a couple of years ago

The Big Joke: It was me all along

In my life, I learned to think, not feel.

Oh, I still felt. I felt plenty. Lots of anger, fear, resentment, sadness, hurt. Sometimes excitement, enthusiasm, happiness.

But especially with the unwanted feelings, I learned to turn to thought. I learned to view the feelings as problems that I needed to try to solve.

Not only did I learn to think instead of feel, I learned to think like a victim – to blame, shame, hide, etc.

So it’s probably not surprising that my chaotic, disorganized, victim-based thinking that I used as a way to get rid of strong, unwanted feelings has resulted in a lot of bad behavior over the years.

When I was maybe 8 years old…maybe a little younger…I got so angry that I punched a hole in the picture window in the front of my house.

I once was so angry that I threw a chair through a wall in my bedroom.

I seem to recall punching a hole in a door.

Later, as a teenager and young adult, I realized that I couldn’t continue being so outwardly violent. So instead I turned that violence inward.

I was still angry, scared, confused, sad, hurt. And my strategy was still the same at the core: try to think my way out of the problem that I perceived my feelings to be.

But instead of throwing chairs through walls, I contemplated suicide. I starved myself. I had elaborate fantasies about how I would escape everything and everyone.

I had turned feelings into the enemy. And feelings won every time. I could never win. Not truly. Because I couldn’t outwit feelings. I couldn’t outrun them. I couldn’t hide from them.

Finally, I had to admit total defeat. It wasn’t until about 5 years ago that I finally waved the white flag. And even then, I actually had no idea how much more I would lose. I thought I had lost all the way. But I hadn’t even begun to truly lose. That was only the beginning.

So learning about feelings has been a long, difficult, confusing thing for me. Which is ironic because, as I’ll share, one of the qualities that I’ve discovered about feelings is that they are effortless. Having and feeling feelings doesn’t require skill.

What requires skill – at least in my experience – is learning how to stop over-complicating things.

Everybody is feeling feelings all the time. And in my experience, I don’t have to do anything more than that. I don’t have to label the feelings. (I don’t have to avoid labeling the feelings, either.) I don’t have to dig deep into the feelings. I don’t have to probe for hidden feelings. I don’t have to hold on to feelings. I don’t have to amplify feelings. I don’t have to diminish feelings. I don’t have to get over feelings. I don’t have to get past feelings. I don’t have to do anything.

In fact, the less I do, the better.

Because at least for me, old habits die hard. And I still hold out the crazy hope of winning. And by winning, I mean getting rid of feelings I don’t like and only having feelings I do like. Secretly, in the dark corners of my mind, I still view unwanted feelings as the enemy.

So anything I do, I am almost certainly going to do it with the intention and hope of getting rid of the unwanted feelings. I’m sneaky like that. I fool myself and think that I’m trying to allow feelings or welcome feelings, but actually, I’m trying to get rid of them.

Which leads to more thinking and more chaotic, disorganized thinking. And more violence. And that’s not how I want to live.

So the less I do, the better.

There may be much more evolved, better people than me. In fact, I fully expect that many, many people are much more evolved, better, more conscious, more awake, more generous, happier people than I am. And maybe for those people, there are things they can do that facilitate the flow of feelings and welcoming them and spreading love and joy into the world.

But for me, less is more. The less I do, the better. And maybe, if you find that you are a little like me, you’ll find this is true as well.

So I cannot pay attention to my thoughts, because those thoughts will tell me that I’ve got to do something. Figure something out. Understand something. Know what it is called and where it came from…so that I can fix it, get rid of it.

See? I’m sneaky. So I cannot pay attention to my thoughts if I want peace.

I release the tension in my head. And then there is only space and feeling.

If I do anything, I muck it all up. So I have to keep doing nothing.

And bit by bit, clarity dawns. The light rises up over the horizon. And in a flash, reality is fully illuminated.

There is only space and feeling…and light. And I cannot tell you what differentiates them. Because they seem to be undifferentiated in that moment. And the insanity and misery of having tried to get rid of the feeling gets illuminated and I see the big joke. Or “The Big Joke”.

Because it was me all along. The space and feeling and light. It was me all along. I’m not going to get rid of it because it’s me.

And it’s perfectly evident. I don’t have to search for it. Or understand it. Or grasp it.

It does not require skill to manifest this. It only requires great trust…or resignation…or both.

Because in doing nothing – making no effort, letting go of the tension, the armoring – I don’t acquire anything. I just lose what was never true to begin with. I lose the sense that I am this thing separate from my feelings and that my feelings are my enemy and that I need to think my way out of the pain and misery I feel.

And that is a miracle.

Joey Lott

Joey Lott is the author of numerous books, including The Best Thing That Never Happened and The Little Book of Big Healing. He lives in southern Vermont with his wife and children.

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