Saying Yes to Our Feelings

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My emotions are all over the place today. It is beautiful outside and the flowers are amazing, so I feel immense joy and wonder with the world. And then I think of the painful parts of my life, the grief and loss some dear people I know are experiencing as they watch loved ones die from cancer, and there is this overwhelming wave of sadness. The tears start flowing.

Today, I’m saying yes to the wide array of human feelings.

To me, cycling between the highs and lows is a sign that I’m feeling my feelings. Brené Brown’s research has shown that we cannot selectively numb our emotions. When we numb the pain, we numb it ALL. We numb joy. We numb happiness. We numb pleasure. So today, I’m saying yes to the wide array of human feelings.

The comedian Louis C.K. recently talked about this on Conan O’Brien:

“You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. The phone has taken away the ability to just sit there. Underneath everything in your life is that forever empty feeling. Sometimes when things clear away, oh no hear it comes… I’m alone and it starts to visit on you. Just this sadness, life is tremendously sad, just by being in it…I’m getting sad so I’ve got to get the phone and write hi to like 50 people. Just be sad, let the sadness hit you like a truck…So I pulled over and just cried so much, and it was beautiful. Sadness is poetic. You are lucky to live sad moments. And then I had happy feelings because when you let yourself feel sad, your body has like antibodies, it has happiness that comes rushing in to meet the sadness, so I was grateful to feel sad and then I met it with true profound happiness and it was such a trip. But because we don’t want that first bit of sad, we push it away for the phone, or for that food, and you never feel completely sad or completely happy. You just feel… kind of… satisfied with your life and then you die.”

It isn’t always easy to lean into big feelings, especially when they are ones we find uncomfortable. And believe me, there are days when I choose to numb. But to be fully alive, we must say yes to the wide array of human feelings. When we don’t, we suffer. One of my favorite teachings from yoga is this: Pain is part of life; suffering is optional. Suffering is the pain of the pain. I will leave you with this incredible poem about sadness.

What to Do with Sadness
By Heidi Rose Robbins

When sadness lingers,
When loneliness creeps in to sit beside you
And will not leave,
When you can no longer feel a spark of joy
In even a hidden corner,

Find something,
Anything
That is burning–
A star
A porch lamp
A candle on the table.

Then, imagine that light
At the center of your heart
And remember
You are molten love.

The only thing to do
With sadness
Is to introduce it to
Indestructible Beauty–
To the flame
Of love Present in every
Living thing.

Start with a Morning glory
Or a sparrow.
Start with the Spirited eyes
Of the woman
Who serves you Coffee.
Start with a poem.

Say,
Sadness meet cherry blossom.
Lethargy meet the Ninth Symphony.
Despair meet the eyes of a child.

And then,
Be very, very quiet,
Take a few deep breaths,
And
Let them converse for a time.

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Dana_headshotDana Sturtevant is a registered dietitian, certified yoga teacher, and self-proclaimed foodie. She especially enjoys blogging about mindfulness, yoga, Intuitive Eating, Health at Every Size®, and the Slow Food Movement.