To most English-speaking people, emotions, sensations, and feelings are interchangeable, and confusion sets in when I explain to others that they are not the same. If you had never experienced an orange and I said: “It is a fruit”. You might have nodded your head. “Aha? Yes, I know of fruit”. You might reply. “It comes from trees”. But my description of the texture, aroma, taste and experience of peeling one would have left you none the wiser, for we learn and understand through direct experience.
The appreciation, direct experience, and understanding of these 3 states – sensations, emotions, and feelings, are indispensable to what we nowadays term personal/spiritual growth. Without these direct experiences, we are unlikely to escape the quicksand of the mind that in Hindu Philosophy is described as “Maya” and imprisons the majority of the Earth’s population.
To appreciate the difference between the 3 states let me begin by reminding you how a human being is constructed. Firstly, we are biological/mechanical machines. With three separate brains that ideally should be working in tandem. Alas, they seldom are, with most people having two engaged brains and the third one coming in sporadically now and then for very short moments.
The human being as a biological machine entity is pre-programmed as well as programmable.
The physical brain is genetically encoded to learn via repetitive movements and complex physical manoeuvres essential for survival. And which by-pass the thinking /abstract brain/. It relies on sensing to a great extent. For if your hand touches something very hot it will automatically move away, it doesn’t wait for the mind to realize the hand is burning.
The emotional brain is in a sense the nervous system + hormonal glands. It acts as an intermediary between the mental brain and the physical brain. Its job is to release hormones and instruct muscles and functions of the internal organs +immune system for either fight/flight/or play possum. Emotions are ‘experienced‘ by the whole organism. “I am afraid”, “I am angry”, and “I am jealous” are apt descriptions “I feel jealous”, and “I feel anger” are not, they suggest disassociation from the totality of the experience.
The mental brain is like computer software code. Its job is to learn and create rules for survival in its growing environment. Some of these rules are learnt via painful experiences others are instilled in us by parents, teachers, friends society etc. What makes these rules stick is always “fear”. Whilst young it is highly programmable, hence why children are like mental sponges, who easily believe what they are told.
The mental brain does a great job of keeping us safe according to its program. It motivates the physical body into action via the nervous system (hormones) we call these ‘emotions’. The root emotion is fear, all other emotions are shades of it.
The totality of the biological machine can be described as ‘ego’ – it is self-centred and can only experience the world from its own perspective in terms of fear/survival/ having its needs met.
The snag in this biological machine is that whilst young, if emotional intensity overwhelms the child the mind will arrest /pull the plug on the emotions! How can it do this? Primarily by holding one’s breath whilst seizing the muscles of the lower abdomen and /or, by intently focussing on a surrounding object and disassociating from the body. It will also remember when people or the environment are/is unsafe. How to breathe properly .pdf
Gurdjieff, J.G. Bennet – Sensing and feeling
In the English language, we are fortunate to have two words that enrich our perception of self and our environment – sensing and feeling. I say fortunate because the Latin languages, certainly in Spanish, Dutch, and French only have one – “sensing” which is used to describe the whole gamut of sensing, emotions and….feelings.
I recently came across an article written in 1949 by J.G. Bennett (a student of Gurdjieff ) Describing a practical process for self-awareness that Gurdjieff promoted as one of the foundational pillars of his “System, or, the Work” that later on, was given the name “The Fourth way by P.D. Ouspensky another student of Gurdjieff that later set up a competing group. The difficulty seemed to be that in those days 100 years back (has anything changed since?) people were very much in their heads. This, then as now, is an outmoded self-preservation tactic by the biological organism to protect the individual from emotional intensity (overload).
Gurdjieff was aware that the French word “moi” (myself) was an insufficient vehicle with which to experience the detached self-awareness required for all three brains to work in tandem. So he creatively came up with “je”(me) and “moi” (myself) To differentiate between sensations – “myself” and feelings – “me”.
When people are full of rules and regulations in their heads, they sabotage their emotional expressions and experiences, which leads to muscular spasms /pain which in turn leads to a gradual retreat from their bodies and their senses. Gurdjieff went to great lengths to instil body awareness/sensing as a prelude to or in conjunction with working with one’s emotions.
As far as the above went, it no doubt helped with gaining a direct experience of sensation, however the true meaning of feeling was lacking, (although I have no doubt Gurdjieff was intimately connected to feeling in himself). I appreciate why, there was no word in the Latin language to truly express it, for it is not a descriptive word in the world of ego. Although it is commonly used and interchanged with sensing.
With *~Charley’s help, my appreciation of this conundrum has evolved one step closer to the truth and hopefully, my explanations will bring you, dear reader, one step closer on the path to true self-discovery. And, over time you will be able to make a clear delineation between sensations – physical body, emotions – fear (energy engine), the mind- (ego) controller, and feelings – love (the Soul).
*~Charley is an Intelligence beyond my comprehension that I Channel in real-time. (He describes Himself to me as a 12th-Dimensional Soul for ease of reference)
Feeling – Soul Connection
Gurdjieff was probably the first in recent times who coined the phrase that Man is sleep, although I half remember from 50 years back reading somewhere in the New Testament this pronouncement being repeated several times. Today being awake, and waking up has become synonymous with those who are realizing that politicians who control governments have become a law unto themselves. Those who pull on the levers of power get their lackeys to deliberately tell porkies as a means of control, deflection and manipulation of the narrative to move the sheeple in their preferred direction.
That type of waking up is important to free oneself of a great many belief systems designed to keep us demure and enslaved to their rhetoric. However, it does not free us from fear, hence we can still be easily manipulated. See the mindless sheeple.
Real waking up is closer to the idea of Spiritual Enlightenment, Self-Actualization or, as I like to name it -being ordinary. In our present world, there are relatively few ordinary people as yet.
To be ordinary is no mean feat, it requires the individual to be present in their bodies, unencumbered by the weight of suppressed emotions, or the fear of thinking the unthinkable. But most of all it requires a flexible heart that can open or shut according to need.
To talk about the heart and feelings we have to talk about the Soul. Somewhere in the last few hundred years we dispassionately noted that we are biological machines, easily indoctrinated, and manipulated. With the advent of science, we discovered that there were rules to this universe, and thought that with enough physics we could be its master. We just needed the right formulas. Now, in reaction to mainstream religions, we are proud to say “I am an atheist”, we threw the baby out with the bathwater,
The Gods of Religions are envisioned in Humanity’s image, for we can never comprehend that which is beyond us. And yet, there is an Intelligence that operates in the background of Creation, that is beyond, yet permeates and expresses itself in all Matter in this physical universe, be it animate or inanimate.
This soul Intelligence is a part of The Maker of All, exercising its Will within Creation. The human vehicle (whilst not unique) is a gateway for Soul expression and this window of interaction is found in the heart of a human being.
I previously mentioned how ego-the biological machine is fuelled by fear and all about self and survival needs. The Heart is the expression of the soul in this physical dimension, it is about feelings, a term we often confuse with sensation. Like Fear, Love has many subsidiary expressions.
Feelings allow us to place ourselves in a state of empathy with another sentient being and experience the world from their perspective. Just as importantly It allows us to observe ourselves dispassionately with compassion. Whereas with emotions – fear we are isolated, with feelings- love we are inclusive.
In a previous article, I focused on the power of words in our conversations. To the extent that we confuse sensation, emotional experience and feelings as descriptions of our states, the harder it is to distinguish and be clear in ourselves.
How to help ourselves to grow
The path to being ordinary is easy yet painful. Initially, we need to undo all the accumulated damage we have inadvertently done to our bodies, this is in terms of releasing muscular tensions, changing our diet, and releasing unexpressed emotions.
I have already mentioned the importance of proper abdominal breathing and provided a link to a .pdf. sheet with the info above.
For releasing muscular tensions and gaining body awareness (sensations) I recommend this meditation
So coming back to Gurdjieff. He hoped to share with his students the experience of the feeling of ‘me’ I also wish to share this feeling state with you. For it is a place beyond words, you could call it the Shangri-la in the human body, it is the centre from which our souls communicate with us.
in conclusion, here is a meditation to aid your connecting with the feeling of self