For some people, focusing on feeling comes naturally. They do it all the time, placing a substantial portion of their waking attention on their felt sense of being, often as their primary navigational aid for life. For others whose primary attention is captured by the senses or mental activity, bringing awareness to feeling can take a bit of practice.
The following tactics can strengthen the results you get from your practice. Anyone can benefit from using these tactics. Even for me, though I fall farther toward the end of the spectrum of people at home in the feeling realm, I use a few of these tactics even today when I am mapping a more difficult state.
Get a partner.
Many of the examples I share in this chapter and throughout the book derive from Feelingwork sessions I facilitated for other people. It is clear to me that, even though I have more experience mapping than anyone alive, it is still easier for those people who have the benefit of my facilitation than it is for me doing it on my own.
Having a partner enables you to fully surrender to the feeling state you’re mapping. Someone else is handling the container that supports your awareness. Someone else is asking the questions, pointing your attention in promising directions, nudging you a little deeper, and taking notes, freeing you to bring your entire attention to the task of mapping your feeling.
Your partner doesn’t need to be a Feelingwork expert. Just having someone to ask the questions one by one and take notes is enough to support you. And in fact, it feels like quite a luxury to receive this kind of attention, almost like getting a massage for your psyche. How often do you get an opportunity to share yourself so deeply with someone?
The most satisfying partnership will be reciprocal, where each of you takes turns as facilitator and explorer. In this exchange, not only will you grow in your mutual understanding of one another, you will get to share the adventure of learning about the pristine new territory of the feeling mind – a grand adventure!
If working solo, externalize the process.
Ask the Questions Out Loud.
In the absence of a partner, try reading the questions out loud for yourself. Hearing the words spoken adds a little something to your ability to enter the feeling state fully as an exploring subject. Read the question, (even if it’s very quiet, under your breath), then give yourself time to dig into the feeling itself to find the answer. Write down your notes, then return to ask the next question. It seems simple, but it helps. I use this one all the time.
Type or write your dialog.
Another way to externalize your process is to write out the question, maybe even adapting it to your own phrasing. Then write out your answer immediately beneath it. Give each “character” a name in your dialog. Perhaps the one asking the questions is “The Facilitator” and the one answering them is “Me.” Try whatever works for you.
The goal here is to truly flip your perspective back and forth. When in facilitator mode, read through the answer you just wrote to the previous question, to see if any follow-up questions arise. When you’re satisfied with the response, only then move to the next question in the process. In the early days of doing this work with myself, I found this an invaluable way to maintain the structure of the process while immersing myself in the feeling experience. I still have a couple of those early transcripts!
Use the audio facilitation.
I’ve provided audio in the posts outlining the mapping process, including download links. The benefit of downloading is you can take it with you anywhere, just store the files on your phone. The downside is, the standard questions asked by the audio won’t be very responsive to the answers you give them. Still, it helps.
Find your sweet spot.
This may be obvious but it’s worth saying. You’ll have an easier time of it if you close yourself off from interruptions, distractions, and conflicting responsibilities. Clear your schedule for an hour or two. Lock the phone in a closet far away. Keep all browsers closed if you’re taking notes on a computer. If it helps, play some music that supports your going inward; if it doesn’t, go with silence.
Of course some of you may benefit from going in the opposite direction. I sometimes find it helpful to do my most intense mapping, at least a first pass, at a local coffee shop. The surrounding sounds of conversations and clatter can actually help me focus on mapping and keep me from going too deeply into any single state. I can go deeper when I get back home.
Find what works best for you. You are entering a sacred territory. Bring your whole self, however that works best for you.
Sink into your body.
You may also find it helpful to lie down or otherwise position yourself for minimal effort managing your body. Surrender into your weight, let go of your intentional posture and tensed muscles. I use the esteemed green recliner so appreciated by so many clients and students. Not only does it have great juju, it supports me in drifting into a short nap after a particularly arduous dive.