Integration

Generally speaking, if we do a thorough job working complete constellations with feelingwork, integration will take care of itself. But we’re not always so fortunate to have the luxury of devoting that kind of time to our inner work. So it helps to have a few practices that can secure the advances we make when mapping and moving in smaller doses.

First, though, what is integration, exactly? Let us bring our attention back to the structure of the whole. We have feeling states at the center, outside of which are arrayed the thought fields generated by them. Each thought field holds myriad thought images, any one of which can be activated at any given time, and these are linked together through language, logic, tradition, metaphor and story to weave networks of meaning, interpretation, motivation, and much more. Essentially, integration is the weaving of new networks  at the layer of thought, so that the new, ideal configuration has a stable interface with everyday life. We are looking to make connections between the thought images we hold inside, and the details of our inner and outer worlds, so that there is a congruent mutual reinforcement.

The importance of this process cannot be overstated. The fact is, when you start work on a reactive constellation, that constellation has worked your thoughts and the surrounding details of your life over a long period of time. You have made choices and taken actions that have supported and reinforced the inner structure. Depending on the scope and focus on the constellation, it may have played a role in shaping how you make a living, who is your partner in your primary relationship, what you do for entertainment, where you live, how you furnish your home, what your niggling little daily habits look like. Any or all of this may be up for reshaping.

Much of this will happen spontaneously. For example, a key relationship may suddenly take on a very different dynamic. You are no longer operating from the place of the underlying, reactive configuration, no longer reacting in subtle ways to the spoken and unspoken communication of the other person. Perhaps they no longer feel they need to protect themselves from your subtle attacks, or protect you from feeling insecure around them, and they begin to open up and share more with you. You won’t necessarily have to consciously, intentionally make these changes. Many of them will just naturally, spontaneously shift without any conscious effort.

Similarly, your preferences and impulses may change. That picture on your wall, the one you used to find inspiring, no longer feels right, and you find yourself taking it down without yet knowing what will replace it. Then you come across just the right piece and you hang that instead, really feeling how it supports this new way of experiencing your space. You will see lots of this sort of thing happening.

At the same time, you will need to have some clarity around just how much freedom you have to reshape your life environment, and just how responsive your environment is likely to be in reshaping to fit you. Some people have a great deal of such freedom, with few responsibilities or key relationships, with sufficient resources at hand, and they are able to make such changes at will, with little resistance. For other people, though, change may be more difficult to engineer. You may live with a parent, for example, who is dependent on you and deeply resistant to change of any kind. Or you may depend upon a job at a workplace which seems intractable. In these situations, your biggest changes will come within yourself, and in making these changes you will invite changes in the outer world which will come in their own time.

The Contrast With State Chasing

The ideal state you revealed through the feelingwork mapping process is not some kind of optimal state for continued existence. It is an ideal. It establishes the origin point for this particular part of you, the ideal end of the full continuum of feeling states possible for this part.

This part has a job to do. Its job is to provide you with accurate, highly responsive feedback about your state of balance in the world. It needs to be fluid, ever changing according to what is real inside and around you. If it were stapled to the positive end of the spectrum, it would be just as dysfunctional in serving your life as when it was stuck in the reactive state.

Some people live their lives seeking to achieve and maintain certain positive states. I call that state chasing. This is not what you want. State chasing is not full-on, wide-open living. It is not sensitive. It resolves not to be vulnerable.

Real life involves threat, loss and the potential for threat and loss in every moment. Real life is tentative and constantly changing. Nothing is secure. Nothing is guaranteed. Trying to force yourself to live perpetually in a state of bliss is an all-out assault on the nature of life.

What you have done though, in shifting your reactive state to its ideal, is to open up the full spectrum. This part of you is now free to respond in all its beautiful magnificence, all the way from wide-open bliss to intense pain, according to what is real and true for you in your life at this present moment.

This is amazing. This is glorious. To live with the full capacity to feel, right here, right now, is beyond bliss.

I remember when I first cleared the states which anchored my bipolar disorder. I was stunned by the richness of nuance and sensitivity I found myself feeling. Before that, I worshiped my highs. I lived to climb the pinnacles of inner sensation. Before my transformation, I would have declined any invitation to give those up.

But what I found was far more satisfying, far more fulfilling, far more soul-nourishing than anything I had previously experienced. Simply by walking down the street I could open myself to multitudes of various feeling states. Awe just by looking up at the sky. Shyness by noticing an attractive woman. Sadness seeing a panhandling drug addict. I was feeling it all. And not in these destructive waves which used to carry me high and leave me battered on the rocks. But in gentle surges, one after the other, several at a time.

I found myself thinking, so this is what “normal” people experience. I found myself grieving the fifteen years I had lost, where this fullness was pushed out by the falsely exaggerated highs and lows of my roller coaster ride. In my life with bipolar disorder, I lived within these grand symphonic moments: every instrument in the orchestra stuck in the same phrase, or even on the same note, for days at a time; then a dramatic crash into another phrase or note, again to be held for days as it pushed my nervous system to the limit and left me exhausted, depleted, empty. Now I saw the possibility for appreciating the little things, and I was grateful.

So this is what you get to have, doing this work. You get to become more fully alive. You might ask yourself, “Is this really what I want? Don’t I simply want to feel less pain and more joy?” From where you are now, it might seem that is the right way forward. But please trust me, as you do this work, as you open yourself to greater and greater sensitivity and responsiveness to the sheer grandeur of life, you will be grateful to be feeling more of both joy and pain. The pain you feel will be real, responsive to in-the-moment losses or threats or violations. You will feel it and you will respond to it, and the pain will have done its job and will subside. The pain you feel will do its job quickly, and you will no longer get stuck in suffering, disconnected from reality and perpetuating a reaction from the past. You will be grateful for your pain, your sadness, your fear, because you will recognize it for what it is: aliveness and truth, and the authentic engagement with the awesome mystery of being.

Alongside your pain you will also experience far greater joys. The moments of bliss you experience will break your heart open with their beauty. Any moment will have the potential of cracking open the doorway to eternity, and you will feel that potential within you at all times.

This is what it means to do this work.

New Choices, New Paths

After you’ve shifted a feeling from its reactive state to its ideal, you're going to find that your impulses are different, your motivations are different, your beliefs and perceptions are different. This is even more true as you shift each state a complete, interrelated set. But the shape and circumstances of your life, (as well as the stimulus/response habits in your brain), can often reinforce your old patterns. It can help to be very explicit and concrete about what kinds of new patterns are wanting to arise, and make some specific choices about those.

So, consider the question,

What new life choices does this new feeling guide you to make?

You might look at your life. Think about the shape of your life, the patterns of relationships and commitments and responsibilities, the furniture in your house, the clothes that you wear, the job that you have. At any moment of relative equilibrium, the external trappings of your life are a more or less accurate reflection of the inner state of your being. Now that the inner state has changed, what wants to change in the outer environment to match and support that change?

Many times you will find that after you have shifted a reactive state to its ideal, something in your life no longer fits. The thing that no longer fits can be relatively trivial: you may find you no longer like a certain color which dominates your wardrobe, or a painting you worked hard to acquire. Or it can be more significant: you may realize that the career into which you’ve invested 20 years of your life is no longer what you want to be doing, or that you really don’t like the weather or the landscape where you live.

So being aware that there is that dynamic, and being conscious about making new choices in your life so that the shape of your life starts to take on the natural expression of the new shape of your being, that's going to lead you in a powerful new direction.

These choices don't have to be big ones. Little choices, like how you start your morning, or how you choose to interact when your boss is unreasonable, or how you choose to engage with your spouse, your partner, around having some fun. Small choices about how you engage in your life will create new opportunities. Small choices will open new doors, and they'll start things rolling in a new direction. And, at first, the divergence might be small, nearly imperceptible. But as you start down a new path, that divergence gets wider, and your life takes a new tack, a new path, and picks up momentum.

You are using feeling as a guide for choosing your path in life. It is the path of feeling, as well, to find your authentic direction and expression and contribution in this life. So asking yourself, “What different choices do I want to make?" can be very helpful.

I encourage you not to make fast, knee-jerk changes in your life, especially for the more significant things. Go ahead and toss that gaudy shirt, but keep the job until you have time to solidify a vision of your new direction and have a clear next step to take. In the meantime, find ways to incorporate your new insights and feeling states into the “how,” the way you choose to engage or inhabit the significant aspects of your life which you’re wanting to change. For example, you might discover that simply showing up differently in your job opens up opportunities you never could have predicted. Make incremental adjustments before taking drastic action.

A complementary question to the one about choices invites you to reflect specifically on action:

What new actions arise naturally from this feeling?

This question is really a way of inviting both new practices and new choices for behavior in specific contexts.

Start with the new feeling, and imagine yourself in a particular situation or context where the old feeling used to be. Ask yourself, “What will I do here instead? Having this new feeling as a way of being, what action naturally wants to come from this place? How will I be, how will I behave, how will I interact, how will I express myself differently, coming from this new place, this new feeling state?"

There's so much rich opportunity for re-patterning your life when you start at the core, at the center, at the heart of feeling and allow the natural expressions — your words, your thoughts, your behaviors — to emerge naturally from that place.

Feeling is the foundation. Every conscious experience has an anchor in feeling. And we're working with that foundation right now. By going to feeling and bringing it into awareness, and by inviting it to return to its original, ideal state, you are creating the conditions where everything in your life can realign to your authentic presence, your authentic being.

Riding the Spectrum

Our old way of managing our internal environment was to highlight some states and diminish others. It can be tempting to engage in this state chasing after you’ve mapped and moved a really uncomfortable feeling. However, that is neither necessary nor desirable if what you want is to enhance the quality of your inner life. Instead, it’s important to reinforce the idea that negative feeling states are actually your allies in the ongoing quest for balance. We need to reinforce this because of the unfortunate pervasiveness of messages to the contrary.

In this exercise you will do this by using your feeling state maps to deliberately revisit your old, reactive states, going in and coming back to the ideal under your own volition. Choose a feeling state shift to work with, and take a few minutes to reacquaint yourself with it. Now use your notes to reactivate the ideal state in your awareness. Sit with it for a little while to appreciate what it makes possible for you. Then deliberately, one sensory parameter at a time, reverse the ideal state back into the reactive state you originally mapped.

Allow yourself to feel the reactive state, knowing you no longer have to fear that state. Let yourself notice the positive intention it always had for you. What was it trying to do for you, back then when it first took this form? Can you see how it was making the best of a challenging situation? What was it preserving for you in choosing to take the reactive form? What can you learn about yourself from that?

Now reverse and shift the feeling state back into the ideal. Recognize that the ideal is just that: a beacon, a direction, an invitation to shape your life in ways that create harmony. It is not an arrival place. You are never “finished” your journey, residing in bliss, but rather you are forever engaging in the ever-changing richness of life.

When we are fully alive, we fear no feeling within us. We welcome all feeling states as essential awareness, helping us orient and engage. And when we are fully open to our feeling experience, we find it is very rare than a situation will ever arise in which the original reactive state will authentically express with the same disabling intensity.

We become far more sensitive to changing conditions around us, and far more responsive. We take action at the slightest indication that things are moving out of balance, that one of our needs is not being adequately met. And when we take action, we restore our balance. There is no need for the extreme states we were consigned to suffer with and attempt to control in the past, when our feeling mind was locked into configurations of past pain.

It’s a good idea to review your states from time to time. Allow yourself to practice the full range of each path. You might even allow yourself some creative expression. Cultivate the reactive state and write a poem about a particular topic. Now shift to the ideal state and write a new poem about the same topic. What can you learn from the two poems, side by side?

Or explore your states through movement. Bring up the reactive state. Intensify it, and allow it to inform and motivate your dance. Gradually shift the feeling state toward the ideal, allowing your movements to evolve and express the full spectrum of feeling. Return to the reactive, back to the ideal. Let the two states talk to one another through your movement.

And what about visual explorations? What kinds of photographs will you take from the place of the reactive state, versus those you are drawn to in ideal state? How might you capture in a painting the full spectrum of expression for a part, from the most extreme reactive state all the way through the most ideal state?

Have fun with this. The more comfortable you are with the full continuum of states in every path within you, the more comfortable you are with the full continuum of experiences in life. You become free to engage without holding back, without controlling, without hesitation. You become free to show up, fully alive and present for all the wondrous experiences available to you.

Rewriting the Past

The past does not exist. All we have of the past are our memories. And memory is notoriously unreliable as an objective record of what actually happened.

But even if memory were infallible, and we could faithfully recall and fully relive exactly what we experienced the first time around, our experience in that moment was limited by our narrow perspective on the whole situation. Our experience was a small, filtered fraction of the complex richness that is real life. Even if our memory were a perfect record of our actual experience, it would still be a slanted and incomplete record of the full reality of our past.

Take any childhood incident involving one of your parents, for example. What could you possibly have known of the real, fully alive, complex, flesh-and-blood person who was your parent? What could you possibly have understood about their motivations, their fears, their inner conflicts, their history? How could any memory of that incident be complete?

Even the most dreadful histories have within them the seeds of strength. Human lives are profound journeys through mystery, and every life is wide and rich beyond our small knowing. You begin to gain access to this deeper wisdom when you access your ideal states.

When you shift into an ideal state, take some time with your past. You don’t have to do it right away, but at some point within a few days of shifting a state, look back on those times in which the old, reactive state used to be triggered. Look all the way back, if you can, to the original situations in which that reactive state was first set in place. Choose a moment in that scenario, and ask:

Now, having access to [name two or three key ideal states], what might have been different?
How might you have perceived things differently?
How might you have responded differently?
How might you have felt about things afterwards?

In your review, try to see what you saw then, hear what you heard then, and have whatever somatic sensations you might have had then. Hold your ideal state, and look through its lens at those past experiences. What do you notice? What stands out to you? What can you learn about yourself, and about the others around you, as you maintain access to your ideal and review your history?

If you’ve shifted a series of states relating to these past experiences, shift your feeling awareness from one to the other of your ideal states to learn what unique perspective each can contribute. What else do you see that might have been true about the other people involved that you were not able to notice in the original experience? What else do you see that might have been true about yourself?

This is a powerful practice for developing compassion. As you review your history with the new wisdom of your ideal states, you learn to recognize the many ways you have shut yourself off from the beauty of life, the ways you have judged and limited and diminished yourself and others. And you learn that you always have the choice not to do that.

As you practice this through reviewing your past, you begin to find that you become larger in inhabiting your present. You are much less likely to get caught in those moments of judgment or withdrawal. You are much more likely to see the full humanity of whoever is in front of you, no matter what struggles they may be undergoing, no matter how they might be acting to deny or restrict their own humanity or yours. You will learn to inhabit a place of understanding and compassion, both for those difficult times in your past, and for those moments in the present where others’ challenges interface with your own.

One more thing you can do to take this deeper. Ask yourself which ideal states would play key roles in this revised history. What are their new assessments, their new intentions, their new ways of engaging? And here is a key question: How would the different way you would have shown up have created a different response from the people and the world around you?

Envisioning a New Future

In the same way that we can go back and rewrite our interpretations of the past, we can imagine ourselves into the future to re-craft our expectations. By doing so, we can make it easier and more likely that we will respond in new ways to situations that used to trigger our reactive states.

The way to do this is simple. Think back to recent situations that used to trigger your old, dysfunctional patterns. Particularly focus on situations in which you strongly felt a specific reactive feeling state. Choose situations which are likely to occur again in the future. Common examples of these are challenging interactions at work or difficult encounters with family members.

First go backwards. Imagine what would be different in that situation in the past, if you had access to this new, ideal feeling state. How would you perceive things differently, if you were able to go back? What would you do or say differently, if you could do it all over again?

Now project into the future and use these questions as prompts.

Having easy access to your new, ideal state as a way of being, what seems true, or real, or important about that situation?
What can you imagine doing or saying differently, the next time you find yourself in that situation?
How might you expect other people might respond differently to you as a result?
What opportunities are available, now that you have access to the full spectrum of your feeling states that were not available to you in the past?

Spend a little time and energy making your rehearsal as clear, and vivid, and life-like as you can. See what you anticipate seeing, hear people’s voices and other sounds, notice the physical sensations of your posture and surroundings.

Take a few notes. Write the new scenario in present tense, as if it is happening right now. Be as specific as possible, noting various details that come to mind.

Follow through into the time after the situation has ended. Imagine how you will feel, having responded differently. What will you appreciate about your new way of being?

Also be alert for what might remain difficult. What did you notice in your rehearsal that might get in the way of your being fully present? Did you notice any other feeling states that came up in your mental scenario which you might also want to map and move? Do so, and when you finish, conduct your future rehearsal once again. Continue until you feel as comfortable as you want, that you can handle the situation in a way that feels authentic, preserves your integrity, and respects all the people involved.

Finally, let it go. Trust your creativity and be prepared to be delighted by the results.

As Within, So Without

We tend to think of ourselves as individuals, with our interior clearly separated from our exterior. However, fully one third of our feeling parts are specifically oriented toward what is outside of us, and an additional third are oriented toward the whole which includes us. Only three out of nine parts governing our experience of being a self in the world are concerned with what is inside of us.

It is more accurate to think of ourselves as a dynamic balance between inside, outside, and context. And so as we release inner patterns, as we change the inner configuration of feeling parts, we find our relationship with the outside world changing. Our relationships change, our preferences for food and furniture and landscapes change, our satisfaction with various activities changes.

In doing feelingwork, it is natural for us to gradually evolve our outer lives to more fully match our inner lives. But sometimes that natural evolution can be obstructed. If we live in a situation in which we have very little power to make those changes, if we are confined to a rigid structure of relationship, of job, of home, of community, then we may find our inner work stifled. We may do the necessary work to free the inner feeling parts, but because we are unable to make the necessary changes to our lives to mirror our greater inner freedom, we may continue to feel many of the challenging states that defined our pattern in the first place. The difference is, those reactive states may now be freely and accurately providing feedback about the state of balance in our world. But because we are not free to take the action to restore that balance, we may find ourselves slipping back into a rigid inner configuration.

In these cases, it can be very important to draw the focus of change inward. Even though it might be difficult or impossible to change external circumstances, one thing that no person or circumstance can take from you is the freedom you have within your own heart and spirit. If you bring the focus of your change inward as much as possible, there is the hope to move forward with your inner freedom despite your circumstances. It is not an easy path, but it is one with its own special rewards.

At the same time, we need to take into consideration one of the key lessons of feelingwork, that we human beings are incredibly complex and multi-layered. Perhaps you worked through a set of states regarding your frustrations at work, but feel yourself trapped in the toxic environment that spawned these frustrations. Maybe it’s the best paying job in your field, or you’d have to move somewhere else to get something better, or you want to hold onto your pending retirement benefits.

But maybe it only looks limited from where you are. And maybe where you are is holding an even deeper inner structure that tells you frustration is simply baked into life, and there’s no way out of it. Unless you shift your attention to that deeper layer, you won’t see the opportunities and possibilities that are available.

So let’s say you do shift to that deeper layer, and you work through a more existential sense of never having access to what you truly need. In its place arises a sense of abundance and clarity. And now from this new place, you look around at your job situation and you see things you never considered before. Maybe it’s time to start your own business, or to put your energy into a new passion, or step back to half-time for a while and take stock of your life.

These layers are always present, always part of the work. We work through one layer, expand our awareness and freedom, find ourselves in new territory and — bump! — we’re up against a new challenge. That’s life. That’s feelingwork.

In many cases, when you finish working through a set of feeling states, you’ll have strong impulses for change, and you’ll have the freedom to make those changes. In those situations, I encourage you to be thoughtful about the changes you do make. Take your time. Include others in your deliberations. Create a clear vision for yourself but focus on your next steps, allowing the vision to evolve as your current circumstances evolve.

There is no way for you to fully know from where you stand today what future is fully yours to inhabit. Getting there is an unfolding process, one step at a time.

Spontaneous Repatterning

It might seem that changing a life is a lot of work. It might seem after you have mapped and moved half a dozen feeling states, or a full set of nine, or a three-set constellation, that you should take a step back and make a five year plan. I can tell you that is unnecessary.

All that is required to change a life is to show up, moment by moment, with your newly liberated feeling parts. You will find yourself making dozens and hundreds of small choices differently than the choices you previously would have made. They may be infinitesimally small, these differences in choices, but together they begin to accumulate. By a thousand small choices a life takes off in an altogether new direction.

When you allow yourself the freedom not to know what the ultimate outcome is, when you support yourself in being fully present to the moment, you set in motion the grand forces of creation. Creation is rooted firmly in the present. It is not attached to the future. It is not trapped in the past.

When you stand fully in the present, you are open to notice your next step, and the next one, and the next. When you are open fully to the sophisticated and wise feedback of your feelings, you make your choices incorporating not just conscious preferences but you also include deeper threads and pulses outside of your awareness. Some of those pulses arise from within you, while others may arise from outside you. Feelingmind has the power to synthesize the full spectrum of influences bearing down on this moment, in your life, in you. And it has the power to know, to simply know, what is next.

In the old days this might have been called intuition, or “gut” feeling if you were a guy. What it is, though, is presence as a fully conscious human being. This is what it means to be alive, aware, free. This is what we are born to experience in every moment, to be caught up in the flow of life, fully at choice yet paradoxically fully surrendered to the current.

Inhabiting this place of presence, you will find the world responds differently to you. You experience yourself as yourself, with nothing in the way of the real you. Others around you can sense that. They respond to it. They want some of it for themselves. You find yourself with more opportunities for friendship, for work, for fun, than you imagined possible. And it is all just simply because you are showing up. Now. And now. And now.

And through this showing up, through the gradual accretion of dozens and hundreds and thousands of moments, your life transforms. It transforms not because you have transformed it through an act of will. It transforms because you have opened yourself to forces greater than yourself, forces from within as well as those from without, and together those forces reconstitute the experience of your life in shapes and shades you find more authentic, more satisfying, more fulfilling.

Starting All Over Again

The deeper the work you do, especially when you work with full, nine-part sets, or even more so when you dig deep into three-set constellations, the more likely it is for you to find yourself in a place where you feel like a raw novice in some area of your life. This can be true no matter how old you are or how much experience you may have in that area.

The natural flow of a life passes through certain developmental thresholds. For example, when we start dating, we need to construct an all new persona with all the required perspectives and behaviors by which to navigate romantic relationships. Often that persona is founded on defenses and compensations, designed to protect some underlying, intolerable feeling state or express some long-ago injury or resentment.

In these cases, when we clear that persona through Feelingwork and reset it to its ideal configuration, the old M.O. no longer works. We find ourselves without our longstanding frames of reference, habitual ways of communicating or behaving, standard judgments and interpretations. We no longer feel the same attractions or motivations, are no longer limited by the same repulsions or defined by the same preferences.

It would be nice if clearing an old persona like this left us with a new set of healthy beliefs, perceptions, and habits all ready to go, just push the button and you’re off to the races. But many times it doesn’t work that way. Instead we find ourselves rewound to the beginning, needing to figure out all over again how to navigate this territory. Fortunately, as adults we have far greater skills, knowledge, resources, and allies, so most likely things will go far more easily this time around.

Still, we need to take the time it takes to place ourselves in the relevant environments, pay attention to our authentic likes and dislikes, learn how to know what’s what in our environment, call on support and guidance from others, make mistakes, and gradually come to know our true selves in this context all over again.

I’ve had to do that with relationships once or twice, finding myself feeling more like an adolescent than I ever actually did during adolescence. Unsure of myself, I engaged tentatively, but authentically. I learned for the first time what was important to me, how to be discerning, what my preferences were. It was strange for a period of months at least, and I have to say that while my life experience helped, (for example, my communication skills were far more advanced than they ever could have been as an adolescent), I did have to go through a protracted re-learning period. It was awkward at times, uncomfortable at times, and at the same time wonderfully fun.

Let me give you a little more detail so you know more of what I’m talking about. Through my twenties and thirties I spun through quite a number of relationships, but never did I experience someone breaking up with me. I was always the one to end the relationship. To greatly simplify things I could say this was one of the ways I protected myself. I made myself emotionally indispensable, and then when my own needs were not getting met, blamed it on my partner and split up. So I never had to experience the pain of someone leaving me.

A few years after discovering feelingwork, after having mapped and moved many states, I crossed some ineffable threshold with respect to relationships, and I started to have the experience of women I was dating actually breaking up with me. The first time was a shock to my system, and I had to bring all my newest resources to bear on nurturing myself through that, finding new strength and resilience along the way. Even though it was painful, I knew that the fact of it happening was actually a good sign, indicating that I was indeed growing, handling developmental tasks I had skipped as a teenager, allowing myself to be vulnerable.

Depending on the focus of the work you do and the pattern(s) you clear, you may find yourself starting all over again with your work, in relationships, in your social life, or any of a number of various contexts. Give yourself permission to be a beginner. Seek mentors and close friends who can support you. Allow yourself to make mistakes and trust yourself to learn from them.

It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to truly start over, free of the baggage you used to carry around. Enjoy it.

Finding Natural, Compelling Practices

I don’t personally engage in any particular practices to specifically reinforce the results I get from feelingwork. Perhaps it is because being the guy who is researching this feelingmind universe, I take it upon myself to do my own work as thoroughly as I possibly can, and clearing every part of a constellation will lead to powerful integration no matter what else you do. So I just turn my attention to the next thing in my life and go for it.

But other people do benefit from taking on specific practices to support their work. Generally what you want to go for are ways to remind yourself about the ideal states you’ve discovered, and find ways to systematically weave those and their updated perspectives and thought patterns into your daily life. I like to help people find practices already aligned and potentially easy to integrate with what they already do in their daily routines. Here are a few suggestions drawn from what people have chosen to do over the years.

  • Print your ideal maps, or before-and-after versions of your states, and take them out to review at specific times of the day. Perhaps you look over your maps with breakfast, perhaps before bed, or maybe while you’re riding on the bus to work and back.
  • Before your daily meditation, choose a state to meditate upon. Let yourself host the full spectrum from the original, reactive state to its ideal version, and allow yourself to receive whatever wisdom wants to be shown to you.
  • Similarly with a movement practice like yoga, tai chi, or dance. Select an ideal state to embody as you go through your practice.
  • Consider other simple, daily activities like preparing food, bathing, or brushing the dog as opportunities to review your feelingwork journey.
  • In your journaling practice, choose one part of yourself including the spectrum from reactive to ideal, and choose a specific context in your life. Ask the question, “What does this part of me offer in this context?,” and let your journaling explore your answer.
  • In the course of your day, get in the habit of asking, “What would this part of me [choose one at the beginning of the day] do in this upcoming situation?” Or, “How could I have invited this part of me more fully into the situation just past?”

If your new practice comes easy, that’s great. Give it the energy it asks of you and pay attention to the benefits it gives you. Notice the rewards and that will help you maintain the practice more easily. At the same time, pay attention to what isn’t working. Every bump in the road is a potential signal for an opportunity to go a little more deeply into your work. Find a more effective practice for yourself, or notice what feelings are arising in your struggle to see if there’s something asking for your attention. Find your own balance.

Most likely you will benefit most from a new practice in the early weeks after you’ve completed your round of feelingwork. But depending on the practice, you may find that after a while the practice itself is more or less redundant. The effects have woven their way through your life, you are living your life differently now, and your life is itself your practice. Be OK with letting a practice go when it has given you its gift.

Recognizing the Difference Between Reacting and Responding

Sometimes when we finish a round of feelingwork, we anticipate that everything will now be blissful and easy. That would be nice, but of course you realize under it all that things generally don’t work out that way. But it can be easy to get discouraged when, after all that work, you’re getting angry or disappointed, feeling sad or afraid.

Take a look at the situations in which you are feeling these things. Then consider the possibility that in living your life from the reactive configuration that spurred your round of feelingwork, you constructed the shape of your life in such a way as to undermine your well-being in various ways. Consider the possibility that what you are feeling now are entirely appropriate responses to things that need to change. That job, that relationship, that living situation may really undermine your natural gifts. Feeling strong emotions can be liberated parts signaling very clearly that it’s time to make some changes.

On the other hand, sometimes after finishing a round of feelingwork we find ourselves face to face with another significant reactive pattern that had been covered over nicely by the last one. Resolving the first one cleared the way for the second one to rise to the surface of awareness. You can think of it as an invitation. You can respond to it in whatever way makes sense given the full shape of your life. If now is not the time, at least find a way to communicate with the new configuration that you see these parts of you, acknowledge their needs, and commit to addressing those needs in future work. Acknowledge the compensations you have taken on from that place and consider whether there might be healthier ways you could compensate given the new strengths liberated by your most recent work. Good luck!

Recognizing Reunion Grief

I remember very clearly after mapping and moving the set which liberated me from the grinding churn of bipolar disorder mood swings feeling a lot of grief (among other things) for a week or two. You may experience something like this after a particularly powerful resolution to your work.

This work goes deep. Way deep. And so often we are releasing patterns of compensation that go way back. Sometimes these are life-long compensations for some crucial, sacred need going unmet. The need for love might be one. The fulfillment of contributing one’s gifts to the world through meaningful work might be another. Underneath these surface needs are needs to feel the love, the fulfillment, the meaning, the sacredness of life. The assumption at the core of these compensatory configurations is that not only is the need unmet, but it is unmeetable and will never be met. You live for decades just getting by, assuming that is all you can hope for, compensating in this way and that.

Then you do this work and suddenly the sacred need is not only possible, but the feeling is there, present within you. The grief that arises in this situation is one of loss for all the years you lived without the possibility of that, all the sacrifices you made, all the suffering you endured. And it is all the more poignant because you discover in this work that it was always available to you, but you and nobody around you knew how to activate it. That can be hard.

When this comes up, let yourself grieve. Give yourself the acknowledgment of loss, mark it in some way meaningful to you, release it in your own way. You might do some sort of ritual, you might share it with someone close, you might write your past self a letter. Whatever you choose, give yourself to it and the grief will resolve in its own time. Be grateful you are getting to experience it. Feeling it means you now have access to something sacred to you.


Would you like to be part of this?

I invite you to become part of a nascent community of people thinking about what this work means and how to apply it, even as they enjoy the benefits of applying it directly in their own lives.

At this early point, “community” means a hub-and-spoke wheel of relationships around me and this website. I will send out occasional newsletters to a small list, and invite you to one-on-one or small-group conversations to share more about the work and invite your input about what you would like to see in the next phase.

Please consider getting involved in this early phase by signing up below for my newsletter. Let me know if there is something more you would like to discuss personally, and I’ll respond to you directly.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Posted: September 7, 2020
Updated: ---
© Copyright 2020, Joe Shirley