Monday, 23 June 2014

And Wish That I Did Not Feel

 This well is far too deep, deep and black, a watery void.

These dark grey ageing stones are holding onto the surface with bitter ambition, old and darkening, adorned with olive-green mosses. This well was built by my hands, each stone laid down under a waxing moon. I am fated to drown
                                                              beneath its brown shameful waters, waters that flow so deep they touch the very Past, Present, and Future.

I will sink ever further through stagnant tides with my lungs overflowing and my eyes blind, sinking past the places beyond the light of the living world.

I will touch the solid core of the Earth with cold lifeless hands and wish that I did not feel.”

Still Waters [a poem]
Reproduced with the kind permission of Jade Kennedy

The last line of this poem grips me, and knots me up in a bundle of complex emotions which is what the whole idea of ‘feeling’ does to me – of being alive to sensations of pain, of not understanding something and feeling overwhelmed by things – by life as it unfolds.

Why do we feel? Why can't I just be there for someone regardless of my needs and feelings – of unresolved pain, from things in the past, between us? Why must there always be this kashish – this pull, this tension between people and in almost every aspect of living? Why do feelings always seem to get in the way? 

The other day I picked up a piece of six-ply floss that I had earlier removed a two-ply strand, but carelessly left the rest without straightening it out, [as I usually do] thinking that I would be using it soon. But, typically, something had come up and my embroidery and tools hurriedly bundled away. When I came to use it a day or so later, the bunched up strands, of what had been perfectly straight threads, had become knotted.

Just like those unresolved thoughts that one didn’t quite get around to dealing with, because something else came up.

It took time to open the entangled threads and the funny part is that it wasn’t really a knot, but appeared to be one because the threads had become twisted. I pulled a little here, and tugged at the thread a little in the opposite direction. I inserted a needle and made space in the knot so that I could pull the threads out. It took quite a bit of patience and I could feel this irritation welling up inside me. It was my own fault. I had left things carelessly and had no choice but to deal with it, just as the poem says:

“This well was built by my hands, each stone laid down under a waxing moon. I am fated to drown
                                                              beneath its brown shameful waters, waters that flow so deep they touch the very Past, Present, and Future.”

 In its own time – of tackling those uncomfortable twists and turns, the floss was unravelled as if the knot had never been there.  I am always amazed at how this happens. Experience has taught me that I don’t need to cut the thread and throw away almost half the strand but that I can unravel it. And when the knot opens it is such a lovely surprise, always.

It’s almost as if the knot was never quite the struggle it seemed and its funny, but I often get the same sense when there is contention in my mind and I sit and ruminate or fume in isolation but, when I meet the person or people who have been catalysts for creating this, I get this really strange feeling that none of that was ever an issue. And yet, I know it had been sitting there like a leaden weight – a knot, somewhere in my being.

However, it did take time and a lot of patience to unravel the threads, much like those complex issues that keep running through the mind, which if left too long, seem to get into a twist.

In this instance, I took the time needed to open out the entangled thread but, when I need space to deal with the stuff that experience throws my way, I lament at why it needs so much time and I can hear my own voice judging me, as selfish!..... and more such epithets.

Yes, I know it's a conditioned reflex that leans on those voices that taught me to how walk and write and more - that it's a voice of judgement that denies or rejects a need in me in order fulfil that of another, but it's a tough call - this tension within, the conflict between what's right by me and to do right by others that often torments me and I throw up my hands in despair saying why, why do I have to feel!

I wish I didn’t feel so much, when every incident didn’t affect me in so many ways – get me into a twist. It isn’t just a sense of pain that one may feel when life tests you, but also feelings of being alive in the world, alive and awakened to the external stimulus of the world, of people and places  - the pain and pangs of being and also the beauty of nature around me, all of that makes me feel. And sometimes, when there isn’t time to savour a pleasant experience that too can be a problematic feeling.

These things need to be put into perspective. What is the world revealing to me? What is the message from the universe? What did the fallen leaf say? Why did those words, that incident topple my emotional balance? Does the spate of raging summer storms reflect the storms brewing within me? Is there any other way in which I could have handled a particular conversation and changed the outcome of things? 

These are countless questions that I keep asking myself each day, as I pause by the window, as I stand up to stretch my limbs after hours of working, shoulders hunched, on my embroidered pieces or typing on the computer. Or as I brush my hair and go about doing other such mundane functions of living.

At one level life is beautiful because one can feel. I cannot imagine looking at the radiant sunsets, especially in the monsoon season and wishing I didn’t feel. The sense of joy that surges through me when I see those transient colourscapes in the sky, is something that I wouldn’t give up at any cost. But the irony is that life is a paradox and feelings don’t always convey such exultation in being.  Those feelings that drag us down – taking us, reluctantly, deeper into ourselves - into that unseen core our beings, where it seems as if we are alone, at the mercy of “cold life-less hands” that do not have the capacity to hug and hold and provide comfort in being, but dispassionately compel us face ourselves, are the ones that most of us would rather avoid feeling.

 That sense of pain, of rejection, of not quite getting what we wanted in the way that we did - when we feel challenged by the world around us, is what takes us into those dark unknown crevices of our being where we would otherwise not have tread, where the poet says:  “I will sink ever further through stagnant tides with my lungs overflowing and my eyes blind, sinking past the places beyond the light of the living world.”

And paradoxically, it is in those dark, hitherto unknown crevices that lay the secrets to release us from these very moments of darkness that we resist. Secrets that life will reveal, only if we allow ourselves to feel - even as the poet proclaims:  “I will touch the solid core of the Earth with cold lifeless hands and wish that I did not feel.”

When I read this poem by Jade Kennedy, an English poet who lives in Kingston on Hull, [whom I met on a Google+ community] I felt a stab in my gut – of recognition of something I’d felt too, but hadn’t been able to put into words, at least not quite so poetically,

 I empathized with the poet and echoed her sentiments. This poem gave me solace in knowing that someone else felt the same way, which counts for a lot in my book. It  made me realise that the poet in allowing herself to feel the full intensity of being in that given situation which echoed something I too was familiar with, had been able to articulate what many others like me may well feel, but are unable to express  - put into words and find this kind of clarity. But reading the poem lent that clarity and with it a sense of relief too.

It is in sharing that we lend a bit of ourselves to others so that they may find something of themselves in that. And it is only in finding these fragments that we do in effect, experience some sense of wholeness. In a world where the essential spirit of our being is separated by form and identities that question each other, what other way can there be to experience this?

It made me think - If as a creative person, I could enable people around me to find a piece of themselves, this alters my perspective on being an artist and writer. It allows me to feel less selfish and self-indulgent, for needing the time and space to put my life into perspective – deal with my feelings.

 Even as I continue my lament alongside the poet when she says:

“I will touch the solid core of the Earth with cold lifeless hands and wish that I did not feel.”


  1. A beautiful analogy between the thread and life Gopika, and i totally related to the thread and strands knotting up and then miraculously unravelling in one's hands.
    As far as feeling, emotions are concerned, it is important to feel and have emotions or we would not be human, however we must not act on our feelings and emotions as that is where the problems begin. we must assess the person/situation we are in and then let our intellect function before we make an impulsive act based totally on our mind and regret it. for that we require to sharpen our intellect/little voice inside by study and self discipline. a very difficult task to achieve however awareness of this is half the battle won within and if you can win the other half by improving yourself as a person you are at peace with the world and yourself.
    "Don't choose. live life as it comes - float. don't make any effort to reach anywhere. don't move towards a goal; enjoy the moment in its totality and don't be bothered by the future or the past. then a symphony arises within your soul, the lowest and highest meet..."
    Abolute Tao by Osho

    1. Thank you Renuka [Twam] for these words.

      I agree that we shouldn't react to situations through the emotional self, but what I also find is that when I allow myself to feel the emotion in its fullest intensity, I find my way out of it without the intellect even coming into play.

      However, the issue that I come across frequently with a lot of people is the idea that intensity is not desirable and in their quest for happiness, many seem to want to avoid feeling the pain rather than allowing it to have its say.

      You are so right when you say that if we didn't feel and have emotions we would not be human and it is important to remind ourselves periodically that though we may be spiritual beings having a human experience, what is of essence is that it is a human experience, which is all about feelings.... especially those uncomfortable ones that knot us like the thread of my embroidery.

      Thanks for reading and writing these thoughts.

  2. Several ancient texts start with grief and misery. The Yoga Vasistha starts with Sri Ram in depression. The Bhagavad Gita starts with Arjun in grief. This is the starting point of a deep quest, the deeper the pain the greater the gain. Knowledge, revelation and realization then follow. A lot of saints including Meera Bai suffered great pain, which made their devotion single pointed, and their surrender total, this pinnacle of Bhakti brought enlightenment.
    Rumi said, "The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

    It is the same as what's mentioned here in terms of the knotted feelings like a web of threads. Often pain is a blessing in disguise. Therefore we need to go through pain, rather than suppress it into the sub-conscious or bottle it up. As this blog says, we need to feel, and go through the dark tunnel of discomfort, only then will life find full expression when it comes out into the light on the other end.

    1. " The wound is the place where the Light enters you" - how fabulous that is Vinita. Thank you!

      I like the way you have brought in so many spiritual texts highlighting the fact that they all start with misery because it is so true that it is grief, arising from a diminished sense of self, that evokes the inner spirit and in that space of surrender wisdom and knowledge/Light appears.

      And It is allowing oneself to feel which is of essence. But in today's world, we seem to have been conditioned to consider feelings of pain or depression, and that too with any measure of intensity, as not being desirable.

      I know that I grew up being told frequently to' let it go', 'forget about it' - that sort of thing which always perplexed me. Fact is, I have never understood what it means to let anything go without looking at it or dealing with its message.

      Even today, when you try and talk to friends about feelings or complexity of thoughts that you have - the oft refrain is 'let it go' and I do feel very irritated at hearing that. So, it is reassuring to have this comment in the thread that not just validates the relevance of feeling but suggests that the 'dark tunnel of discomfort' is desirable to experience the fuller spirit of one's being.

      And I suppose in the spirit of spiritual beings having a human experience both elements must come into play and the core of this seems to be one's feelings.

      Thank you Vinita for illuminating this thread with your vast study of the scriptures.