Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Doing What Feels Most Deeply Right...
Is What Feels Most Deeply Right To Me.
One of the things I write, sing and talk about a lot is doing what feels most deeply right to me, rather than doing what I think is right regardless of how it feels. To me, this is in keeping with the Taoist principle of wu-wei or so called “non-action”, which I like to translate as “unforced action”. The idea is that the best actions are unforced, uncalculated, and flow naturally from one’s inner being in response to one’s environment. By doing what feels most deeply right, I am trusting that right feeling, that inner feeling of “Yes.”, to guide me to the right life for me.
I should clarify that when I say that “I do what feels most deeply right", I'm using the word “feeling”, not so much in the sense of, “I am feeling angry.”, but more in the sense of “I am feeling this table.”
I'm looking for a "right" sensation in my whole body, which includes my emotional response, my rational pondering and planning, my gut reaction, everything really that makes up "me" as I know me, which is essentially a bodily phenomenon. It's a holistic, all things considered, "feeling" that I follow.
I’ve found that the physical practice of T’ai-Chi, at least the kind I do, has really helped me to let go of a lot of the tension that previously blocked my experience of my body and therefore clouded its messages to me regarding what felt most deeply right. This is because this right feeling is a total body feeling. It includes thoughts and insights and sometimes words, but it is essentially a bodily experience. And, as my body became better aligned and more relaxed, it was easier to feel into my thoughts and feelings and to zero in on which paths, choices and actions felt the most deeply right. I could say the same thing about the practice of writing songs and singing, both in private and in public. I keep getting better at being able to tell the difference between what feels right and what I want to feel right. This can be tricky sometimes. So far, trial and error has been my main and best teacher in this process.
I should say too that this has a flip side and it’s a very important aspect of my life that I also get tremendous value from listening to what doesn’t feel right. Often I get a very good sense of what feels right by digging into what feels wrong about something I’m doing or thinking about doing. For instance, someone might propose an adventure of some kind that might initially appeal to me, but after a little while something starts to feel wrong about it. I might dig into that feeling and realize that this adventure is not for me, that I need to embark on a different kind of adventure or that some aspect of the current adventure needs to change in order for it to feel right. Through trial and error over time, I end up finding the adventure that’s right for me. But what helps me zero in on that right feeling is examining what doesn’t feel right.
Once I find that “right feeling” way to go, it’s up to me to follow that feeling and go with it, and this is usually not very difficult. Sometimes it’s hard to face that what feels right isn’t what I hoped would feel right, but once I commit to that right feeling direction, things just move and I don’t have to force them.
For instance, say I wanted to lose weight. If I just thought about the rational reasons for doing so and used those reasons to force myself to exercise and not eat things I really wanted to eat, my effort would be pretty much doomed, as most pure exercises of will are.
However, if I want to lose weight and really delve into why, I might come up with some reasons beyond aesthetics or ego. I might find that there are some physical things I'd like to do that my weight prevents me from doing. Suppose I then start doing one of those things, at whatever level I'm able to do it. Not just jogging, unless of course, that's something I really wanted to do. I might really want to hike more, but my weight is in my way. So, I start by walking around the block after dinner. And then twice around the block. And then maybe I start walking to work. And then I pick up the pace, walk longer, etc. What I would do is find things that I wanted to do and do them at whatever level I could. If I found I didn't like that activity, I would find another. But one way or another I would find something I like to do, something that felt right, that also burned calories.
In my experience, I cannot change my nature, I can only allow it to change. This process usually involves surrendering something I've been holding on to, something I've been doing to keep my nature from changing. Often, paradoxically, this thing I've been doing to keep my nature from changing is…trying to change! Surrender, at least for me, only comes when I accept the futility of further action. Accepting the futility of further action comes from seeing that this is so. When I see that trying to change is actually in my way of changing, I can let go of trying to change. This is where insight alone can affect change.
I've tried other methods of changing and none of them work, at least not like this: I’m look for currents I feel like joining rather than mountains I think I should climb.
The ultimate use or outcome of any of our actions is unknowable, especially in the long term. But, if I do what feels most deeply right, it's hard to regret anything I do. I feel that doing what feels most deeply right is the only clue I really have about what I "should" do. And again, by "feels most deeply right" I don't mean the emotional whim of the moment. I mean what feels deeply right in my whole being: head, heart and gut. I have faith that following this feeling will lead me to my part in the whole play of existence. I'm done with trying to write my part. I just want to find it and play it. And this feeling leads me there. If playing my part leads to some bad consequences, what can I say? I should have done what felt wrong? Nope. I do what feels most deeply right and let the leaves fall where they may. And I keep checking because what feels most deeply right is always changing. And sometimes I think something feels right, but I'm actually over-ruling a bad feeling and pretending it feels right because I want it to feel right. After years of living and learning about this, my sense of what feels right has gotten better. But I'm always checking.
As a consequence of living like this, I often do things that make no sense to people who have different goals. If my goal it to make money and develop a following and become famous, the rational thing to do is not to give all my music away on my site and record 2 or 3 albums a year. But if my goal is to do what feels most deeply right, enjoy a creative life, be true to my muse and get heard a bit while I'm still alive, well then, my methods make more sense. People often assume that others have the same goals they do, and then judge their actions accordingly.
I cannot know the ultimate consequences of any of my actions, but I can do my best to aim for something that I think of as "good". But I generally don't do that. I take in everything I feel like taking in, plan as best I can, and then look for that "right" feeling to guide me to my part in the big play. I don't think of myself as the playwright and I don't know what my part is. Good guy? Bad guy? Example to others of what to do? What not to do? Hero? Fool? Ballast? I don't know and none of it matters in the long run anyway. So I just follow that feeling and have faith that whatever the Universe has "in mind" for itself, I will best serve it by using the body that it evolved, to tell me where my entrance is, which lines are mine and when to leave the stage. Others can judge and review my performance should they wish, but I just want to play my part well and be as sure as I can that it's my part I'm playing, not yours or anyone else's.