Mapping

It is time. We are going to make our first excursion into the wild frontier of feelingmind. We will use the power of language and attention to get around from place to place. That is our conveyance. We will use the power of filters to call forth what has previously been obscured. That is our illumination. As we make our way around, we will collect our observations, and you will begin to create your own, private map of this sacred territory within you. Over time, I will sketch out a more general map that will help you navigate, no matter what portion of your own territory you might be traversing.

For now, we won’t be using our compass. The compass actually has a specialized, very powerful application that will be revealed in the next chapter. There is much we need to learn first. At this stage of our exploration, we don’t even know what the territory looks like, or how we’ll know it when we see it. So our simple purpose right now is to get in, look around, bring back some observations, and make some sense of those.

Before we launch, grab some paper and pencil, or a device that’s easy to take notes on, preferably something you can also use to make a drawing. Perhaps you will want some colored pencils or markers. You will find it very helpful to walk along with me as we do the following exploration into the actual territory inside of you, and you will find it helpful to write things down along the way.

One more thing. You are going to be applying your attention in a new way. Part of this experience may include a sense of being in a slightly altered state, something outside your familiar, everyday conscious activity. To support this effort, I recommend you continue only in surroundings that would be suitable for something like meditation, free of distractions or interruptions, and with plenty of time to re-equilibrate before taking on activities like driving.

A Brief Overview

We are going to dig in with significant depth and detail, so I want to give you an overview of the process so you can keep track of where you are as we go.

Our intention is to enter into feelingmind with a new level of awareness to observe a specific feeling state. Think of the feeling state as one of many features of the terrain. We will select and name a feeling state connected with a recent memory. Then, we will bring our awareness to the realm of feelingmind to observe this feeling state in its natural habitat.

To do so, we will apply the power of attention. We will focus our attention using precise language to select filters which will help us reveal the qualities of the feeling state as it lives in feelingmind. This language will be in the form of questions which invite us to inquire into the following qualities, in this order:

  • Location, size, and shape
  • Substance qualities including solid, liquid, gas, light, or energy
  • Temperature
  • Color and other aspects of appearance
  • Movement, force, or pressure
  • Sound
  • Taste and smell (relevant for only a very few people)

I’ve arranged the presentation of the questions here in the order in which I ask them 95% of the time. You’ll find a kind of natural progression which makes the mapping process go much more  efficiently. It is difficult to ask about the temperature of a feeling state before you’ve identified its location and substance, for example.

This order follows a smooth progression of attention. We start zoomed out, scanning the full field of possibilities for location. Once we’ve established location, we enter much more intimately into the space of the feeling state to assess its substance and temperature. Then, to identify color we have to step back a bit, and finishing with sound often takes us fully back out of the space.

As we move through this sequence of questions, focusing our attention on the actual, inner felt experience of our chosen feeling state, we will experience the emergence into our awareness of a tangible, palpable presence. This is the feeling state as it lives in feelingmind. With our attention fully upon the feeling state, we will explore the kinds of thoughts, perceptions, beliefs and attitudes which arise from the place of this state or are connected to it. This will help illuminate the nature of the state and the role it may play in life. After completing our exploration, we will draw the results of our inquiry on an outline of the physical body to capture a visual portrait of what we have discovered.

In your first time through this, I suggest you take as much time as you need to read the full text and understand the variations and possibilities of each step. Then perhaps go through once again, moving more fluidly from each question to the next as you go through the mapping process without the encumbrance of the detailed explanations. This first time through it may take you as long as an hour, but once you get the hang of it, mapping a feeling state can happen in as brief as 10 minutes or so.

Our Point of Departure

Let us start with something really simple. Have you come across the “four basic emotions,” mad, sad, glad, and scared? We will see very soon how such simplifications mask over the rich reality of feelingmind, but from where we’re starting, such a simplification can be useful. In fact, we can make this even more simple. Drop the “glad” out of the list and go with the trio of mad, sad, and scared.

(There’s a good reason we’re focusing on the more unpleasant ones in the list because of where we’re going with this. We’re going to map the feeling state, and then we’re immediately going to move it. If you start with something reasonably unpleasant, your results will be more clear and potent and you will more quickly get a better understanding of the overall arc of feelingwork.)

Now scan your experiences over recent days, looking for a moment in which you felt one of these emotions particularly strongly. It doesn’t matter which one. All we’re looking for is an experience in which it was undeniably clear to you that you were feeling something.

I recommend that you start small, with feeling states that aren’t at the center of your life’s most intractable issues. Pick that little annoyance with the guy at the coffee shop, or the bit of stage fright before you make a presentation, or the feeling that makes you read that one more article or watch that one more show when you know you should hit the sack or get out for some exercise. The fact is, everything is connected to everything else, and even if you begin with something that seems trivial, you are likely to find its roots entwined with the core issues around which your life revolves. So no matter how insignificant the state you choose for your first mapping, you will very likely get to experience the benefit of the work very soon. But starting with something on the low end of the intensity spectrum will give you some latitude as you experiment with this new process.

Another recommendation I have for selecting a state to map is to choose something familiar. Mapping a state that feels like something you encounter regularly in certain situations will give you more of an opportunity to experience a significant shift when you take that state through the moving process.

Have you chosen a suitable experience? Now pull out your note-taking tools and describe what it felt like to be you having that experience, as if you were telling a good friend. Give the feeling state at the center of the experience a name. It doesn’t have to conform to the short list we started with. In fact, far better if you give it a unique name that carries more significant meaning to you. Write your name for what you were feeling in that moment, (and what you might also be feeling right now as you look back on it.)

Pro Tip: Naming States

I want to emphasize that the name for your feeling state does not have to fit any standard lexicon for emotions. Allow yourself to be descriptive and creative. Names people find useful range widely, from descriptions of sensations, to the effects of the feeling, to the intentions of this part, to the behavior it motivates. Here are a few examples taken at random from my files:

Intimidated, Playing It Safe, Threat, Withdrawn, Hatred, Fog / Shut Down, I Want, I Can’t Have It, Contempt, Rigid Control, Essence, Shut Down, Doubting Myself, Disbelief, Get On With It, Twisted Stomach, Cutting Ties, Mental Fireworks, Catapult, Heebie Jeebies, Bafflement, Simple Me, Quicksand, Disconnecting

Please put aside any training you may have had about what constitutes a “real” name for a feeling or emotion. Most existing systems of identifying and working with feelings are semantic in nature. Semantic systems rely on careful definitions in an attempt to categorize what is inherently an infinitely complex field of experience. We want to retain access to the uniqueness resident in that infinite complexity. We want to feel free and supported in defining our experience in whatever way is relevant and meaningful to us.

In addition, semantic systems of working with feelings assume that feelings are a special class of experience, different from cognitions, for example. What we discover in feelingwork — and this is very important — is that every conscious experience has its foundation in the felt sense. Even if you want to map the experience of “thinking,” or “distracted,” these experiences have at their core a feeling state which can be mapped just as any other feeling state. Even something called “numb” — which is often interpreted as the absence of feeling — is itself a feeling state fully amenable to the mapping process.

This part of the process I call excavation, where we identify feeling states to explore. For now we are keeping this bare-bones simple. I will cover excavation techniques in much greater depth later in the book.

Now it is time to apply what we learned in our exploration of attention in the last chapter. First, clarify for yourself that we will not be examining the visual, auditory, or somatic channels of your memory. Even that tightness in your chest or that rumble in your gut are only of interest if they assist you in directing your attention to a deeper layer of experience. Instead we are going to be scanning the space in and around your body, using specific filters to highlight certain information to be gathered from the space. You’ll soon see what I mean.

Using Filter Questions to “Map” a Feeling State

The following questions are designed to fine-tune your field of awareness to gather information in a new way from this mysterious territory of feelingmind. We will first conduct a simple scan in order to identify the location we’re interested in exploring. Once we identify the location, we will add greater resolution to our scan by adding  precise filters to our field of awareness, highlighting specific qualities one by one.

Here’s the thing, though. These filters act more as a creative overlays with the territory of feelingmind than a true filter which suppresses some and amplifies other information that is already there. Perhaps it is more like the way we might add a stain to a cell preparation in order to see certain features of the cell that would otherwise be invisible. That color in which the cell organelle is outlined is not a natural feature of the cell. Or perhaps it is like using a certain frequency of radiation, the x-ray, to scan a part of the body to reveal bones and other structures that are invisible from the surface. The final film we examine has only a rough but convenient correspondence to the underlying physiology of the body, and the body has no inherent x-rays, no inherent film.

The filters we apply will interact with the realm of feelingmind in such a way as to create a clear and tangible effect, and we will be “reading” that effect. In just the same way that the variable intensity of x-rays passing through the body and landing on the film create an image that corresponds to the underlying reality of the broken bone we are examining, the filter we apply will create an “image” that corresponds to an underlying reality of the portion of feelingmind we are examining.

As you go through the exercise, for some of you the experience may feel awkward. You’ve never been asked these questions about what you feel, and at first it might seem like you are just making stuff up. That’s OK. In a way, you are, literally, making it up. But you will find that after a little practice, something emerges that feels absolutely and indisputably “right” about your answers. You’ll feel secure that they correspond to something true and real about the unique characteristics of your feeling state. For others of you, this process will feel very natural right away, as if these questions are simply acknowledging and supporting a skill that is already well-developed within you.

And let’s be clear. This is a skill. Using the feelingwork questions over time will refine and strengthen your capacity to easily perceive the contents of feelingmind in everyday life, something you will find of immeasurable benefit.

The questions are carefully crafted to get the best results for most people, so at least at the beginning, use them word for word. This isn’t the time to get creative. They work best when engaged with as if someone else is asking the questions to you. You can create this effect by reading each question aloud, or at least by saying them to yourself internally so that you explicitly hear the question word by word. Take it slowly, pausing from time to time to let the guidance of the language do its work.

OK, let’s dive in. Turn your attention back to the experience you have selected, paying particular attention to your felt sense of the feeling state you’ve named and written down. Say the feeling state name to yourself to bring your focus to it. Now let’s turn our attention to our questions.

Location

Take yourself through the following question briefly, just to get the general sense of it. Then we’ll break down the language and you can run through it once more in earnest. Substitute the name of the feeling state you’ve chosen to map for the marker phrase in brackets.

If you were to say that the actual, felt experience of this [feeling state] is located somewhere in or around your body, where would you say that seems to be?

Let’s break this question down. The phrase, “If you were to say…” invites you to open up, relax, and just take your best guess at the answer to this question. There is no right answer. We’re not requiring you to go on the record here, but “if” you were going to say this feeling might be located somewhere, what might you say? To reinforce this giving permission to take your best guess, we finish the question with, “…where would you say that seems to be?” Here we are not requiring you to be definitive, we are allowing for the possibility that appearances might be different from the underlying reality, and we are saying that we are actually interested in those appearances above all. So go ahead and take a shot at naming those.

Inside this container of permission, we have two more key phrases. The first, “…the actual, felt experience of this…” directs your attention once again to a real, in the moment, direct experience, inviting a felt-sense kind of filter to be in the foreground of your attention scan. The tail end, “…of this [feeling state]…” anchors you back to the feeling state you named at the outset of our process.

The next key phrase is very important, “…located somewhere in or around your body.” You will discover in the course of exploring feelingwork that the discrete states of feelingmind are not necessarily confined to the space of the physical body. States often extend outside the body, and on occasion can be found to exist entirely separate from the body. The phrase, “…in or around…” gives explicit direction to cast your scan beyond the boundary of your body if that turns out to be necessary or helpful.

Go ahead and run through the question again, allowing the language of the question to direct your attention in ways that can surface an answer that feels accurate for you. Keep in mind once again that we are paying attention to the channel of awareness beneath sensation and beneath thought. The “feeling state” we are referring to is something beyond body sensation. While it exists in space relative to the space of the body, it is not confined to the body and has no direct connection with the physical sensations of breathing, heartbeat, digestion, muscle tension, etc.

You may find it helpful to close your eyes, and to eliminate the various sensory channels from your attention, one at a time. Release visual images. Release sounds. Release kinesthetic and tactile sensations. Notice that without those primary senses, and even without thought, you are still conscious. What is left is feelingmind. This is what you are mapping.

You are looking to identify a space in or around your body which the feeling you have named seems to occupy, at least to a greater extent than it occupies the rest of the infinite space of reality you inhabit. This will be a space which seems more “alive” or more “present” with the essence of this feeling.

Systematic Scanning

If you are finding this difficult, give this a try: do a deliberate, systematic scan of your body and the space around it until you find the desired presence. Start at your feet. Substitute the name of your feeling state for the marker phrase in brackets. Ask, “Does any part of the actual, felt experience of this [feeling state] exist in your feet or legs?” Confirm yes or no. If no move up systematically through “hips or pelvis,” “waist or abdomen,” “chest or back,” “shoulders or arms,” “neck or head,” until you find the location.

Special Case: Whole Body

Sometimes we may be mapping a feeling state experienced as filling the entire body space. If that seems to be the case, confirm with finer-resolution questions:

  • Does this feeling fill your whole body?
  • Is there any part of your body which does not have this feeling in it?
  • Does this feeling extend outside your body?

The feeling state could occupy the full body and beyond, extend outside the body a few millimeters on all sides, or as far as many feet or farther in specific locations and directions. Or it could occupy the full body but stop just inside the boundary of the skin by a few millimeters or more.

Special Case: Outside the Body

Occasionally you will be mapping a feeling state that cannot be located anywhere in the body. If you still come up empty after scanning the entire body, use the same question structure to inquire into the spaces around your body. For example, “Does any part of the actual, felt experience of this [feeling state] exist in the area in front of your body?” If no, continue with, “behind your body,” “to the left side of your body,” “to the right side of your body,” “above your body,” and “below your body.”

In most cases of a feeling state being located outside the boundary of the body, it is actually making contact with the skin, often penetrating the skin into the body to a certain depth. Very occasionally, a feeling is entirely disassociated, and may be as far as several feet from the body. This is rare, but entirely possible.

Special Case: Multiple Locations

On occasion, you might find yourself noticing that multiple locations seem to hold an active presence as you scan for your feeling state. Sometimes this can be a single feeling state that extends through several parts of the body. At other times, though, you may be picking up two or more distinct feeling states which have come into awareness at once. To help bring clarity to your experience, ask the following questions:

Are [ location A ] and [ location B ] distinct and separate regions, or does one extend or merge into the space of the other?
Do the feeling states at [ location A ] and [ location B ] seem like they are two areas of the same feeling state, sharing similar qualities or essence, or is it possible they are two distinctly different feeling states?

If you identify that these seem to be two or more distinct states, ask which location seems more important to work with. Check in to see if that location corresponds to the feeling state name you chose to map. If not, come up with a name for the new feeling state before proceeding. Either way, make sure to note the other locations for future mapping.

Double Checking If Necessary

If after this thorough scan you have still not discovered the location of the state you have named, go back to your memory and explore alternative feeling states, or alternative names for the same feeling state, searching for something that seems strong enough to invite a successful identification. You want to work with a feeling state that feels palpable, tangible, perhaps something that actually affects your body sensations because of emotional activation.

Identifying Size and Shape

Hopefully, you’ve landed on where your feeling state seems to be located. Let’s complete the location scan by getting more precise.

And in this location, what kind of size and shape does this [feeling state] seem to occupy?

With this follow-up question, we are inviting your attention to zoom in and specify how big and what shape is the space occupied by the feeling state you’ve located. If it seems difficult to identify the size, offer some comparison objects. It is often much easier to answer a yes or no question asking about a specific size than to arrive at the correct size out of nothing. Start with a comparison object about the size of a loaf of bread, and work your way up or down from there depending on whether the state seems smaller or larger.

Is the actual, felt experience of this [feeling state] smaller, or larger, than [an egg, a loaf of bread, a watermelon, etc.]?

In the case of a whole-body feeling, you will want to find out specifically where the feeling ends.

Does this [feeling state] stop precisely at your skin, or does it stop somewhere beneath your skin or extend beyond your skin, outside your physical body?

If stopping before or extending beyond the skin, ask how far.

If you have difficulty identifying the shape of the feeling state, look for hints in how you have described the location and size so far, and expand upon those. Also imagine how you might describe it to someone else, and pay attention to spontaneous gestures that might arise. Gestures are wonderful indicators for location, size, and shape. (Keep this in mind when you facilitate this process for someone else.)

Does this “square” feeling state seem flat, or more like a cube?
Does this “round” feeling state seem spherical like a ball, flat like a plate, or more extended like a cylinder?

Be prepared to elicit some unusual shapes. Anything is possible in the form and structure of the felt sense. Some possibilities to be aware of include the following:

  • Hollow objects — These may include spheres, cubes, ovoids, cylinders and other shapes. Other forms may be inside these or they may be empty.
  • Doorways, gateways, and extra dimensions — Doorways or gateways can be of any size or orientation, and seem to open or connect to “other dimensions,” other people, or some experience of energy. Extra dimensions show up when a feeling-state object which seems to occupy a specific space relative to your body also seems to occupy a different space, perhaps much larger, when examined from inside the shape. If this kind of idea or perception arises for you, don’t worry for now about trying to understand it. Simply accept that these perceptions correspond to some aspect of your feeling experience that is important, and use whatever words seem most useful to refer to the experience.
  • Multi-part shapes — These are sometimes connected and sometimes not. If you continue the questioning process and discover that they have different properties, then you are probably working with two different feeling states and should probably do the complete mapping process with each. If they have highly similar or identical properties, they are more likely to be apparently separated forms of the same feeling state.

Make sure to also notice things like the orientation of the shape relative to the body. For example, is a flat round disk oriented vertically, parallel or perpendicular with the side-to-side plane of the body, horizontally as if lying on a table, or sitting at some other angle?

Feelingmind perception can be very sensitive in some people, allowing for a level of detail that can be surprising. For others, answers to these and other questions have a much lower resolution. At both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between, working through these questions will strengthen your feelingmind awareness with many benefits. If you are one of those with high sensitivity, don’t take too much time to get overly specific. The overall gist of the state will be sufficient to get the results of the work. If you are one with a lower sensitivity, no worries. Many times, shape will become more clear after some of the other questions, and when you draw the feeling state later on.

Make a few notes to record what you’ve discovered, and when you have a pretty good description, it’s time to move on to substance.

Substance

With this next question we will examine the region within the shape you’ve identified to learn more about your inner experience of this feeling state. Here we will invite a comparison to qualities of the material world we inhabit. We will lay a filter of materiality over the space of the feeling state to discover what new information emerges. Ready? As before, run through the question briefly. Then we’ll break down the new language structures before inviting you to take on the question in earnest.

Inside this region, if you were to say that the actual, felt experience of this [feeling state] has qualities of substance, would you say it seems more like a solid… a liquid… a gas… some kind of light… or energy… or something else?

Here, our language directs attention at the outset to the region just identified. Then it follows the track we’ve established with the first question. The new elements come in the latter half of the sequence.

As we explored briefly in determining the shape of the region occupied by the feeling state, it is often much easier to compare discrete properties to the felt sense in order to elicit an easy yes or no answer. The list of substance properties functions as a series of micro-filters, inquiring about whether, when we apply this filter or the next one, we get a “reading” from our instrument of attention. The best delivery of this question allows some time between each suggestion for a confirmation or disconfirmation to arise. A simple pause of a second or two is usually sufficient.

Finally, after facilitating our sequence of micro-filters, we open things up by concluding the question with, “…or something else?” In this way we are avoiding the suggestion that the list covers all the options, and inviting ourselves to really let go and notice the actual qualities that emerge.

This is important. Although we are referencing properties of the material world in our question, the substance qualities of feeling states do not necessarily obey the laws of physics. It is perfectly natural to experience a feeling state as a “solid gas” or “liquid light,” for example. 

Once you have identified the general category of substance, inquire a little further into the details of the substance qualities. Getting specific about a feeling substance’s characteristics provides you with even more vividness. Try to strike a balance between expediency and thoroughness. Identifying every last detail can become tedious. Your goal is to generate enough detail to become clearly aware of the feeling state and to create a workable sensory image corresponding to that state.

Following are specific details useful to inquire about for solids, liquids and gases. Use these as suggestions, choosing ones you perceive as most relevant for the particular feeling state you are mapping. I find it useful to place these inquiries into a question in this form, with a simple binary comparison:

Does this [feeling substance] seem [A or B]?

An example of this would be, “Does this solid seem heavy or light?” Sometimes I will string together a few binary options in a row, and capture whatever stands out. “Does this solid seem heavy or light… hard or soft… more or less dense?”

Solids

  • Heavy / light
  • Hard / soft — (like metal or stone versus putty or foam)
  • More / less dense
  • (If soft): Resilient / malleable — (like a rubber ball versus putty)
  • (If hard): Rigid / brittle / bendable
  • What is the texture of the surface?

Liquids

  • Thick / thin – (like paint versus water)
  • Heavy / light
  • More / less dense

Gases

  • Thick / thin
  • Heavy / light
  • Moist / dry

Other Substances

Other kinds of substances you might encounter include the following. This list is not exhaustive, and you are likely to encounter other qualities of substance. Be open and supportive of whatever your experience indicates. And again, no need to obey laws of physics or conform to the nomenclature of the material world. Call it whatever you want — you know what it means.

  • Plasma — Something between a liquid and a gas, or between a gas and energy.
  • Gel — Something between a solid and a liquid, like jello or toothpaste.
  • Electricity — Often with a buzzing quality.
  • Energy — Pure energy in whatever way you understand that. Energy is often a catch-all to define a substance quality that does not seem to quite fit any of the other categories. It can be helpful to inquire into other substance qualities the energy may carry such as density, weight, and viscosity.
  • Light — No substance exactly, but with a presence all the same; similar to energy.
  • Multi-dimensional space — A region within which the normal laws of substance do not apply, where space takes on a different dimension and infinity can fit within an area as small as a grapefruit.
  • Particles — Perhaps moving through space, perhaps clustered in clumps or solid shapes, perhaps behaving like a quantity of sand or dust.
  • Pieces, aggregates, combinations — Chunks, pieces, sometimes uniform, sometimes in combination with other substances. It’s possible a state like this turns out to actually be two intermixed states.

Often, the best way to describe a solid is through analogy: it is “like” something else. See if you can come up with a direct comparison with a material you are familiar with.

If you are having difficulty getting started with identifying the fundamental substance quality, it can help to begin with a few micro-filters. For example, while directing your attention into the space of the feeling state, ask whether the state seems to be heavy or light, hard or soft, thick or thin, more or less dense. These four distinctions in particular can be quite helpful in moving toward clarity about the substance.

Once you are satisfied you have adequately identified the important qualities of substance for this feeling state and captured your discoveries in your notes, you are ready to move on to ask about temperature. Before we do though, let us take a moment to reflect on this experience so far.

Commentary: Substance Inside and Outside

For most people, the idea that feeling can be perceived as having qualities resembling substance comes as a complete surprise. Yet this link can be found many places in how we talk about ourselves. Think about the difference between “hard-hearted” and “soft-hearted,” for example. Or the difference between “heavy-hearted” and “light-hearted.” When you come across these phrases, they mean something because you can find a way to relate to that sort of inner experience.

And why should it be otherwise? As every one of us emerged into conscious presence in the world, as we first became aware of ourselves and our surroundings, what filled our awareness was the materiality of embodiment. Hard/soft, warm/cool, rough/smooth, and heavy/light were our first distinctions, even before we opened our eyes. We are embodied beings, inhabiting a material body surrounded by a material world, and this is what our consciousness had to work with as it fired up at the very beginning of our lives.

In addition, the idea that we might generate virtual material experiences for ourselves is not new. For example, I have used a hammer quite a lot in my life. It is very easy for me now to imagine a hammer in my hand, and to feel its heft and balance as I move my arm. It is easy for me to remember the sensation of the wind on the water and how to move my body and the sail of a boat to dance with that wind. It is easy for me to step into a particular dance move, to experience it virtually as if I was using my body in just that way.

People regularly use mental rehearsal to advance their skills in sports and the arts, and this rehearsal requires high quality virtual materials to simulate the actual, embodied experience of interacting with real objects and substances. This is already a field of study in psychology under the term body schema. It is a very short distance between these things we take for granted and a natural, intuitive, and mostly unconscious use of virtually-constructed materials as the basis for our experience of feelingmind.

That is one possibility, anyway. There are others requiring a bit more expansion of concepts, and we’ll leave those be for now. But hopefully I’ve given you something to think about as we continue on our journey.

Temperature

The next question is a simple one. We’ve already identified the region occupied by the feeling state, and its apparent substance qualities. From here it is an easy switch to filter for temperature, and since temperature is generally a single point on a linear scale, it’s pretty straightforward to identify. Consider substituting the name for the feeling substance identified above for the marker phrase in brackets below, or just read it as is. Either way tends to be effective.

If you were to say this [feeling substance] has a temperature, what temperature would you say that seems to be?

Sometimes temperature is fairly obvious, especially when it falls into one extreme or the other. At other times, though, it can help to add a more precise prompt centered on a comparison to body or room temperature. Something along the lines of, “Does this [feeling substance] seem to be warmer or cooler than body or room temperature, or does it seem perfectly neutral?”

For some people, temperature is a high-fidelity quality. If you are one of these, you may find yourself able to give a very precise degree reading of your feeling substance. For other people a rough comparison to something experiential tends to do the trick. “Like a cool breeze on a summer day,” or, “like hot tea after it’s been sitting for a few minutes.”

Occasionally you will map something with an extreme temperature that is difficult to identify. The predominant quality is one of numbing or burning, the way you might experience with either extreme hot or cold. Just make a note of this, and be open to the possibility that it could be either extreme hot or cold, neither hot nor cold, or both somehow. Find whatever designation makes the most sense to you.

From time to time you will encounter temperature that is different in different locations within the specific feeling substance, or which fluctuates. Make a note of these variabilities. Finally, occasionally temperature will seem not to apply to a particular feeling state, even after checking for a neutral temperature quality. That’s OK. Just move on to the next question about color and appearance.

Color and Appearance

Let’s turn our attention to what this feeling state might look like, if you were able to step outside and look at it, as if it were an object separate from you. Perhaps this is a good point to introduce the concept of a witness self.

Commentary: The Witness Self

In order to answer these mapping questions, we must access the feeling state directly, being able to feel what it feels like in the moment. At the same time, we must be able to step outside of the feeling state as if to observe an object of study. This quality becomes particularly relevant when we consider the property of color.

The inner experience of going through the mapping sequence is one involving a constant relocation of the point of view from which our field of awareness is directed. When sensing temperature, for example, we might hold our field of awareness to encompass the region we’ve identified for the feeling state, holding an awareness of its substance as we sense into the temperature of that substance. We might hold our point of view as inside that field of awareness and imagine the feeling substance surrounding our witness self. What does the temperature feel like if we immerse ourselves inside the region of the feeling state? Or we might hold our point of view as located outside the region and imagine ourselves reaching out with our hand to touch the feeling substance to get a reading of its temperature. Both of these choices provide valuable information about temperature.

As we do this with each question, we practice a kind of simultaneous detachment and immersion in the feeling state. We learn and practice a kind of freedom in our relationship to this feeling state. Over the course of working through the entire sequence of questions, and further, over the course of mapping several related feeling states, we develop a strong sense of being a witness to our own interior. For now, we will just call this the witness self.

Your strengthening relationship with this witness self is one of the benefits of feelingwork mapping. Having access to such a witness position makes it much easier to engage with feeling states that might otherwise feel too intense to process. Accessing the witness can help keep you from falling into strong states and having difficulty getting back out again. Consciously developing a witness self can also support living with and observing strong patterns of thought, mood, and behavior that can serve your process in many ways. Later, we will dive in a little more deeply into the nature of this witness self in the context of your entire being. For now, let’s move on to identifying the color and appearance of the feeling state you’re in the process of mapping.

The Inquiry

Take a moment to reconnect with the information you’ve gathered so far. Place your field of awareness into and/or around the region of your feeling state, and notice again its qualities of substance and temperature. Now we will inquire into what this feeling state might look like if you were able to see its visual appearance.

If you were to say that this [feeling substance] has color, what color or colors would you say it seems to be?

This is a straightforward question that builds on the platform we’ve built with the previous questions, using no further unique phrasing except to specify “…color or colors…” to allow for the possibility of the feeling substance having two or more different colors.

If you do find your feeling state carrying more than one color, inquire into the relationship between/among these colors. Are they distinct with clear boundaries, or do they blend into one another? Is there a regular pattern, or are they more randomly distributed?

Pay attention in this case to whether the distinct colors might correspond to distinctly different substances and/or temperatures. If so, this might turn out to require slightly more advanced mapping technique. Consider treating the distinct quality zones as being distinct feeling states, each with its own, unique qualities and contributions to your inner experience. In this case, go through the mapping questions completely with each distinct component you’ve identified.

Pro Tip: Testing with Contrast

If we think of the sensory imagery centers of the brain as our instrument, it is as if we are trying different imagery settings and monitoring the instrument signal for a match. We are in fact “making it up” as we go, keeping track of what imagery feels like it “fits,” and adjusting for optimization. It’s a little like playing the childhood game “hot and cold” where a toy is hidden and the hider calls out temperature readings indicating how close the seeker is to the treasure. The seeker’s best strategy is to move around a lot at the beginning to get a quick temperature map of the territory, then to zoom in on the “hot spot.”

We can also use this technique to help us confirm any of our map parameters. When we are first getting used to this new skill, it is natural to question the images we get. “Where did that come from?” is a common exclamation. If you think maybe a feeling state has a certain imagery quality, but you’re not sure, ask a specific question about the opposite qualities.

For example, if you have a sense of the feeling state being blue, but maybe you’re baffled because you thought rationally that the anger you’re mapping should be red, “try on” some other colors. Ask yourself, “Is it possible that it’s red,” imagine the feeling substance being red, and check whether this matches the felt sense of what you’re mapping.

Most of the time when you do this, you will get a very clear “No.” When you do, then going back to your first impression of blue will seem much more fitting, and in fact it will often carry a subtle meaning that informs your experience of the state. It’s a great way to let yourself know you’re on track.

Additional Qualities of Appearance

In addition to identifying the raw color value, the hue, it can be helpful to notice additional qualities of appearance. I almost always ask about transparency:

And would you say it seems more transparent, translucent, or opaque?

Here are the definitions of these terms:

  • Transparent: Can see detail through it, although the colors may be tinted; like some tea or other clear drinks, or tinted glasses.
  • Translucent: Light shines through but objects are not visible; like frosted glass, clouds, and lamp shades.
  • Opaque: No light or visibility can be seen through the object; like an iron rod, ceramic plate, or wooden bowl.

As before, we can drill down into further levels of detail, but for the purposes of our mapping it’s best to find a balance. We want to capture the qualities most relevant to the felt experience of the feeling state. Occasionally, with visual qualities, these can include the following:

  • Luminosity: Does this feeling object glow, shine, or radiate light in any way?
  • Reflectivity: Does the surface of this feeling object appear shiny, dull, or significant in some other way?
  • Saturation or Value: (This is for color geeks.) Does this feeling object have a significant color saturation, either seeming very intense or very flat in color? Or does the color seem significantly bright or dark?

As you might imagine, color is perhaps the most useful quality when drawing the visual image of the feeling state. When you engage your materials or device for drawing you may find your discernment grows finer. Again, this has to do with the relative ease of saying “yes” or “no” to specific values over generating them out of nothing. If you have a large set of colored pencils, for example, you may agonize of exactly which shade of turquoise to pick, and find yourself mixing colors to get just the right effect. For now, just capture the general description of the appearance in your notes.

Now let’s move on to… movement.

Movement, Force, and Pressure

With this question we maintain our field of awareness upon the substance qualities of the feeling state, and turn our attention to ways in which this substance seems to be moving.

If you were to say the actual, felt experience of this [feeling substance] is moving in any way, would you say it seems to be flowing… pulsing… vibrating… moving in some other way… or does it seem to be perfectly still?

Properties of movement, force and pressure vary greatly. The possibilities are at least as wide as those in the physical world of solids, liquids and gases. As with the other properties, only go into as much detail as seems useful to help the explorer experience a strong connection between the image and the feeling state.

Here are a few types of movement to consider, (not an exhaustive list): flowing, pulsing, vibrating, radiating, waves or ripples, whole-object movement through space, or perfect stillness. And within these types of movement we find various qualities, including the following:

•       Direction: Linear, circulating, inward or outward, expanding or contracting

•       Intensity: Volume, speed, frequency, or amplitude

•       Variability: Steady, rhythmic, intermittent, or random

Force or Pressure

Usually it is best to ask about force or pressure separately, after assessing movement qualities. This is because what you learn from examining movement will often suggest a likely configuration for force or pressure. Continue with the following simple prompt:

And do you notice any force or pressure?

If force or pressure is evident, inquire further into its direction and magnitude. For example, a gas identified as having the quality of pressure could be experienced as compressing inward on itself or pushing outward from its center. This directionality could be significant for next steps in the work, including standing as an indication pointing to another feeling state object interacting with the first, and indicating potential opportunities for how to create a powerful shift in the moving phase of the process. We’ll cover these finer distinctions in the relevant sections later in the book.

For now, make your notes to capture your observations, and let’s move to the final mapping question.

Sound

With your attention on the felt experience of this [feeling state], when you listen internally, do you notice any inner sound?

In answering this inquiry, it can help to open the field of awareness wider. Sound is a unique quality to assess in our mapping. It often arises along with a feeling state, but may not be as strongly or directly connected with the identified location.

For some people, sound is a natural element of their feeling state imagery. For others, sound rarely shows up. For many, answering the questions about substance and color seemed like discovering properties that were already in place, while sound qualities may seem to fall more in the category of “making it up.”

If you are among those who do not find sounds springing spontaneously to mind, let it go. In mapping, we are only interested identifying elements that feel right, that fit.

I generally find that an overview of sound qualities is usually sufficient to be useful in the moving phase. I’ll wait until after we find the ideal state to fully enhance and enrich the sound experience. But if sound stands out in mapping, take a moment to note its qualities in a little more depth. Here are some qualities I’ve found most useful in working with sound.

  • General sound qualities: pitch, amplitude, rhythm, tone
  • Single or multiple sounds
  • Musical qualities: instrumental, vocal, choral, natural, melodic

The Special Case of Silence

If the explorer states there is no sound, confirm by asking, “Do you hear actual silence, or is there simply an absence of sound?” There is a difference. Silence can be “deafening” or otherwise carry great meaning.

When you have completed a general description of the sound qualities of the feeling state imagery, it’s time for one last check before moving on.

Brief Review

Is there anything else you want to notice about how this [feeling state] actually feels before we move on? Are there any adjustments you would like to make to your description?

All that’s necessary here is a quick invitation to mark any background discoveries you may have made while working through the question sequence. Sometimes answering a question about color, for example, can lead to a clarification about substance. Make any changes or updates to your notes before moving on to the questions about thoughts and beliefs.

Commentary: Natural Diversity

People vary in their engagement with these questions and the resolution of the answers they generate for specific questions. For example, as I mentioned, sound seems to be not as compelling a parameter for some people as for others. Yet even for a single person, mapping one state versus another can yield a different profile of what qualities stand out. For the person who seems not so sensitive to the dimension of sound, for example, one feeling state might carry a particularly dominant sound which is the central feature of that state’s mapping.

These differences among people, and among different states within the same person, can show up with any of the other parameters we explore in mapping. Give plenty of space for these differences, and don’t require yourself to provide detail that’s just not there, while indulging in great detail where that seems useful.

Let me take this one step farther. As you engage further in feelingwork, you are going to find yourself being very surprised at times. Be prepared for that and check your expectations at the door. The interior world of any human being — that includes you — has ways of defying any preconceptions you might have. For example, if you are mapping a feeling you’ve named Sadness, you might expect it to take a form similar to a sadness you mapped previously. Or if you are facilitating the mapping of Sadness for someone else, you might expect it to resemble a sadness of your own.

Don’t count on it. There are more varieties of “sadness” than there are people using that label to name a feeling state. (I’ll share a sample series of different maps of sadness in a later chapter.) One thing you’ll discover if you map more than a dozen states is the magnificent diversity of experience within your own self. And if you facilitate this process for more than one or two other people, you’ll very likely find yourself in awe at the wondrous variety of inner styles. It’s beautiful to behold, so allow yourself to be fully open to whatever shows up. I encourage you to cultivate your sense of wonder and curiosity.

Pro Tip: A Note About Mental Imagery

At times, you may find yourself conjuring some very specific images. You might describe a feeling as a “squirrel in my belly” or “like autumn leaves swirling all around me, with each leaf shaped like a heart.”

When you find this level of detail, question it. You want to confirm that the “actual, felt experience” corresponds to the substance, color, etc. When there is a surplus of vivid detail, it is often because you have lapsed into using metaphoric, thought-based imagery instead of tracking the actual, inner sensations of the feeling state. Try this question to confirm, substituting a brief reference to the imagery in question for the marker phrase in brackets:

Now as you allow yourself to fully experience this [mental imagery], notice the feeling that arises with that imagery. Paying attention to the sensations of this feeling, if you were to say the actual, felt experience of the feeling itself were located somewhere in or around your body, where would you say that is?

Usually, this is enough to shift the explorer’s attention to the direct feelingmind information, and you’ll be able to properly map the feeling state. If the detailed, metaphoric image persists, go with it. Complete the mapping and continue with the moving process. For one thing, you may be someone for whom this level of detail is normal. I’ve run into a few. And even if what’s happening is a substitution of thought-based imagery for the felt sense, our ultimate goal is to shift the state, and moving a mental image will often lead to similar breakthroughs as working directly with the feelingmind image of the feeling state.

Special Case: Multiple States

Feeling states never happen in isolation. There’s never any question about whether other states accompany the one you’re mapping. The real question is whether any other feeling states connected to the one you’re mapping will interfere with your mapping and moving process. Sometimes feeling states have such strong interdependencies that even just mapping one state, can trigger another state to flare up and take over, and moving states can have an even stronger effect.

From time to time you may experience this while mapping. It may show up as a feeling of fear or fogging out that seems to take over while you are mapping anger, for example. The fear may prefer that the anger stays out of awareness because it remembers intolerable consequences that happened as a result of expressing the anger in the past. Or another feeling state may show up structurally, for example as a hot liquid core inside a solid metallic ball. The metallic ball may seem unwilling to shift its form or intensity because it’s doing a job – keeping the molten liquid contained. In this case, you would need to map and move the core first, and then the container would be free to move as well.

Handling these cases is a straightforward matter of shifting attention to the state which is most in control of the relationship between them, mapping it, and moving it first before returning to complete your work with the first state. We’ll talk more about this in a later chapter. For now, I just want you to be aware of one important trade-off.

As you are getting started with these skills, it is probably best to map and then move one feeling state at a time. If you run into a set of states which seems to be digging in its heels, put it aside for now and turn your attention to something a little lighter. Try to avoid getting into a situation where you are mapping one state after another without moving any of them.

The reason for this is that we are accustomed to navigating our lives with one state at a time in awareness, at most two or three. Mapping multiple states brings them into awareness all at once. Although we are creating some distance through the mapping process, mapping multiple states, especially if they are rather intense, can lead to a sense of overwhelm. Whenever possible, as you are getting started, leave yourself feeling lighter and more resourceful at the end of a session by moving most of the feelings you’ve mapped.

General Beliefs and Thoughts

Every feeling state we map is an anchor for a particular component of our total conscious activity. We will get into this broader architecture in a later chapter, but we’ll lay some of the groundwork for it here. This is the point in the mapping process where we turn our attention to the dimension of thought, belief, perception, and more.

The purpose of the belief questions is twofold. First, eliciting belief statements serves as a record of your starting point. Most of the time when you are mapping a feeling state, it’s because there is an element of suffering involved and you are intending to shift it to a more resourceful state. Because the belief statements tie the feeling state to meaningful context, they can be helpful later in recalling just how distressing this state used to be. And that can add appreciation and continued motivation for the journey back to wholeness. Quite often you’ll look back and wonder how on earth you could have thought that way. I love those moments.

Another reason for the belief questions has to do with the more advanced skills for mapping and moving all nine feeling states a set. (We’ll get to that soon enough.) In brief, belief statements operate in the realm of thought, and thought is the connective tissue linking one feeling state to the next. A statement arising from one feeling state often demonstrates a link pointing to another feeling state that has not yet been identified. Following the trail of belief statements is one way to seek out the full configuration of feeling states.

For now, in the basic practice, hold the purpose of the belief questions as a useful record of the meaning and context for the reactive feeling state you’re mapping.

Asking About Belief

Our goal is to invite stream-of-thought statements arising naturally from the place of the feeling state we’ve mapped. As before, either fill in the feeling state name for the marker phrase, or just read it as is.

Now we’re going to explore the thoughts and beliefs that typically accompany or express this [feeling state] for you. How would you capture in words what seems most true, or real, or important, from the perspective of this [feeling state]?

As before, the phrasing of the question is key. Let’s take a look through the various components of the question sentence.

“How would you capture in words” invites us to access something that may not exist in language as its native form, and to use words to “capture” it for the record. What follows, “…what seems most true, real, or important…” invites us to probe into the heart of things, but to do so lightly, capturing what “seems” to hold that central status while acknowledging that the way things are held may or may not correspond to some larger or more objective standard.

The final phrase, “from the perspective of this [feeling state],” invites us to hold that what comes forth in this inquiry is the unique point of view held by or from this specific feeling state, not necessarily held by any of the rest of the whole self. This gives permission to string together statements that other parts of the self may not agree with by holding a larger frame.

What we’re going for her are simple statements that seem, from the perspective of the feeling state being mapped, to be so true as to be obvious, hardly worth stating out loud because they are so implicitly assumed. Statements at this level are gold for revealing the role this feeling state plays in the whole pattern under inquiry. (We’ll get to patterns, sets, and constellations further on.)

Sometimes you might draw a blank with such an open-ended prompt. If so, use the following possible starting points as prompts.

How might you complete the sentence:

I am, or I’m not…
…can, or can’t…
…have, or don’t have…
…need, or don’t need…
…want, or don’t want…
…should, or shouldn’t…
…have to, or don’t have to…

If it seems appropriate and useful, invite a substitution of “you,” “they,” “it” or “the world” for the initial “I.” If at any time you draw a blank with these more specific prompts, don’t push it. Move on. Sometimes you are working with a feeling state that took shape before language and has been suppressed ever since. It may never have developed a mature linguistic connection with other states in the form of articulated beliefs.

Pro Tip: Considering Point of View

When inviting statements of belief, you have the option to choose the broader perspective of yourself having the feeling state, or the more narrow perspective of the feeling state speaking as the self, giving its unique slant on life. Let’s take a hypothetical feeling state, “withdrawn,” as an example.

A statement from the perspective of the full self having the feeling state as just one component of experience might sound like this: “I don’t want to get involved. I would rather keep to myself.” A complementary statement from the perspective of the feeling state speaking as the self might sound like this: “I want to keep you safe. You’ve been hurt before in situations like this.” In this case, “you” refers to the whole person while “I” refers to the feeling state which is protecting them by withdrawing.

I would recommend just going with what feels most natural at first. But as you get the hang of this, consider choosing to go with the feeling state speaking from its own perspective. Especially as you map multiple feeling states, hearing distinctly from each part playing its role within the whole pattern can lead to terrific self insight.

At first, this feeling-state perspective might seem more difficult to sustain. Or it can seem strange to have these parts speaking as if they were sub-personalities. Reassure yourself that this is natural, that all of us have these sub-parts of ourselves interacting with each other to create our experience. Bottom line, though: allow yourself to generate statements from either perspective. It’s all good.

When you have one to three clear statements capturing the general thoughts arising from the feeling state, you’ve done enough to move on. On the other hand, if more thoughts are naturally arising and you’re finding yourself wanting to capture them, go for it. Sometimes these loquacious parts can be treasure troves of insight.

Noticing an Inner Voice

As you go through the process of capturing statements of belief, you might notice that the phrases and sentences arise as if spoken within yourself. These inner voices can lead to further insight. Take a look at some of these qualities in particular.

  • Voice: Is the inner voice your own or someone else’s? If it’s not yours, what gender is it? What age? Is it someone you know? Is there just one voice, or are there more than one?
  • Attitude: Tone of voice and any meaning conveyed by tone; this can sometimes be a pointer to other feeling states.
  • Words spoken: These can be quite significant, often things like judgments, chastisement, laments. Record verbatim what you hear.
  • Vocal qualities: Rate, pitch, intonation, inflection, loudness (these are usually important to note only when they seem particularly significant, not so important to ask about).

Well, that wraps it up for our mapping inquiry. Take a look through your notes, fill in any gaps, make any updates to get your notes faithful to your inner experience. Now it’s time to draw.

Drawing Your Feeling State

For now, at this early stage of your work, it’s just fine if you go with the simplest solution possible and just sketch a rough body outline to make your drawing. We’ll get into more involved drawing solutions in a later chapter. It’s great if you have colored pencils or other art materials to draw your state, (if it needs that sort of treatment). Otherwise, capture it the best you can with a simple monochrome sketch. You have the notes to specify just what the color is.

Whether or not you have colors or an art tablet to use, go for being both creative and precise in your drawing. Try to capture the feeling state as you described it. This is your visual representation of the feeling state you are mapping, and it will serve as a literal map to assist you to returning to this state, whether to prepare for moving it or to understand it more thoroughly.

A quick note: Sometimes you will want to draw a white feeling state, and that will be difficult to do on white paper. Try outlining it in another color, or gently shading the negative space around it. If you are working digitally, create a background layer of a contrasting color, then draw your white feeling state on top of that.

That pretty much covers it. Congratulations! You’ve mapped your first feeling state.

The Complete List of Questions

Location

If you were to say that the actual, felt experience of this [feeling state] is located somewhere in or around your body, where would you say that seems to be?
And in this location, what kind of size and shape does this [feeling state] seem to occupy?

Substance

Inside this region, if you were to say that the actual, felt experience of this [feeling state] has qualities of substance, would you say it seems more like a solid… a liquid… a gas… some kind of light… or energy… or something else?
Does this [feeling substance] seem [A or B]?

Temperature

If you were to say this [feeling substance] has a temperature, what temperature would you say that seems to be?

Color

If you were to say that this [feeling substance] has color, what color or colors would you say it seems to be?
And would you say it seems more transparent, translucent, or opaque?

Movement

If you were to say the actual, felt experience of this [feeling substance] is moving in any way, would you say it seems to be flowing… pulsing… vibrating… moving in some other way… or does it seem to be perfectly still?
And do you notice any force or pressure?

Sound

With your attention on the felt experience of this [feeling state], when you listen internally, do you notice any inner sound?

Review

Is there anything else you want to notice about how this [feeling state] actually feels before we move on? Are there any adjustments you would like to make to your description?

Beliefs

How would you capture in words what seems most true, or real, or important, from the perspective of this [feeling state]?
How might you complete the sentence:

I am, or I’m not…
…can, or can’t…
…have, or don’t have…
…need, or don’t need…
…want, or don’t want…
…should, or shouldn’t…
…have to, or don’t have to…

As you become familiar and comfortable with the mapping process, as you pick up the knack, learn the skill, you will be able at times to shorten these prompts. If you are getting vivid, clear information about the qualities of the feeling state, you might shorten the prompts all the way down to a bare bones, “What about the substance?” Some people find it so easy to dive into this realm and report back that they just stream-of-consciousness weave the image with no prompting at all.

But there will also be times, even if you are one of those people to whom this comes easy, when you will be grateful for the leverage of the full questions. Sometimes the feeling states we are reaching for have been buried so deeply, for so long, that accessing them is a major undertaking. In these cases the fully-expanded questions will be an invaluable tool.

One Client’s Experience

To give you a better idea of what to expect from the mapping experience, I’d like to share something written by a client of mine.

Louise: Creating Form

“The first feeling I mapped was a fear of rejection. First I had to get the words right. ‘Fear of rejection’ is an abstract phrase that could apply to just about anyone. It was not mine.

“What it really felt like was crumbling. I felt other people’s moods and shifts so acutely that a slight dismissal or an offhand remark could cause me to collapse inside. To compensate I would look for a fault in the person, silently and cruelly judge them, and then retreat back into my own world. During the initial mapping stage I made the transition from the rather generic, possibly universal ‘fear of rejection’ to the more personal ‘crumbling.’

“First, I acknowledged and embraced the emotion and I allowed all the reasons for its existence to fall away. It made me excruciatingly uncomfortable. It is a strange thing to really feel an emotion. I always tend to cover them with specific thoughts or turn away and find distraction. But now I had to just sit and feel it. As I did, I realized that giving the feeling form moved it from something vague to something tangible.

“At first I didn’t fully understanding how exactly an emotion or a feeling state was supposed to turn into an image. I had to immerse myself in the process to understand. Guided by Joe’s questions I closed my eyes to try to see if the feeling had a shape and a form and a color. It did. A loosely collected set of yellow particles that collapsed and crumbled within me.’Yellow?’ I thought, ‘Wouldn’t gray or blue or black be more appropriate for this sinking feeling?’ I sat with it. They were yellow. I shrugged. They really couldn’t and wouldn’t become any other color. As I sat with the feeling I felt the particles collapsing. As they collapsed I felt the familiar sinking feeling but this time it was different. The feeling existed on its own without a specific incident to attach it to. All I had was the feeling deep inside me. My core felt very heavy and I was intensely aware of the weight of gravity pulling me down into the chair. I emerged from the emotion feeling disoriented and shaky. I felt deflated and sad but I also felt a deep sense of understanding for myself. I drew the image. Drawing the image right after experiencing and mapping it solidified what I felt with a visual representation. As I went through each emotional state I often found that the drawing process allowed me to further develop the visual aspects of the feeling state. Seeing the image allowed me to objectify the emotion. It no longer felt frightening and elusive and overwhelming.

“Once I identified the feeling, the words came through with striking clarity. ‘You shouldn’t have put yourself out there, you should have kept it all closer.’ These were my words coming from a level of my conscious mind I had never heard before. Through life, being rather um…sensitive… I had constructed an instant awareness of the slightest shift in social acceptance, and I protected myself from further hurt by closing up, pulling back, surrounding myself with a protective wall. This may have protected me from a deeper feeling of social rejection, but it wasn’t helping my social life, or my life as a freelance writer. It just wasn’t helping anymore.”


Crumbling

Description:

A falling in on myself. Sinking feeling, from chest into abdomen, kind of falling; like sand; cooler than body temp, lukewarm, not quite neutral; yellow, opaque; it falls and settles, and then I just kind of resign into it. Sound of a heavy sigh, air deflating.

Thoughts/Beliefs:

I shouldn't have put my work out there. I should have kept it all closer.

About Louise’s Mapping Process

As you might imagine, this Crumbling feeling was quite uncomfortable for Louise. At the same time, mapping it provided a measure of relief. It was as if she had gotten a little distance from the feeling, and was able to be a little more objective about her experience of it.

In generating her map, Louise wasn’t entirely sure the image was “right.” She said the experience of mapping felt a little weird, like she was just making it up. I affirmed her experience, explaining that most people have a sense of unfamiliarity the first few times they do the mapping.

“It’s like you’ve just discovered a new instrument,” I told her. “Imagine looking through an electron microscope for the first time at a single hair from your head. What you see is weird and strange, and wonderful. But before long you’ll become accustomed to peering into this new world.”

Louise accepted my invitation to confirm her image by exploring a couple of its qualities. I asked whether, if the Crumbling had qualities of being blue, or a liquid, or very cold, it would be the same feeling. She said very emphatically that Crumbling had none of those qualities. I asked her what would happen if the feeling became cooler and heavier, falling with greater force. She shook her head and told me no thank you, that’s too uncomfortable. She was now convinced that this image was an accurate representation of her feeling state.

At this point, Louise had passed through the doorway into the mysterious world of feelingmind. She had successfully applied the tool of mapping to enhancing her awareness of a specific feeling state, and had been surprised at the richness and detail it revealed. By testing what it felt like to “try on” different qualities of the feeling image, Louise had also taken the first steps to applying the mapping process to directly interacting with her feeling state. This would become more important as we continued the journey of discovery.

The tangibility, specificity, and detail of the image can be rather startling the first time you conduct a successful mapping. Have you had a similar experience in mapping your first feeling state? What do you make of it?

A Pause for Reflection

I’d like to stop for a moment and invite reflection on your experience. Let’s review what we’ve just accomplished.

First, we turned attention toward a realm that tends to remain very obscure. In essence, we brought illumination into the dark space of feeling. Second, we learned a little bit about how to apply the conveyance of our attention to the task of how to move around in this space. Third, we made a precise observation of what we found there.

At the moment we have no real idea of what it is we’re observing. We have no comparisons, no reference points. Those will come. But we can say that our observation feels valid. Something about the information we elicit from the nebulous space of feeling seems to correspond to a deeper, felt sense of the actual essence of what we are feeling. It feels “right,” or like a “good fit.” Our feeling state has the properties of this substance, not that one. It has this temperature, not another. It exhibits this color, not the shade lighter or darker, and definitely not its complement. If it feels like it is moving, well, there is definitely a moving-ness about it. It is not still. And if it is still, it is definitely not jiggling or jostling or behaving like a geyser or an exploding star.

This observation informs us. It gives us a deeper understanding about what we are feeling, and the relationship between this feeling state and the rest of our being. This understanding may be explicit, easily spoken in words, or it may remain implicit and intuitive. Nevertheless, the insights we gain through observing our feeling state are with us to stay.

We cannot say what is the “reality” of the stuff we are observing, but we can say that our observations seem to correspond to some properties living in that reality. And the correspondence seems strong enough for us to proceed with our new observation tool, to accumulate many observations in order to discover more about the sort of things we seem to be observing in this realm of feeling.

With mapping alone, we don’t yet have the basis for proposing the existence of feelingmind. But we’re getting there.

What’s Coming Next

A new science begins with observation. You and I are creating a new science here, gathering our observations of this new territory which has never been adequately explored. But a science based exclusively on observation cannot really call itself a science. For a science to fully emerge, it must have the means by which to interact with the phenomena under study. We must be able to push things this way and that, to see whether they push back or do something else, to find out how our realm of study behaves under our specific, deliberate influence. We need to be able to experiment.

All of the power that is feelingwork, and all of the knowledge of what is feelingmind, everything in this book, comes from this capacity to experiment. The mapping process we have established in this chapter gives us the foundation. The moving process revealed in the next chapter gives us the means.

First, though, let me invite you to consider the differences between doing this work on your own versus collaborating with a facilitation partner.

Facilitation vs. Solo Mapping

The experience of feelingwork can seem odd at first. Most of us have never had anyone ask us explicit questions about what a feeling actually feels like, so giving a feeling state this much attention is unusual in itself. More often, we’re familiar with talking at length about what we think, remember, believe, perceive, or do when we feel a certain way, but almost never does anyone ask what it actually feels like. Because of this, sharing the mapping experience with someone can be quite special. The mapping questions allow you to share more of the reality of your inner experience than is common, and it can be nice just to have someone be a witness to that awareness. On the other side of the relationship, being a witness feels like a special privilege, like being welcomed into a private sanctuary.

If you do choose to invite someone to share this work with you, you may find access to a more powerful experience by entering into a facilitation partnership. As a facilitator, you are taking responsibility for holding the structure of the process, supporting your explorer partner in surrendering more fully into the mapping experience. Here are some things I encourage you to consider about the facilitator role.

In feelingwork, the facilitator is a guide, a holder of the safe space, and an anchor for the process of self-exploration. As the facilitator, you put aside the functions of advice, empathy, passive listening, commentary, analysis, and other activities often found in the roles of counselor or friend. Through asking the feelingwork question sequence and taking on the task of recording notes, you simply support the explorer’s own self awareness and discovery.

The facilitator’s job is to control the entrance and exit to this practice space, being clear about beginning, maintaining and completing the work. Outside of feelingwork, you are free to pick up other activities again, moving back into the space of friend, partner, or counselor. If you are in a close relationship with your feelingwork partner, don’t assume you can enter the role of facilitator at any time. At all times, the practice is ultimately managed by the explorer.

Another important function of the facilitator is that of focused attention. The facilitator puts self aside during feelingwork and focuses all attention on the explorer. Strive to honor and mirror the explorer's experience, and to assist the explorer in gaining clarity and awareness about that experience. Your job is to enter their world with your awareness and presence only, not to bring your own world into theirs.

Although these requirements of clarity and focus seem to imply that a facilitator must have advanced training to be effective, that is not the case. The qualities of clarity and focus are well present in the structure of the feelingwork questioning sequence. Even a beginning facilitator can assist an explorer in coming to a much deeper self awareness simply by reading the questions aloud.

As a facilitator, be mindful that you occupy a privileged role. The experience of self discovery through feelingwork is uplifting and affirming of the deepest goodness of a person’s being. The explorer is choosing to share that with you. It is one of the most special gifts you can receive from anyone.

Not therapy

For many people, the idea of supporting a friend or loved one in any inner exploration is frowned upon. Psychotherapy has taken over the territory of personal support for inner healing, growth and transformation. The role of therapist is complex and requires a great deal of training to do well. And therapeutic interactions can trigger old projections and patterns of relating that make clear communication difficult for someone who hasn’t been trained in how to manage and leverage these “transferences” and “counter-transferences.” So personal intimates are discouraged from doing anything resembling “therapy” with one another.

Be assured that the simple practice of feelingwork is not therapy. Your job as a feelingwork facilitator is simply to support your explorer’s self-discovery. You won’t be interpreting their experience. You won’t be directing their explorations. You won’t be taking on any role beyond that of a simple witness and facilitator of their attention on their own experience.

I’ve done this work with people in all the varieties of relationships I have. It’s easy to take the facilitator hat off and return to whatever relationship you already have.

In fact, because this work highlights gifts and capacities we all have, people generally find their connections grow closer as a result of sharing this work. Feelingwork goes beyond the surface stories that keep us trapped and gets to the deeper truth of feeling that connects us all.

At the same time, feelingwork in the hands of a gifted therapist can yield great treasure. In the hallowed safety of a healthy therapeutic relationship, feelingwork can enable deeply profound self-discovery and transformation. It can dramatically shorten therapeutic plateaus, dissolve “resistance,” and clear the way for steady progress in therapy, no matter what the issue.

A note about working alone

I highly encourage you to do this work with a facilitator. However, many of you will be quite comfortable working on your own using only the guidance of this book.

If this is your choice, let me alert you to the primary challenge of working with yourself, and suggest how to address this challenge. As you might expect having developed this process, I have worked almost exclusively as a solo explorer. I’ve had a great deal of success working alone, so I can’t very well tell you not to do it. But it has been difficult at times, and I can tell you that things go much faster and more smoothly for those people who have the benefit of my facilitation than it does for those working independently.

The most significant challenge in working alone is when you choose to explore a feeling state that is un-resourceful such as sadness, lethargy, confusion or mental fog, you must first access this feeling — you must feel it in order to engage your sensory imagery.

Accessing this type of feeling can make continuing the work difficult. When you are feeling confusion, for example, anything you do can seem confusing to you. When you access sadness or lethargy, it can be hard to keep up your motivation and stick to a plan. When you are in touch with a mental fog, it can be challenging to be clear about your experience.

An attentive facilitator will enable you to enter into these feelings while holding the container of the process. The facilitator can stay with the process, manage the details of mapping, take all the notes, and keep the explorer moving forward to the next step. But when you are exploring alone, it is easy to spin out, get lost in the feeling, and fail to follow through the process to its end. You can easily wind up wallowing in your intense states.

My advice is to externalize the process in whatever way works best for you. The first time I took myself through an extended mapping and transforming process with very intense feelings, I used my word processor and engaged in a dialogue between myself as explorer and myself as guide. I would ask the next question in the series as the facilitator by typing it on the screen. Then I would read the question as the explorer, and answer it, typing my answer on the screen for the facilitator role to read.

Nowadays, I often ask the questions explicitly under my breath in order to externalize them. It makes a big difference in my ability to follow through and complete what I begin no matter how heavy or challenging the feelings are. I find that when I remind myself to trust the process and follow it through, I can stay on track and complete the work. For many of you, simply having this book will do the job.

Another technique you might consider is to use your phone or other audio device to record yourself asking the sequence of questions. You can play the questions back through headphones as you go into your exploration, pausing when necessary to take your notes. I haven’t tried this method myself, but I’ve been told it works very well for some people. (If you’d like a recording of my voice leading you through the questions, contact me and I’ll make that available to you, or look through the resources on the feeling.work website.)

Overall, perhaps the most important thing to help you through any big mapping and moving you’re doing solo is to maintain solid, healthy practices in all your life. Keep your body moving, eat healthy, stay connected to your loved ones and allies, stay involved in your commitments. All of the things you know to do, keep doing them.

Onward

We’ve covered a lot of ground. But I’ve got news for you: we’re just getting started. Hang onto your hat as we dive into moving in the next chapter. Let’s do it!



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.

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