Thoughts and Feelings as Teachers

by Mary Cook

My thoughts and feelings tell me a lot about myself.  Since I am an ordinary person, what I learn from them may give me clues about other people’s hopes and struggles, strengths and weaknesses too, and help me become more sensitive and compassionate. 

On my path of spiritual unfolding, therefore, it’s very important to develop a good working relationship with my thoughts and feelings.  In the first place, I need to become conscious of them.  They dance so quickly through me or get buried so deeply under distractions that it takes practice to “see” them.

Once I am conscious of them, I try to listen to what they are telling me.  The teachings they give can be quite unexpected; they often bring random experiences and disparate bits of information together into nuggets of meaning.  The teaching may suggest I work on an attitude, or it may be aimed at opening my mind to a broader reality.  The teachings are like a tree with many branches.  The trigger thought or feeling opens up many routes to explore.

IrritationHere is what two of my “teachers,” Irritation and Delight, have taught me.

Irritation A wave of irritation sweeps over me as I listen to a friend talking about how much she hates her boss—the same situation she has told me about so many times before.

  • Your friend doesn’t follow your advice.  This makes you resentful, but your resentment will harm a relationship that you want to maintain. 

           Could you find a way to let her know this?  

  • You are irritated because you feel that you could really help your friend if she let you.  Stay awhile with that feeling of powerlessness, and see if it will give you an inkling of what powerlessness can feel like in a much more serious situation.  Remember when Mark’s daughter Michelle refused to get treated for her depression?  You felt sorry for Mark then and impatient with Michelle. 

    Can your feeling of powerlessness now tell you anything about the intensity of the pain that Mark and Michelle felt then?                        
  • Why add your pinprick of irritation to the thousands of pinpricks that people in this city are probably experiencing right now?  You can let some fresh air in if you want to.  

Delight.  I am watching some sparrows hop about in a patch of grass beside the road. 

  • They are entertaining you with their darting movements.  There’s so much to make you smile if you keep your eyes open.
  • You feel kinship with them. You share with them the miracle of being.
  • You enjoy walking and movement.  Do they enjoy it too?  Do they know it’s a beautiful day?