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How do you want to feel?

Wisdom from an unexpected guru.

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Photo credit: Paul Condron, September 2020, Devil’s Glen, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

I refer again to the wisdom I have observed in my favourite little teacher, one who for many may seem an unexpected guru given his learning disability, but who in my experience deserves to receive a 10/10 rating for every lesson he unintentionally imparts.

I’m referring of course to my brother John who has Down Syndrome.

A teaching of his I have been reflecting on this last week is how to live more from the heart and body, and less from and in the head.

In a world which oftentimes places unnecessary value on the acquisition of more and more information and knowledge, and fails for the most part to teach us how to access, communicate with and live by our own inner wisdom, and our OWN truth as the surest, safest and most natural path in this life, it can be of immense benefit to regularly move from head to heart, from thinking to feeling, and allow how we want to FEEL to inform our thoughts, words, and actions.

An embodied yoga practice will gradually support us to remember what it is to feel; to listen for and to the wisdom that arises in the body, and to work with it or sit with it, whether its painful or pleasurable.

As we embody Yoga as a way of life (which is what Yoga truly is… an entire way of living in the world!), the concept of discernment becomes one we integrate into our days. We tune into our Truth to discern for ourselves what is right from what is wrong, what is important from what is unnecessary, and what constitutes a worthwhile investment of one’s precious energy versus what will deplete or depress us.

Over these last 10 months (and counting), I have learned so much from John’s discernment regarding what information he chooses to engage with and take on board, and what information, narrative, or attitude even, he chooses to steer clear of. (*Spoiler alert- it’s often my attitude.)

Like many of us John is keen to understand the key facts, dates and predicted milestones regarding when the facilities and services that particularly affect him will reopen and return to business as usual. For context on how much this matters to him, some of these services comprise his jobs (in a café and a pub), his disability service, ALL of his Special Olympics activities, Mass, restaurants, the shopping centre, and the cinema, etc. John is a particularly purpose-driven professional, and he LOVES his work. As someone in a high-risk category, he has now been without it since early March last year. There’s only so much purpose you can obtain from daily table-setting for yourself and your parents. It doesn’t quite compare to serving customers in a pub.

John’s approach to maintaining hope and positivity is the following.

He reliably notes reopening dates as dates to be looked forward to, knows the rules he must now abide by, and follows these rules diligently. Meanwhile, outside of the absorption of this key information, he engages only in watching, listening to and giving airtime to content that makes him feel good.

One might easily internally respond on reading this, ‘Ah well, it’s fine for him, he simply doesn’t have the IQ that I have. It’s my IQ that makes this whole situation so much more difficult for me. I overthink things because of my IQ’.

This is both a valid and an invalid point (as points often are). I can certainly vouch for the pain of overthinking, over-analysing, and over-intellectualising things, and then off the back of this realisation I must regularly remind my ego that there IS in fact a choice; that perhaps my IQ muscles have had plenty of exercise and my EQ muscles could do with a little attention. Perhaps if one gets over one’s fantastic and often unhelpful ability to infinitely analyse, there may in its place exist a much simpler, more joyful and wise way of living, one of ‘I would prefer not to know or discuss that information thanks, because I do not need to know it. Discussing it will make me feel bad, scared, and anxious.’

John will literally cut me off mid-sentence, or end the conversation abruptly if I bring in a ‘more realistic view of affairs’ on the proposed reopening dates he has noted. I’ll receive an assertive look and vibe of ‘go rain on someone else’s parade, I don’t want to know.’

He does not care for my opinion. He will work with the information from government announcements distilled by my parents, and use it to inform what he looks forward to. If or when the date is pushed back, he will hold out hope for the newly announced future date.

He sometimes hears me out in silence, with the same ‘keep your rain away from me’ vibe, and then dismisses all I’ve said, and closes the conversation with a simple statement that begins with ‘Well Leo said…’ in a tone of unshakeable confidence in Leo, and disregard for my analysis.

It certainly must feel lighter to not carry around so much unnecessary and heavy information in one’s head. Indeed, it must be quite liberating.

Based on what we’re going through, I think we could all do with a bit less thinking time, and a lot more feeling time these days. I think the simple question, embodied in John, but perhaps in need of excavating in many of us of ‘How do I want to feel?’, would be a useful one to remember as we go about our days.

Particularly over this last week I have observed a notable shift for the worse in my mood when I read the news.

I am not a big news reader at the best of times, besides keeping abreast of specific topics for work over the years, but these days so little as a 5-minute read of a newspaper can take me an hour to bounce back from.

I need to take a leaf out of John’s book and cut the conversation short before it has begun.

In fact, if I did so John too would have less conversations with ME to cut short.

So, how do you want to feel? Is your over-thinking, analytical mind supporting your wellbeing, or is it undermining your ability to simply enjoy the present?

I’d highly recommend spending regular time with someone like John, who knocks you clean off any intellectual or analytical perch with a fully embodied response to any useless analysing along the lines of ‘I literally could not care less what you think of this’.

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