Since Feeling is First

My most favorite lines of poetry are from ee cummings: since feeling is first / who pays any attention / to the syntax of things / will never wholly kiss you;

They are from his poem, since feeling is first. (I encourage you to read the rest, here, as it is perfect for spring.) I love juxtaposing these lines to our startup cultures in which engineering is highly valued, and again to those who attempt to hack life into a calculus. Humans are more complex than that. As an amazing human yourself, you know this: you can’t engineer a kiss. I thought of this poem while listening to our latest podcast when Jerry reiterated that feelings come before thoughts.

All of life is to be felt. It’s coursing through us all the time. Sometimes we can feel so much and not know what to do with it all. Every wave of emotional energy, from sadness to joy to anger to fear, brings with it information if we pay attention to it.

Fear is a potent one in the sense that its various flight-flight-or-freeze tendencies can wash over us in ways that are ultimately uncomfortable, as if our very lives are at stake. It’s a feeling we all know. Sometimes, these fears arrive quietly, without any real threat, perhaps with just a thought. Which ever way they assume their takeover, I’ve learned that if I don’t voice my fears they will control me in ways that are less than positive.

Pema Chodron wrote that “a further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s troubling us.” One of the tools that has helped me get more intimate with all the feels I might be feeling – especially fear – is a practice of listening to my body. What are these feelings trying to tell me? The practice rolls like this:

As you sense deeper into what you’re feeling, ask yourself the following questions:

1. What body sensations do you notice? Where do you feel them? What do you feel in that location?

2. What core emotions do you notice? (e.g. anger, sadness, fear, joy)

3. Fill in any details that come with the sensation: I see the image of _____ …, Words that came to me were _____ …, I hear a voice saying _____ ….

4. From the past, what does this remind you of?

5. Breathe. Take a moment to appreciate what you’re experiencing.

By the end of this inquiry, whatever feeling I may have been avoiding I could see in a new light, or it provided me with new insights. It cultivates a greater awareness within me, and I feel less charged, more clear about what was actually happening. I’ve found this presencing clarity gives me the space to tune into what I want most and choose to re-align with that. I share this in hopes that you find this useful in your own work.