Sensations, Feelings & Emotions

I’m in the midst of reading “Aware”, by Daniel Siegel, and really enjoying it so far. My mindfulness meditation practice is somewhat successful but I’ve felt that I’ve missed a deeper appreciation for it. This book is helping me in my “awareness of awareness” and provides excellent insights & approaches to deepening your meditation & mindfulness practice. I’d highly recommend it if you are interested.

I’m getting a better appreciation for awareness, I have started to see how my experiences can be understood at different levels. This realization came after reading about the work of Antonio Damasio, who Daniel Siegel quotes in his book. Damasio’s book, “The Strange Order of Things”, provides a compelling view of how the brain developed in life forms after the other systems for sensations, digestion, etc. He states that our brains service our body, not that our bodies service the brain.

I found this concept fascinating and that it supports the idea that the various systems we have in our bodies contribute to our emotions, well-being and awareness.

Aligning with this idea, as part of my mindfulness meditation that Daniel Siegel guides us through in his book, I’ve begun to understand my awareness to experiences in different levels.

First, there’s the sensation. This is what my body perceives through various ways: what I see, feel, taste, or that “gut instinct” that sometimes happens. In this level, I am purely immersing myself in the sensation and letting it become the focus of my awareness. I learn how I become aware of things, how they stay in my awareness and then how they fade. One visual that works for me is how sunlight can appear gradually through cracks in the clouds and suddenly stream forth, then to be obscured as the clouds continue to move in. Sometimes, sensations are immediate for me, like a crack of thunder. In any case, this level of sensing is my first step of awareness.

Next, I have the level of feelings. This is where I try to understand the feeling that is brought forth from this sensation. I try to not have judgment in this at all – I just observe the feelings that come to the surface. At this stage, it’s really the high-level feelings that I look at. If you’ve ever looked at a “feeling wheel”, you’ll be amazed at the depth & breadth of ways to describe our feelings & emotions. In this level, I’m looking more at the centre of these feeling wheels, at the higher level categories. This lets me get a handle on the direction this sensation is leading me.

Lastly, I look at the deeper emotion that comes as a result of the sensations & feelings. Siegel & Damasio make a great observation in how our feelings help us organize our behaviour and evoke “motion”, hence “emotion”, to act. Emotions are the deeper levels of the feeling wheel. It’s at this level that I dig into my motivations and take a look at my own stories that are guiding my emotional response. It’s my chance to “act”, and to potentially take the opportunity to change my response if I’m not satisfied with how I’ve maybe dealt with something in the past.

As part of the practice that Daniel Siegel guides us through in his book, I’ve found that this approach to looking at how I experience things quite helpful in my overall awareness of awareness. I’ve also come to appreciate the insights of Antonio Damasio that our brains work in conjunction with the other systems in our body and is not necessarily in the driver’s seat all the time.

I hope that this has resonated with you in some way and encourage you to explore Daniel Siegel’s book if you’re curious about exploring awareness & mindfulness. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

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