A Story of Awakening
I’m struck more and more these days by how being awake to the feeling states we live in is essential to our well-being and our capacity for leadership and productivity. I did some intensive coaching recently with a global leader called Carla who was struggling with stress and burn out. It had gotten so bad that she was having trouble getting out of bed in the morning – so unlike this woman who had a great enthusiasm for life and was used to waking up looking forward to her day.
I talked with Carla about the connection between our thoughts and our feelings, which made a lot of sense to her. But it soon became clear that she really didn’t know what feeling states she was experiencing – they had become a blur. So I gave her some homework – to draw a pie chart with slices representing the feeling states that she experienced throughout her day.
After that first session, the pie chart Carla drew had a big slice she called “anxious,” medium-sized ones for stress, indifference and annoyance, and slight smaller slices that represented feeling relaxed and tired.
Becoming aware of how much time she spent in negative emotional states had a profound impact on Carla. She had known it in a general sense, but her awareness of what she was actually feeling had been tuned out. Once she turned her awareness of her feelings back on, and started linking her feelings back to the fact that her own thoughts were creating them, everything began to shift.
When Carla returned from her next break, the feeling/pie chart she drew had slices representing feelings of calm, happiness, relaxation, stress, busyness, feeling tired and feeling interested. Her feelings had begun to make a big shift away from purely negative to visiting more nourishing feeling states.
After the third session, the chart showed feelings of happiness, inspiration, contentment, joy, busyness and productivity. Carla was back in her state of natural mental health, and glad of it!
It’s natural to be aware of our feelings as we experience them, and when we are, the thoughts that generated them clear and move on, making room for the next set of fresh thoughts that are responsive to whatever is occurring in your life at that moment. When our minds are functioning in this way, we naturally experience a sense of presence, and the deeper feelings that go with it. But we can all develop habits of tuning out our feelings, especially the ones that are uncomfortable for us. This is when mental congestion begins, leading to experiences of stress and burnout, as happened for Carla, or any of the varieties of mental discomfort that we as human beings are capable of.
TIP: What feelings are you awake to? What feelings are you asleep to? Waking up to the feelings you tend to tune out may just be the key to your bliss. As Sydney Banks once put it:
“Find the feeling, then you might find the thought behind the feeling, and then it’s all over!” Ref: Sydney Banks, Mind & Insecurity.
With love, Annika