verses Who I Am

If you haven’t noticed from poking around my site, I have some pretty awesome photos. And I’m not tooting my own horn – my boyfriend, Drew Loika, is the artist behind the camera and captures some amazing moments.  He went out on a photo hunt and cross-country ski this weekend, and when he came back, posted this picture with the caption, “Doing the right thing can be #lonely.”

wind mill

I know exactly what he means.

I would add that not just doing the “right” thing, but doing the thing that matters most to you, doing the thing that is shouting from your heart, doing the thing that is scary, saying the thing that isn’t popular — all of these things can create a loneliness. They can create a feeling of “Oh, shit, I’m all alone on a limb out here.” And often times, those feelings lead us to believe that what we are doing is wrong.

Feelings have a tendency to become our reality without our conscious awareness. We often believe things like “I am lonely,” or “I am sad.”  The truth is those are actually emotions, and emotions don’t define who we are. Rather, emotions are things that our bodies experience.  Notice how you feel when you say the following statement:

I am lonely.

When I say this statement, it’s as if loneliness owns me, or as if I embody all that loneliness is. All of the darker feelings that come with loneliness seem to wrap themselves around me, into every chasm of my being, cutting out light and creating isolating separation. How many times have you told yourself, “I AM lonely (or fat, or sad, or too much, etc),” and felt your whole being BELIEVE it?

Now try the following statement:

I feel lonely.

When I say this statement to myself, it helps remind me that my feelings and emotions are just the result of my humanity. That being human means that I will have certain human experiences, experiences that are encoded into the biology of my cells. It allows me create a space between the difficult feelings I’m having who I am at my core – a being of light with unlimited potential. When I can separate my feelings as feelings, my body and whole being recognizes them as such and can still remember who I am at the core. This distinction is invaluable for working through the darker emotions that sometimes try to claim our very being.

It is normal as a human being to feel lonely. To feel sad. To feel grief, despair, fear, pain, anger and sorrow. Those are part of the human experience. When we can learn to separate our emotions and our feelings from who we are at our core, we create space to allow those emotions to evolve, shift, grow and change. Similar to raising a child, if we hold on too tight, if we put too much of our influence into the child and don’t allow for growth, mistakes and discovery, we stunt the growth of that child. We don’t allow for the evolution of that child into what she desires to become. But if we watch, give guidance, and provide a safe space for growth and change, that child can flourish.

It is the same with our emotions. Next time you are experiencing a painful emotion, try labeling it as just that – an emotion, a feeling, or an experience. Remember that you are a spirit in a human body having a human experience. Give your emotions space and watch them, ask them questions, and be mindful of their effect on you. From this place of mindfully watching, questioning and providing space, we can watch our darker emotions transform from discomforts into things like faith and joy. Making the distinction between who you are and what you are experiencing is the first step.

The most glorious part of it is, when we do have these experiences of uncomfortable emotions and we work through them with mindfulness and patience, we develop in ourselves a greater capacity to experience emotions, and not just the uncomfortable ones. When we work through emotions mindfully, we allow ourselves greater capacity to feel all emotions, including joy, happiness and elation.

So I invite you to practice this. To define your feelings for what they are, then lean in to what they’re asking of you and what you have to learn. Sure, doing the “right” thing can feel lonely, but I’d bet my last paycheck that it will only feel that way for a little while, and soon that emotion will be replaced by the joys of following your own heart.

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