Free in the Feeling

During a recent gathering with friends to share our latest achievements and family tidbits, one person removed their phone.  They flashed an image for us to see, commenting about personal fragmentation, political polarization, and societal demise.  They leaned forward in their chair, arms waving faster, voice escalating, and face reddening with each word.

I viewed the image.  Though I didn’t share its sentiment either, I didn’t feel our friend’s rage.  And as they continued, I observed that their intellectualizing halted our conversation and shattered our connection.  Where we’d been invited to celebrate some joys, now we were bystanders in a discourse about the world’s problems.

When I asked our friend how they felt, they paused.  They stared at me and repeated what they already said.  Then I realized: They couldn’t tell me how they felt (I imagined anger, horror, sadness, shock, among others) because they were disconnected from their feelings. 

Alas, this is true of many people, especially those in certain clinical, political, and spiritual circles who believe that personal feelings are mushy emotions we must eliminate and transcend as quickly as possible.  

However, when we analyze, criticize, and theorize, we keep life at arm’s length, pushing away such feelings as anguish, confusion, disillusion, grief, heartbreak, and sorrow.  Sometimes, to bypass the feelings, we make things about “someone else” or “another.”   Then the pain can root, grow, and fester in our bodies as headaches, backaches, bellyaches, limps, rashes, or ulcers.  Furthermore, our reactions can detach and disconnect us from ourselves and those we love most. 

When we’re willing to acknowledge our feelings as the divine messengers they are, we become free to experience life differently, even when we don’t like some of it. 

If we’re ready for such an adventure, we can contemplate these questions:

  • How do I feel about the particular behavior, circumstance, and/or situation I’ve experienced?
  • How are the behaviors, etc., different from mine?
  • What, if any, similarities do I see?
  • What am I willing to do to mourn the past and accept what I cannot change so I can heal, move on, and invest my time and energy elsewhere?
  • Where are the openings to get more of what I love by changing myself or my own perspective?

These questions aren’t easy to answer.  They require the introspection and sacred conversations which encourage us to grow in spiritual maturity.  They invite us to use the feelings we once believed would hinder us to discern what we need in our lives now, what we love most, and how we want to serve others by contributing our gifts in this world.  Especially, they free us to rediscover life’s simple pleasures as we embrace more of the beauty, joy, and wonder we find on our way.

© 2019 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

A Label, By Any Other Name

One day during a planning meeting, someone appreciated my organizational skills and said, “My Virgo feels so much better now.”  Then they asked about several future activities.  I said we’d get to those in a few months, after we completed other steps.  They exhaled and checked something off their to-do list.

Later, as I reviewed my notes, I wanted to ask, “What comforts your Virgo?”  I imagined how stifled they might feel within the stereotype of detail-oriented Virgo.  I also wondered whether their Virgo labelled other colleagues or me, if that Virgo perspective is the only one they hold. 

Even as we can be almost anything, live nearly anywhere, and learn about any culture in one swipe, many of us still live according to labels designated to separate and diminish us, rather than connect and empower us.  Sometimes we keep ourselves in these labelled boxes, perhaps because someone told us that’s where we fit — and we never questioned it. 

Consider some of the labels:

Black, Tan, White, Yellow

Agnostic, Buddhist, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Sikh

Bi, Gay, Lesbian, Queer, Straight, Trans

Destitute, Poor, Privileged, Rich

Educated, Uneducated

Aquarius, Gemini, Leo, Scorpio

Enneagram: 4, 3, 2, 1

Communist, Democrat, Libertarian, Progressive, Republican, Socialist

Artist, Chef, Criminal, Entrepreneur, Teacher, Unemployed, Veteran

Cousin, Dad, Mom, Sister, Uncle

Carnivore, Vegetarian

Fat, Short, Tall, Thin

Athlete, Couch-Potato

Homebody, Traveler

Loser, Winner

Sometimes we classify one another, like specimens in petri dishes, saying, “They’re this way because they’re an ‘Introverted, Radical, Vegan, Architect.’”  Then we imagine we know their whole story.  We may spend tons of money and time assessing ourselves and others based on classifications which can become self-fulfilling prophecies.  We may struggle within those labels to meet some standard, trying on other labels for size, like new clothes, to see whether they suit us better.

Often, institutions put us through the demoralizing process of labelling to determine our rank, credit score, and net worth, as well as our aptitude to enter a specific school, live in a particular neighborhood, or drive a certain car.  We’re evaluated with algorithms and metrics to determine what kind of risk we might be to their security and how we conform to societal ideals. 

And among all those labels, we forget the only important one: Beloved Creation of God (or whichever name we use for God), Beloved Creator of all things.  Being one of God’s Beloved Creations means we’re divine just as we are — and so is everyone else.  That divinity, indwelling in each of us, is expansive.  It allows us to rise beyond the limitations of all other labels.

As soon as we begin discarding labels, we grow in spiritual maturity.  No matter what we’ve believed about ourselves before or which paths we’ve traveled already, we feel free to embrace both the depth of our divinity and the strength of our humanity.  We live from a greater sense of compassion, understanding that everyone experiences pain and loss, as much as joy and success.  And, as we know the divine within us, we know it in all others, too.

© 2019 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

Get the Feeling

In the movie classic, Tootsie, struggling actress Sandy (Teri Garr) is furious with her friend Michael (Dustin Hoffman) and distressed about her failing career. After trying to be sweet and “nice,” pretending that everything in her life is “fine,” she captures a truth about knowing oneself.  She rants and declares: “I’m going to feel this way until I don’t feel this way anymore.”

Finally, Sandy reaches the place which many on the spiritual journey do, when we realize that we can no longer maintain false poise or hold one more forced smile.  Instead, we choose to feel our feelings, accept and embrace them, and use what we’ve learned to transform our lives.

To say that we’re never afraid, angry, anxious, broken-heartened, disappointed, discouraged, embarrassed, overwhelmed, upset, or a myriad of other feelings, is to pretend that we’re robots.  It denies our humanity — and ultimately, our divinity.

Theologian and philosopher Augustine of Hippo asked: “How can you draw close to God when you are far from your own self?”  So he prayed: “Grant, Lord, that I may know myself that I may know You.”

Our awareness of ourselves and our relationship with God are inextricably linked.  If we deny ourselves sacred time for self-connection, through contemplation, meditation, prayer and reflection, we disconnect from God.

Furthermore, we struggle with life, believing that we’re emotionally healthy and spiritually mature because we deny our “negative” feelings and refuse to acknowledge them.  Sometimes we stuff them deep down inside where they begin to destroy us, in body, mind and spirit, from the inside out.

No matter where we are on our life’s journey, when we deny our feelings, we stall.  We avoid the divine messages our feelings provide.  We forget the truth: That God is always with us and within us, even when our candidate loses; we don’t get the job we wanted; we labor to release an addiction; our children or grandchildren don’t call or text; our “forever” sweetheart doesn’t love us anymore; an ailment doesn’t heal as we expected or desired; we have an accident; a friend moves away and forgets us; no one likes our social media posts; we watch a loved one die.

Yet, as we grow in spiritual maturity and emotional health, we realize that the feelings we believed would hinder us actually help us discern what we need and how we’d most enjoy living.  As we acknowledge the feelings, we also discover that they draw us closer to God, divine creator, unconditionally loving, infinitely compassionate, eternally grace-giving.

Ultimately, our feelings are part of our divinity, allowing us to know and embrace the truth of ourselves and others, too.  When we feel sad, confused, excited, joyous, or anything else, we’re feeling the life of God within.  We know that we’re alive – even when it isn’t fun.

Let us get the feelings.  Then, they won’t get us.

© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

Whose Rules? – Part 1

Many years ago, I saw a poster which began: “With all your heart, say out loud, I want to live a happy life.  Listen to what you just said.”  I read each subsequent phrase to the end, which said: “Take chances.  Be real.”   Then, I cried.

In that moment, I knew.  Those colorfully designed phrases arranged by artist Julie Evans heralded the end of an old life.  My heart was calling me to something else, including the journey to follow something called Rules for Life.

I know many people bristle at the word rules.  They’re frightening because they might constrain us.  Yet, they’re also liberating.  Consider the expression: “When we know the rules, we’re free to live within them.”

When we know our own Rules for Life – the kind Jesus and all other spiritual masters and mystics lived by – we’re free to be our authentic, divine selves.  These rules are usually counter-cultural, because they put us and our relationship with God before anything else.  Ideally, they help us travel a continuously expansive, rich, joyful, fulfilling faith journey.   They invite us to go deep, as Jesus and all mystical masters have done before us.  So, we remember our divinity and our true calling.

Our rules keep us from chasing other people’s dreams, living by unattainable standards, saying things we don’t mean or believe, and buying things we don’t want.  Our rules inspire our authenticity, so we don’t live a lie.

That’s why I believe it’s important to remember that resurrection isn’t a one-time event.  And why some of us travel the faith-filled journey called Eastertide, the 50 days which led from Jesus’s resurrection to Pentecost, when his disciples and followers went forth — deeply grounded in spiritual power — to live their sacred calls.

This part of the journey invites us to choose which rules truly support us in growing more emotionally healthy and spiritually mature.  Slowly, step by step, we can do the inner work which nurtures the divinity we are.  So we live and express the truth of our being.

The process for determining which rules are ours is powerful — and sometimes painful.  As we journey, we discover that we have some flaws, just as the silkiest tapestries, finest crystals and rarest diamonds do.

Sometimes, the flaws show.  So, establishing our own rules requires tremendous faith and courage.  It also means we stop wasting our precious personal power pretending to fit in or make do with a life which saps our energy and stifles our creativity.  As the saying goes, We “get real!”

In Part 2, some practical steps we can take to be real and establish our own rules for life.

 

© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.