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Feelings are a part of our minds, not separate

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Feelings are self-contained and subjective phenomenal experience. Due to it being subjective, we don’t trust our feelings. In our society, we view feelings as an obstruction to rational thoughts. Therefore, most of the time, we justify distrusting our feelings, and seek consul from others on what we should do. Despite this, we follow our feelings anyway and the results are what our friend predict, prompting them to say. “See, I told you so.” But yet by suppressing our feelings, the discomfort of our feelings don’t subside. Are feelings and thoughts separate? We acknowledge thoughts to be the mind, but not feelings. In fact, feelings too, are part of our minds.

How do feelings arise from the mind?

When we see someone helping another on the street, we may experience a feeling of gladness as we see kindness being expressed. Or, when someone speaks harshly to us unnecessarily, we might walk away, unable to stop thinking about it and causing anger to arise every time we are reminded of being treated unfairly. Feelings arise in these two situations differently.

In the first situation, the feeling of gladness arises from our perception. This gladness is felt in our hearts, as we perceive kindness (also felt in the heart) to bring peace. The same experience takes place in the second situation. Feelings of anger arise spontaneously when the body perceives a harsh sound being directed at it. After the experience, we go away thinking about being spoken to harshly, replaying the scenario and feeling indignation over and over again. The feeling of anger in this case, arise from thoughts.

Feelings arise from both our body awareness and mind.

Where is the mind?

Feelings have always been a part of our minds, but strangely, we perceive those who act on their feelings, or even those who acknowledge their feelings to be weak. Some even declare they base their decisions on rationality and data while being kind. But when it comes to having to make a decision between data and kindness, data often wins and kindness is put aside.

If we were to try to find our minds, we can’t find it. Can you find your thoughts or your feelings? People often point to their brain when asked where the mind is. We assume our mind and perception to come from our brains. But in the two examples above, all it took was to see and to hear from our body awareness and feelings arise almost immediately. How we respond rationally then depends on the processes of the brain, after experiencing those body sensations.

As for our feelings, we feel it in our hearts. If the mind consists of perception, thoughts and feelings, shouldn’t we experience feelings in our brains?

Our feelings equate to states of our minds

While most of our sciences are centred on materiality, some scientists are considering consciousness to not be separate from time and space. In Eastern religions such as Buddhism the mind is consciousness, and consciousness is a part of our entire bodies. Our body feels, while the brain filters our experiences. Rationally speaking, if consciousness only resides in our brain, when someone touches us, we shouldn’t be able to feel the sensation immediately.

Many people experience traumatic experiences and anxiety in the society. We seek to heal by suppressing, or distracting ourselves from deeply uncomfortable feelings. We feel threatened by them and feel that they affect our minds. Someone shared with me that he heard that itchiness can cause depression. Feeling itchy from an allergy is an uncomfortable feeling. Not wanting uncomfortable feelings equates to depression since feelings are part of our minds. We tend to think in boxes, for example, by placing itchiness (the body sensation) into one box, the feeling of dislike (itchiness) into another box. Then, the mind that gets depressed into another separate box.

While our brain functions by compartmentalising things and experiences, our life experience is very different from how our brains think.

Healing our minds mean we need to understand our feelings

Since feelings is a part of the mind, it makes no sense to suppress or run away from the mind, which is our experience itself. Taking medication numbs the mind, which in turn numbs the feeling of being alive. And being alive is a totality of our experiences in earth time and space. When we are awake, we sense experiences, and even in dreams, our experiences are vivid, it makes no sense as well to end our existence in order to remove experiences we dislike. Especially so when consciousness cannot be found, it seems to envelop the body inside and outside, and consciousness is the experience of existence, perhaps existence is what goes on and on, which cannot be annihilated even in death. This observation comes from meditation when meditators realise that consciousness cannot be an exclusive function of the brain.

To begin healing the mind from states of depression and anxiety is to face our feelings. Feelings arise from thoughts and perception, which may not reflect present moment reality. Sometimes we suffer trauma in our childhood, such as physical abuse from a parent. When we see similar situations as an adult, that feeling of trauma could return. In this example, the experience is already over, but we hold onto the feeling of trauma, where it hovers over us as an invisible monster.

Mindfulness protects us from illusory feelings and thoughts

When we practice mindfulness, we learn to become a witness to all our thoughts, feelings and body consciousness in the present moment. By training the mind to stay in the present moment, mindfulness keeps the mind from going back to the past or into the future to dream up illusory thoughts and feelings.

Contrary to popular beliefs, mindfulness is not static. Mindfulness is not formal meditation. It is an active state where we can become a witness to our experiences (body, thoughts and feelings) whenever we want, whether sitting in meditation, or walking to the supermarket. The long-term mindfulness practitioner might one day ask, who or what is the ‘witness’ that witnesses the thoughts, perception, body consciousness and feelings? Most of us aren’t aware of this witness because we think we are our body consciousness, thoughts and feelings since we live inside them.

What are you if not your thoughts and feelings?

The real purpose of mindfulness practice is paying attention to the witness that reflects the thoughts and feelings that passes by it. The witness is like a mirror, not grasping onto the passing experiences of thoughts and feelings. One might wonder, which one is our mind? Our feelings, perception and thoughts are fleeting. If our minds are our feelings, thoughts and perception, it certainly does not provide security because they come and go like dust.

From being a daily witness of our body consciousness, thoughts, and feelings, we may find that the silent witness that is aware, is the true stability of our experiences. This silent witness cannot exist in the past or the future, but only in the present moment. It doesn’t distract or confuse. In fact, the witness is full of compassion of the experiences of the mind which is distracted, and chaotic.

Being the witness to our feelings, we can understand our minds. By understanding the fleeting nature of the mind, we are less and less caught up by the chaos of our experience. We may find less need for outlets of distractions and find ourselves in extended periods where we are happy and contented to dwell in the peaceful silence that is only accessible in the here and now.

Mindful Breath

Mindful Breath is committed to sharing the systematic training of mindfulness with anyone who is keen and open to exploring their relationship with their inner experience for better health and caring relationships towards a gentler and friendlier society.

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