Mark Zegarelli
Mark Zegarelli

Insight 8: 
I am not my feelings.

You may notice that, step by step, we're narrowing down the core of who we might be, peeling back each layer, getting closer and closer to answering the question Who am I?


For example, notice that while the statement I am my brain probably doesn't feel like an accurate description of your experience, statements like I am tired or I am stressed or I am unhappy may feel closer to the truth.


As such, separating yourself out from a particular feeling or emotion you're having can seem difficult if not impossible.


Most people tend to identify the source of their feelings in or around their chest, stomach, or throat.


For example, you may experience jealousy as a pain in the area of your heart, worry as a fluttering in your stomach, or frustration as a soreness in your throat.


Indeed, finding the place in the body where a particular unpleasant feeling arises and emanates from can be very helpful in a variety of types of emotional work, such as healing from traumatic experiences that still dwell in the body.


As with our look at thoughts, however, we're not going to spend too much time along the road where we identify, locate, analyze our feelings, or even focus on feeling them particularly deeply. There are some exceptional books and some truly gifted teachers and healers who are much better trained and more naturally adept at these types of techniques that I ever could be.


On this path, however, we're simply going to notice that – as with external objects, my body, and my thoughts – I  can observe my feelings.


This isn't meant to diminish how overwhelming feelings can be, or imply that you should somehow be able to shut them off, not have them, or not act on them when they arise. The feeling of being overtaken by strong emotion – such as grief, anger, or fear – is so common to all of us that you might well doubt any teaching that blithely advises you to "set aside" such feelings.


Here, we're just noticing, once again, that if I can observe something, then am not that thing. If I can observe my emotions as they arise, sustain, and eventually subside, then I am not my emotions.


As you did when observing your thoughts, please spend a little time verifying that what I'm saying here is true for you. Just for a moment, locate and identify a single feeling right now. It may be a twinge of anxiety, a hint of sadness, a pang of annoyance, or some other feeling. Simply notice it and, at the same time, acknowledge that because you can observe this feeling, you are separate and distinct from this feeling.


And you can generalize this simple observation to any feeling that arises within you. Because you can observe it, you are not it.


So, as with external objects, your body, and your thoughts, when you feel comfortable signing off on the observation that you are not your feelings, go ahead and skip to Insight 9.