Distinguishing between emotions and feelings, desires and needs

Emotions aren’t synonymous with feelings. For example, emotions are more prone to mount an attack on our mood from some vantage point in the subconscious. We’ve all experienced, I assume, that crazy swing from feeling pretty positive and then, for some small reason (outer event, word, thought) – or maybe even for no reason you can consciously think of – suddenly you’re feeling down in the dumps, angry, despondent, etc. Bang! You’ve been hit by an emotional echo. Eckhart Tolle[1] would call it the “emotional pain body”, which is ready to rear up at the slightest opportunity. This is because: “when feelings are avoided, repressed, or glossed over, they return to the individual and the communal system as toxic emotions.”[2]

I would say there’s also a difference between a desire and a need. If our desires aren’t being met, there’s likely to be an emotional response. If our needs aren’t being met, there’ll be a feeling attached. Continue reading

Nutrition, elimination, sexuality – equally important biological needs

As human beings, we have biological needs for nutrition (food, water), elimination (faeces/urination/perspiration) and to express our sexuality. Meeting our nutritional needs is totally acceptable in a social context, which means we can eat and drink in public, either alone or with others. In fact, eating and drinking socially has become something that gives many people a huge amount of pleasure and fulfilment. With regards elimination (going to the toilet or perspiring), although not a taboo in Western societies, we’re certainly expected to do it discreetly and almost apologetically. And as far as fulfilling our sexual needs is concerned, this is only socially acceptable if it’s done in private and, on the whole, within the frame of the social construct of marriage. Furthermore, sex is bound up in a whole array of moral judgements and expectations.

Why this distinction between what are, in the end, equally important and necessary biological needs? I guess this question might shock some readers. I realise that if we don’t eat, drink or defecate, we’ll die, which isn’t the case if we don’t have sex. And I’m not proposing we all start to have sex in public. Nevertheless, I feel we’ve created a tremendous social block towards an in-built mechanism that’s an inherently beautiful and necessary part of our human constitution. Continue reading

Aging – a vehicle for a new source of power

Aging can also be a cause for stress. That’s been my experience anyway. It’s tempting to remain fixated on the body as it grows older, especially as our Western societies tend to give great worth to the new, the beautiful, the fresh. It’s only when the barometer swings completely over to antique that appreciation around old things seems a little more apparent! Now in my mid-40s, all the road signs are pointing to over the hill and into the abyss. It’s likely that persons I’ve known since I was a child will die soon; that I or somebody close to me will have age-related health problems; that my skin and my body will begin to sag unless I resort to artificial means, which are expensive and risky. Ok, I admit it, it’s a mid-life crisis and my views are coloured by the space I occupy between no longer being young and not yet being old. I’m having to embrace my age and learn the lesson of where my power no longer lies. It’s sometimes helpful for me to look back and see how much I’ve grow, for example, over the last decade. Between my mid-30s and mid-40s, I dredged through plenty of life crises and challenges – like we all do. My ever-present inner drive to learn the spiritual lessons from outer events has meant that I now feel more aware of life’s mechanisms as well as of my automatic responses. I feel both more detached and more engaged. Continue reading

Rejoicing in the Earth and giving back to Mother Nature

Both Tantra and Taoism point to the power of Mother Nature as a spiritual doorway, a healer and a part of our intrinsic identity. The globally renowned photographer Sebastião Salgado[1] captured the suffering of humankind and the Earth in his various photo collections. He used photography as a medium to document starvation in the Sahel region of Africa, genocide in Rwanda, the plight of internally displaced persons in various countries, and the burning oil fields of Kuwait – to name just a few of the hugely distressing subject matters he covered. Following years of photographic documentation of these kinds of human and environmental tragedies, Salgado was at the point of giving up his work. As a result of all the horrific situations he had witnessed and experienced, he felt worn out, deluded, depressed, without hope. Fortunately, he eventually regained a sense of inspiration. His salvation came from Mother Nature. He decided to photograph the outstanding beauty of the Earth – wildlife, landscapes and seascapes – as well as the joyful and meaningful existence of indigenous peoples. He remained true to his calling, namely, the raison d’être of his photographic documentary work was to raise public awareness about critically important global issues, in this case the environment and climate change; however, he chose to do this through the lens of the blessing that nature provides to humanity, rather than to focus on the destruction of the Earth through human ignorance, greed, etc. Continue reading

Changes sometimes take time to surface

I used to meet a woman with a dog each morning as I walked to work. Since this was happening on a daily basis, I eventually felt it was the polite thing to do to greet her as she walked by. The woman didn’t return the greeting. I continued to greet her each morning for a number of weeks and she continued to ignore me. One day when I’d obviously got out of the wrong side of bed and was feeling a bit moody, as I saw her coming I told myself: OK, she never says hello anyway, so today I’m also not going to say hello. As I walked passed her in silence with my eyes down, I heard her say: “Gruezi” (“Hello” in Swiss German). Totally taken by surprise, I smiled and turned excitedly to shout gruezi back!

I  had learnt an important lesson: always believe, never give up, keep smiling, keep being positive even when you don’t see the result immediately. Changes may be going on at a deeper level and might take time to surface. Continue reading

Laugh and play like a child

If you see things through the eyes of a child, you’ll more easily find delight (the Light) in what you’re doing. This is a reminder I give to myself regularly as I often take life way too seriously. Haven’t we all marvelled at a child’s ability to be totally engrossed in an activity? Can you remember what it was like to watch a film as a kid and to experience the scenes so profoundly that you almost felt you were living through them? Why do we experience life at a more superficial level later, as adults? Is it all part of the natural cycle of growing up and the getting serious that goes with it? A friend of mine gave me a good piece of advice the day he told me to play. Experience the lightness of the child who sees the opportunity to play in almost any situation. For me, this means getting away from the dos and don’ts, the shoulds and shouldn’ts, musts and mustn’ts that crowd our every action. Expectations, assumptions and moral codes can keep us from flowing naturally with life’s currents, getting in the way of our openness to exploring all our options.

 Excerpt from “She Who Is Unto Herself”