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October 16, 2019

We can’t Escape our Feelings—Trust Me, I Tried: the Practice of Feeling.

My first trip to Bali was an escape.

An escape from a struggling marriage, from past pain I was too scared to face—an escape filled with unfulfilled expectations.

This escape was the beginning of a painful awakening. A head-on collision with all I’d been running from. An awakening to the dark that resided in me, to my pain, to my fears—an awakening I did not see coming.

One year later, mid-divorce I returned to Bali for a different kind of escape. An escape with more awareness, an escape with intention. “Self-care travel,” I called it—what at the time sounded like a fun, less messy way to help heal my pain. No sense in dwelling on it, might as well enjoy it, I figured.

But as you probably guessed, that bugger pain packed his heavy bag and crashed my self-care escape. And while this trip, like the first one, ended up being exactly what I needed, it was nothing like I expected.

This time, I travel not looking to escape or distract, and instead armed with an ever-growing book of lessons gained through experience.

This time, I travel understanding that no amount of travel, healthy food, yoga, hiking, plant medicine, possession, certification, business success, sex, or new relationship alone heals pain.

You see, as much as the trillion-dollar wellness industry likes to tempt us, there are no quick fixes when it comes to healing.

“The wellness market, encompassing fitness, skin care, travel and nutrition was valued at $4.2 trillion in 2017, according to the Global Wellness Institute.”

And while I would love to say this shift in focus toward health and wellness is all positive, it saddens me to see so many with more tools than ever, struggling to find their center.

And although self-care tools were a great support along my journey, ultimately, I realized the only way to truly heal is to feel. Feel it all. Not just when it’s convenient to feel (damn), on your time line (“Okay, one year focused on healing and I’ll be great!”), but to truly allow the feelings to flow as they arise, honoring them for all that they are, without judgement, resistance, or hurry.

Because healing truly is a lifelong practice.

These past few years, since first discovering this pain buried deep within, have been one hell of a ride. A ride filled with major life changes and moments of “Ahh everything is as it should be,” mixed with moments of “Holy sh*t, what the f*ck am I doing?”

And as much as my struggles have taught me how strong I am, I’ve also come to accept how sensitive I am to this crazy world we find ourselves in—and I know I’m not alone. There’s a lot of f*cked up sh*t going on in this world. And I’ve become more aware of how I’ve been contributing to all this chaos—let’s just say, it’s been a lot to process.

And to be honest, it’s been a struggle to not become overwhelmed by that awareness—because it just doesn’t stop. It’s everywhere. Even dating with awareness, and don’t even get me started on that.

At times, I catch myself dreaming of the days of ignorant bliss—those days I remained trapped in that safe little bubble, on the surface, dodging all that made me squirm. But deep down, I know I cannot return to this old strategy of avoiding all that makes me uncomfortable, because ignorant bliss is false bliss.

Deep down, I know the potential that lies beneath our shared fear, doubt, and conditioning. Deep down, I know this understanding is both a privilege and a responsibility. Yes, I ‘m sorry to report that once we gain awareness, it’s truly our responsibility to practice facing the tough stuff, preventing it from festering and spreading to others in our lives and in this world.

And while it seems a bit odd to have to practice how to feel, this is my reality, and the reality of so many others in the world today.

We live in a time where it’s so easy to lose that precious, child-like connection to our emotions, that innate ability to know and express ourselves freely. Most of us have been taught from a young age to turn away from our emotions—to suck it up, be tough, and just keep going when disaster strikes.

The reality is, disconnecting from our emotions and true selves has become a common coping mechanism for many.

Often, we are so busy surviving, paying the bills, going, acquiring, and achieving, we don’t have the time or energy left to deal with these pesky emotions.

The pressure to succeed, the need to keep up, and the fear of missing out are real. They’re real forces impacting our minds. Real pressures impacting our behaviors.

Yup, the world is overwhelming, so we sometimes choose to disconnect, distract, numb, and medicate ourselves to deal.

But this disconnection from our emotions and failure to honor our entire selves is making us sick.

You see, one way or another, failing to process emotions impacts our health. The effects of consistent emotional suppression include increased physical stress on the body, including high blood pressure, increased incidences of diabetes, and heart disease. In addition, people who engage in emotion suppression regularly are more likely to experience stiff joints, bone weakness, and more illnesses due to lowered immunity.

Research has also shown a connection between avoiding emotions and poor memory as well as increased misunderstandings in conversations with others. This is because people who regularly suppress emotion are often less aware of the signals they are sending to others and less aware of the social cues present in daily conversation.

Finally, those who avoid emotions, especially negative ones, are more likely to experience anxiety and depression in their lifetime.

According to the ADAA, 40 million adults in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders. Although, highly treatable, only 36.9 percent of those suffering receive treatment. While these are the official numbers I pulled up, I suspect the numbers are significantly higher, with many more unaware, undiagnosed, and untreated.

The bottom line is: many of us are sick and medicating in all the wrong ways. Medicating with temporary, artificial, quick fixes that quickly become compulsions, attachments, and addictions, ones that imprison us, tying our happiness and sense of self to external stimulus. Trapping us in destructive cycles of dependency, taking us further away from the power of our emotions and true selves.

But as I’m seeing, with time, patience, and dedication, we can re-learn, re-connect, and re-engage in life.

We truly have everything we need to face our sh*t, build awareness, and increase our capacity to handle whatever life throws our way—we just need to commit. Commit to small, incremental changes in our lives. Commit to healing through practice.

The practice of remaining present through moments when we just want to run, fight, or numb.

The practice of welcoming in whatever emotion arises—no matter how darn uncomfortable it is.

The practice of sharing our feelings and all that we are, without shame, guilt, or fear.

The practice of honoring our feelings, without allowing them to define us, and understanding they are temporary if we simply allow them to flow.

And while this practice of creating new relationships with our feelings is hard (hands down the most challenging practice I’ve committed to), like anything we want to learn, it simply takes time.

Unfortunately, awareness alone does not equal instant change, and that’s okay. Yes, you guessed it, patience is another b*tch of a practice too. It’s one I’ve had to practice time and time again as I work through this massive period of healing, but it has truly been transforming my mind and outlook on life. Good ol’ patience, reminding me that no matter how bad we want to fast forward through our struggles and get back to the “good stuff,” we simply cannot rush our journey. We cannot force ourselves to be anywhere but here, as we are, in this moment.

All we can do is continue to practice, to learn as we go, extracting the goodness from all the piles of sh*t we are handed through life.

Practice taking the time to slow down and celebrate those, “Everything is exactly as it should be” moments and all the subtle shifts and realizations as we go.

Practice accepting all parts of ourselves—including those tougher to see parts, developing a greater sense of compassion for ourselves and everyone else along the way

So while I’m sorry to report that we can’t escape or rush through feeling, I’m stoked to share we can learn to create healthier relationships with our feelings, resulting in a richer, more united existence. You see, these feelings we feel, these tough times we experience, are a part of what connects us all as humans. This capacity to feel truly is a gift. It allows us to experience new depths of love, and a greater sense of compassion and appreciation for all in our lives.

Life really is one big practice—a constant evolution filled with so many beautiful moments, even amidst the chaos and pain. So let’s continue to practice.

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