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Finding Common Ground

One of the most useful and rewarding skills I've developed through my work and self-practice is how to feel and better understand the energy of emotions. Learning this skill has given me clearer perspective on how emotions relate to the body and thoughts; and that has created deeper self-understanding, freed me from suffering, and sustained relationships with integrity. Using this skill also enables me to feel a consistent connection to what is beneath, between, and the sum total of acknowledging all of the emotions; something that isn't really nameable but lately I've been calling it abiding common love. The word 'common' popped into my mind recently for this experience and I like the idea of this ineffable, pervading experience being common - ordinary and shared.

When I fully acknowledge and honestly observe the sensations in my body, without adding on an interpretation or analysis, I'm able to sense the circulating energy of emotions passing through me rather than latch on to a name for it or identify with it. The more I witness this, the more connected I feel to the common essence pervading all emotions and the less I get bogged down in labeling or judging. Being able to sense the common qualities of different emotions helps me accept all of the emotions equally which leads to accepting my whole self rather than separating “good” parts from “bad” parts. Being able to do that helps me feel what we all have in common, too. Regardless of whatever is moving through you or me, there is the underlying, abiding common energy.

Something that I have seen work repeatedly to clarify and strengthen this clear perspective is to look at the nature of emotions, and feel the nature of emotions. Again and again. To simultaneously be a witness and participant.

Whether looked at from a tantric or physics perspective, emotions (e-motions) are energy moving through our bodies. As the energy moves, it occurs in different frequencies, vibrates at a slower or faster rate. Some emotions move through us so quickly or slowly that we feel their physical effect on our body's movements. For example, anger can be quick and result in quick action or sadness may feel slow and result in very slow action. It can have a similar effect on our thoughts, too.

Our human mind names each frequency (happiness, sadness, fear, courage...) so we can verbalize with each other about the movement we experience. We also use subtle body awareness to express our emotions which can translate into visual art, musical composition, dance, and much more. Whether I use a refined vocabulary to describe emotion or express it in raw sound or movement, chances are people from diverse backgrounds could relate. We also have some universally understood phrases to describe our emotions: a wave of grief, my heart dropped, gripped by fear, stomach turned, and many more.

Language is used to describe emotions in a way that inherently affirms the moving, variable nature of them and humans' inherent ability to experience them moving through the body.

The nature of our verbal lexicon for our feelings reminds me of the musical system for naming the sounds of notes, “do re mi fa sol la ti do”. It also reminds me of how we've named colors (red, orange, green, blue, indigo, violet). We even interchange color, sound and feelings and use them as metaphor for each other. Each system organizes relative degrees of sound, light, or sensation. They label values on a spectrum.

In considering the color spectrum in this context, I find it really helpful to remember that white is the sum total of all color. In order to see white, we have to see and mix together all the colors. Subtract any hue on the spectrum and we won't get white.

In music, I consider that a melody is the sound of the togetherness of the do-re-mi spectrum. In order to hear the melody, we have to hear and incorporate all the tones (even if a tone isn't played, the space it occupies on the spectrum matters in order for the rest of the spectrum to work). Subtract any note and we won't hear the melody.

When we pay close attention to how our body feels, and feel all emotion equally, we experience the abiding common love. Separate, or judge, any emotion, and we lose the experience of abiding common love.

Remember that we can feel some energy move at a slower rate than other energy and that its rate of movement does not define its importance or worth. I think where we get stuck in the process of feeling and understanding emotions, and thereby finding common ground, is that we conflate the definitions of the word value.

As I observe the grappling with as well as the trust in the existence of love among humanity during this time of great change, I remember that it is of the utmost importance to acknowledge and honor every emotion. The love we are calling upon to prevail is not at the opposite end of hate nor on any linear scale at all. The triumphant love we are heralding is not in the realm of dichotomy. It is not even an emotion or a verb. The love we seek to spread already permeates everything and everyone. It is what all the emotions have in common, what we all have in common, no matter where on the emotional spectrum anyone is living in the moment. As soon as we place all encompassing love on a false hierarchical, dichotomous spectrum, we lose sight of it. And this is the most powerful, sum total, all encompassing energy we are here to experience together. 

With Love and Warmth

Marisa Bonfanti