It is generous of yoga teachers to natter away at us when we are in the most complicated poses, distracting us from mounds of sensation which can be overwhelming. This morning, while we students were contorted into a particularly sweaty pigeon pose, the teacher began to riff. I wasn’t really listening until I heard her begin the sentence “feelings without thoughts are…”
She paused for a second. I thought, “that’s a neat concept to ponder”.
She continued. “…interesting”.
As is my wont, I took a moment’s break from achieving enlightenment to think”the feelings may be interesting, but that statement certainly wasn’t.” How else might we complete the sentence?
My first reaction is feelings without thoughts are prayer. Perhaps that’s because I am a natural feeler burdened with a mind that loves logical thinking; when I shed the trappings of reason and let me heart do what it will I feel closest to God.
When I look at a family member and realize nothing in the world could trump my visceral love for them, that’s prayer. When I hear an orchestra, when I stop thinking about time signatures and my heart breaks loose on the wind, that’s prayer. When I swim or run or stretch and all I focus on is my body, to the exclusion of any other concern, that’s prayer. When I whistle a hymn without knowing what I’m doing, that’s prayer.
So what do you say? What are feelings without thoughts? Are they nonsense? Danger? Blessing? Deception? What else might they be?
They’re terrifying. Or, they’re terrifying to contemplate. I rely on expect my brain to be there for me. To get through every situation. It’s been my biggest strength, my greatest asset. To have it step back…I want to run from the idea. It’s also exhilarating, freeing and opens up a million possibilities. I consider myself an artist, but overwhelmingly art requires an emotional openness or it’s just colors splashed around, noises in a variety of pitches, sound and fury signifying nothing. Ideally I want both, but these days I want so bad to be an artist (and the vocations that run on the strengths of a strong mind have never compelled me nearly as much) emotions untethered to any thoughts is quite the ideal. Prayer? I don’t know. Maybe. But consider that, compared to you, my prayer life is a stunted sad little thing. So, more like it’s unknown territory, so foreign that even moving through it is a mystery.
It is indeed terrifying. Your use of the word “mystery” is just perfect.
I love “When I whistle a hymn without knowing what I’m doing, that’s prayer.” There is always a hymn roaming around in my mind. The song comes from my feelings and that is my prayer at that moment. I never pick the hymn, it just begins and I would have it no other way. Thank-you for the post.
How lovely! That is a wonderful prayer practice.