Sensations & Feelings

Despite the natural unity of the organism, we have mostly organised ourselves to live and function in a divided, separate way, too much with the cognitive brain, the language and not enough with the rest of the body, which resides bellow the head. We have diminished, debased, or bodily feelings. The prefrontal cortex, a few centimetres of grey matter, thinking, analysis, have taken dominance over the experiencing of feeling, and sensibility. When we are hurt or we are afraid and we are not able to cope with the difficulty, we transform our feelings into thoughts, we dissociate ourselves from danger and stress by disincarnating or freezing ourselves. If we imagine ourselves to be a machine, then we have put the logical part of the brain in the driver seat. We have relegated sensation, intuition and feeling to the back seat or the trunk. From this lack of perception, presence, connection with the felt experience of ourself, which essentially lives in the soft tissue of the belly and heart, comes most of our suffering and pain.

Physiologically the encephalic brain is not the center that directs,regulates and controls the whole. The brain does not produce sensations, feelings. The brain is the operational center of feedback, it receives the information, processes, selects and according to the relative data already gathered there, sends back electrical and chemical signals.

If we take the heart, it is much more than an extraordinary electrophysiological organ that pumps blood. In fetal development, the heartbeat begins before the brain is formed. The heart is the field with the highest and largest energy. Studies have measured that the electromagnetic waves of the heart extend “outside” of the heart up to 3-4 meters in a double toroid structure. The electromagnetic field of the brain is weaker extending just 40-50 cm beyond the skull.                  This is the scientific confirmation that feelings are more powerful than discourses and logical arguments and that the heart is the central nucleus of human experience. The feeling is the most powerful energy that moves us. It has been discovered and measured that the heart sends more signals to the brain than does the brain with the heart and the same thing happens with the enteric gut-brain. The brain also is not a fixed and neutral mechanical organ, it is plastic and it is influenced. Therefore it makes a  lot of difference which signal the heart and the guts send to the amygdala, to the hypothalamus, if the information is negative or positive.

Today various perspectives are trying to re-propose the centrality of the cognitive brain, of thinking, understanding and mental awareness. They say that emotions can be reprogrammed and we simply can decide with a mental choice to change feelings “today I choose to be happy” we can do anything with thought. But isn’t this another way to revive the Cartesian, “I think, therefore I am”? In reality with the mind we can only do some things. Awareness alone, intellectual understanding has not solved many hardships and has not even affected intense or profound wounds such as traumas. Just as a depressed person can’t get out of depression only by understanding what has happened and by cultivating positive thoughts. Therapy working only with words and intelligence has demonstrated its impotence and inadequacy.  

Feelings come and go, they need to be digested, metabolized. Like a river, they need to flow and when we are can maintain this fluid quality we remain healthy. When feelings are stationary, stagnating, revolving only inside as in anxiety, held in or frozen, the tissues of the body contract, shorten,  become inflamed and we get sick. “Expressed feelings are like medicine, hidden feelings are like poison” says a Tibetan proverb.

If the heart is open and not afraid and we follow what it tells us, the heart knows, it has its own intelligence, it speaks to us, it gives us the answers. Its words and language are clear. When we are confused, when our mind wander without direction, if we want to go back home, it is enough to ask: “In what direction does my heart want to go?” 

It is crucial that the inner sensations, the belly, the heart come back at the centre and that the rational brain listens to the feelings and transforms them into congruous and effective actions.

(March 2018)