The main practice that I am living life by at the moment is one I call “Care How I Feel”. This is a phrase I picked out of a workshop I went to a few months ago. This phrase in particular “Care How You Feel” that was shared felt like it was spoken directly to me (indeed I believe it was). I have since built it out into a practice that I use to guide my decisions.
To understand how to use this principle for decisions, or any other guiding principle that is deeply important to you, we must first come to the understanding that a decision is not a decision until it is accompanied by action. If you decide to jump off the high diving board into the pool far below, when is it that you truly make the decision to jump? Is it when you are contemplating it and mulling over the options and then say “Yes I think I will jump”? No, since nothing has changed. We could say it is when you start climbing the ladder up to the high diving platform. But the real decision actually happens when you step off the platform. That is when you are committed, and have made a true decision. Decisions are only real decisions when accompanied by committed actions.
If there is a cause that we care a little about, we may perhaps say something to someone about it , we complain or question or discuss it. Perhaps we click some likes on Facebook and share an article or two. If we care a little more, maybe we donate some money towards someone acting on that cause. Maybe we go to a protest. We care more, perhaps we organize a protest ourselves. All the way up to standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square as it rolls towards you.
So, along this scale of decisions, what is our own level of commitment to ourselves, to how we feel? Is it at the level of sharing a Facebook article about how we feel – a meme, and then we’re done for today? Maybe we donate some money occasionally, we splurge on a massage for self-care. Perhaps we spend a few hours discussing with our friends at the dinner table or the bar about not feeling so great about our job? For a very long time this was my level of commitment. I remember literally spending years and years standing in my local bar at the end of the street, talking to my same friends about the same topics – my job not being fulfilling any more, wanting to work on something with purpose, wanting to leave the city, wanting to spend more time outdoors.
If we care enough about how we feel, if we are to truly make decisions based on how we feel, the level of committed action will be commensurate. What level of action are you willing to ascribe to caring how you feel? What is your commitment, and what is your commitment *to* – is it to you or is it to something else like someone else’s company, money, a partner’s perceived needs, practicing staying stuck or so many other things that we put up as barriers to avoid looking closely at our level of commitment to ourselves.
To give a practical example of what I mean and how I’ve found it useful to reframe my actions, I’ll take meditation. But this could be any habit you’re trying to work with. This is by no means something I’ve mastered, I work with this “Care How I Feel” on a daily basis. But something I often hear in talking with people is something like “When I meditate in the morning, my day goes better, I feel better.” But to the question – did you meditate this morning, the answer invariably is oh no, because <insert any of our standard reasons>. If we actually care how we feel, then when we notice that we feel better when we do a particular thing, we *follow* that. We double down on it. We actually change our day to take that action now, because we care enough about ourselves. That becomes our guiding light, the signal to follow, and take the actions. We now meditate in the mornings.
Today is July 1, and it marks the half way point of this year, one that I personally have named “Year of This Magnificent Animal”. At the end of last year I caught part of a nature show about bears in Alaska rivers, and it showed a beautiful shot of a great giant bear catching salmon in the wild river. I remember the narrator said “Look at this great magnificent specimen”. It struck me that for so long I have carried shame about having a big body, carrying a lot of weight. But here this narrator was celebrating the bear’s magnificence, in all his largeness. It was such a stark contrast to how we think of ourselves, how we constantly judge ourselves and other human animals, whether it’s for our weight, the clothes we wear, our or their sexual orientation, political opinions, or any number of other arbitrary criteria. So I named my year (2019) Year of This Magnificent Animal to celebrate my being a great magnificent specimen of a human animal, without judgement.
I reflect today that in the past half year, I have truly upleveled my commitment to Caring How I Feel, by bringing my awareness and attention to it, and taking committed actions. In the latter part of last year I noticed – really noticed – that I feel better when I am outside, so I literally followed that thread, that signal, into leaving my job, becoming self employed, traveling into the great outdoors daily, camping in forests and swimming in lakes. I noticed that I feel better when I write, so I began writing. I noticed that I feel better when I am having new experiences, so I designed my life around having new experiences. I noticed that I feel better when I do my core practices (meditation, journaling etc.), so I do my core practices.
I invite you to reflect on whether “Care How I Feel” might be a principle you could incorporate in your life, and if you do, see what happens if you make it your core guiding principle by using to to make real, committed decisions. As one of my teachers says, other people may say this sounds selfish, or they may say “You are so full of yourself”. Then you can stand a little taller, push your chest out a bit, reflect and nod, and ask “Indeed. Who else should I be full of?”.
Being full of ourselves is a good thing. Being a magnificent animal that cares how you feel is a good thing. But we must constantly take action towards it, use it as our GPS. MOVE.
Wishing you all peace, love, magic, joy and play.