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The Matter of Feeling

The path of the practicing yogi is the quest for non-attachment. The term connotates the relinquishing of impressive bank accounts, property deeds and all the accoutrements of material comfort. The essence of non-attachment, like all timeless teachings is a paradox. If attachment could be overcome through poverty, think of the fun political administrations could have endorsing the plights of the homeless, the unemployed, and the swindled. Letís hope this dilemma of spirit doesnít merge with any oncoming presidential campaigns.

Many of us have had the experience of group participation. The format for small group workshops tends to begin with, ďLetís go around the circle. Please state your name and share your feelings about being here.Ē Responses range from delight, curiosity and nervousness to a queasy stomach, shortness of breath and dry mouth. Itís a fascinating relationship between the way we feel emotionally and the way we feel physically.

Moods fluctuate with the changing of tides and the phasing of the moon. Our biochemistry is a miraculous umbilicus between the perceptions of the heart and the sensations of the body. Body and breath workers know the profound connections between perception and pain. As physical holding patterns are identified, pondered and gradually understood, a shift happens in our sense of safety as well as in our physical comfort. Trust reemerges when the fight/flight response is quelled.

Passion holds a challenge in the pursuit of a satvic (contented) existence. Feeling strongly, maintaining conviction and holding tightly to attitudes is not so different from holding onto matter. The body is our most intimate possession. Itís health and pleasure intrinsically connect to our willingness in releasing painful beliefs.

Colleen McCullough beautifully describes the pain of attachment with her legend of the thornbird... the birdís entire life is a pursuit of the thornbush. Its only song emerges in the piercing of its heart by the thorn. This bird is a metaphor for our passions, our causes and our grudges. We blindly contract our loyalty to our own bleeding as feelings overwhelm us and take root in our righteousness. Attaching to our feelings creates waves of personal choices and reactions within our soma. Our cells resonate with the vibrations of our unshifting emotions.

Hatha yoga helps to suspend the challenge of intense emotion. Breath and movement explore the feelings in our tissue. In the ritual of familiar postures, we can observe the qualities inherent to the unique dance of our emotions in matter. The individual biochemistry is altered with the balancing of endocrines and the toning of nerve conduction. We feel less intense as we participate. As we cultivate this witness perspective, we take ourselves less seriously and learn to enjoy the show.

Feeling isnít a problem; the emotional body is a gift of our mortality. As humans we have the luxury of exploring unique vantage points of mind and heart. However, concretizing perspectives inhibits our natural evolution back to oneness.

Our lives offer us generous opportunities for release. Invitations arrive in the exchange of relating, working and creating. When we feel the impact of choices, we have the potential to consciously shift. Refusing the invitation is a choice of attachment.

>From a distance, all is beauty. In the realm of eternal truth, we canít make a mistake. Yet within the limits of the emotional body, attachment breeds pain. As we make room for growth, the qualities inherent to our unique outlooks soften. An impersonal perspective allows the stilling of linear impulses, and we begin to integrate the innate connections of impersonal love. Our most tenacious attachment is the feeling that, ďIím loved because I am special.Ē

ĒThe bird with the thorn in its breast... it simply sings and sings until there is not the life left to utter another note. But we, when we put the thorn to our breast, we know. We understand. And still we do it.Ē

All great tragedies evoke the beauty of feeling. It behooves us to relinquish the identity that is fortified by pain. May we risk our holdings in the quest of being held in the timeless arms of universal oneness.

by Toni Zuper
Alternative Healing
Center City, Philadelphia

published in Yoga Living -- March 2004 issue