The Courage to Feel

Nobody can feel too much, though many of us work very hard at feeling too little. Feeling is frightening. Well, I find it so.   Jeanette Winterson, from Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Nobody can feel too much, though many of us work very hard at feeling too little.
Feeling is frightening.
Well, I find it so.

Jeanette Winterson, from Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

It is a beautiful early May day. After days of rain and unseasonable chilliness, the sun andthe warmth have returned. I am walking through Regent’s Park. The canopies of its trees are in bloom and light pours through their leaves, giving them the appearance of stained glass. The air is rich with blossom, and the birds are singing their songs.
 
A surge of profound joy arises in me. After some not so easy months, during which I’d felt quite stuck, and where inspiration and faith had reached a low ebb, things have, over thespace of a fairly short time, shifted: my circumstances have changed for the better, spring has truly arrived. Life is once again in full, exuberant flow.
 
A thought pops into my head: don’t let yourself feel this happy. For when things change again, as they invariably will, it’ll only be harder to deal with the fallout if you dare to go this deeply into joy. 
 
Fortunately, I catch this thought before it has a chance to take hold.
 
It is tempting not to let ourselves feel the full spectrum of emotions that us humans are designed to experience. Easier to avoid the intensity of a particular delight because one day it will surely leave us. Easier not to delve into those darker currents such as sadness or fear, whose presence can be most uncomfortable. But if we insulate ourselves, we end up living our life in shades of grey rather than in full technicolour. We might get to miss out on some of the more painful stuff but we’ll also miss out on drinking in the full sweetness of those more abundant and flourishing times. And the truth is, it’s always going to be a very broad and constantly shifting tapestry of sensations that make up this rather wild experience of being human.
 
I also believe that if we push away those darker currents, they end up getting caught inside us. If instead we can feel into them and breathe into them  we give them theopportunity to be digested and ultimately released, and we enable healing and usually also growth to happen. Yet so many of us are conditioned to believe that it is safer not to allow ourselves to really feel.
 
Can we savour each moment of deliciousness that graces us. And when our circumstances do shift and the tough stuff comes our way, can we find the courage to meet the experience with as much presence as we can muster.  I’m not going to pretend that this is always the easiest path to follow and I certainly come up against my own resistance again and again. But I also know deep down that I don’t want to watch from thesidelines, and that I do want to participate as fully as I can in this crazy, exquisite and sometimes rather challenging dance of life.