February 27, 2014

Emotions: The Guidance System of the Soul. ~ Sam Welsby


I had an exchange with a stranger last night that I’ll remember forever.

We looked intensely at each other while I touched his arm before walking away. Tears of gratitude were beginning to form in his eyes and tears of sadness in mine.

With my train ticket paid for, I was heading to the platform when a middle-aged man dressed in warm but scruffy winter clothes said, “Excuse me, Miss.” I unplugged my headphones, stopped and smiled at him. “You have a lovely smile… and lovely teeth.”

I smiled a little wider, knowing what he would ask next, and said wryly “What other compliments would you like to give me?”

He look mildly embarrassed but carried on, “I just wondered if you had any loose change, I’m not an alcoholic or anything but…” He trailed off, looked down and saw I was giving him a five pound note. “You’re not serious?”, he said as we looked at each other properly for the first time.

I pushed it into his hand, gently touched his arm and could see tears forming in his eyes. I abruptly looked away so he wouldn’t see how his humility and surprise had affected me. As I started walking I could hear him call out, “You’re such a lovely thing.”

And all for a five pound note.

Hidden gifts

For the price of a latte and a muffin I stirred a man to tears and felt sick about it. With the touch of my hand on his arm I wanted to communicate that he didn’t have to explain anything to me. If he was an alcoholic it was none of my business; how he found himself on the streets didn’t even cross my mind.

He made me smile, I saw myself in his eyes and wanted to give him what I could. I’ve had enough coffee and cake to last me a lifetime and these small, spontaneous acts of kindness fill me up more than food ever would. I wish I could have given him more to make up for all the other times I’ve passed him by. Maybe he had a different face, but how would I know?

Like most of us who are busy and concerned with our own lives, I rarely bother to look. Any real or imagined problems of mine disappeared when I saw the pain within him. He was thanking me when I really should have been thanking him.

Truth is in the eye of the beholder

This shift in perspective is something we all need from time to time.

To have empathy for others, to move our attention away from our needs, rights, wrongs, wants and to really understand someone else are skills not many of us use. If we did our lives would be completely different.

If we felt other people’s pain instead of trying to understand it with our minds there would be no war, no homelessness, no poverty, no cruelty and no deceit. We could live by the simple principle: “Do no harm”. That statement would be our only guide because we would understand that what we do to others we do to ourselves.

So why are we so often ruled by our heads and not our hearts? Our inbuilt protection mechanism, otherwise known as ‘the ego’, is always standing guard to stop us from being hurt. It will defend our rights and beliefs to the death because without them it doesn’t exist. Without duality; right and wrong; good and bad; me and you; them and us or distinctions of any kind, our minds cannot make sense of the world. Many a war has been fought over the ego’s perception of separation and our need to be right.

Let your guard down

If we can move past the sentinel of our feelings we would remember it’s all a matter of perspective. We see what we want to see through our own unique lens of the past.

This can lead to misunderstandings because we find it so difficult to understand what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes while we’re justifying our own position. We understand the harshness of being homeless in London during winter, but really connecting to how it would feel is too confronting for most of us.

And we don’t have time to feel, we’ve got our own lives to live, our own problems to deal with. Why should we help someone else when we are struggling to help ourselves?

On some other night I may have walked right past this man, music blaring, head down focussing on my thoughts alone, my perception being “He’s unimportant to me right now”. Someone else could have become angry because they associate begging with people who are too lazy to work. Both reactions are born out of the same affliction; we often choose not to empathise with others lest we experience more pain.

Opening Pandora’s box

But suppressing our emotions means we reject the aspect of ourselves that connects us; we have all loved deeply, known gut-wrenching loss, abandonment, betrayal and disappointment, yet we shove our feelings into a box that becomes so heavy it weighs us down. We then self-medicate or distract ourselves with smoke and mirrors that convince us we like our lives just the way they are.

But we can only hide from ourselves for so long. Everyone has their breaking point, the day when the mask begins to slip.

And on that day, surrender. We’ll be grateful for it later, because we cannot live inauthentic lives and be happy.

What that life looks like is yours to create. To be ourself, or selves, released from the perceived judgement of others is liberating. To be able to say the words, “This is me, what of it?” is when we are finally free. So in our darkest times when we feel sad, misunderstood, unsupported and empty, know that we are are never truly alone. Many others have experienced the same.

Understand that we all have the strength to face our feelings and not be carried away into an abyss never to return.

Passing through the eye of the needle

If we can learn to swim in the depths of our emotions we will find we are cleansed by them.

To speak, cry and fall down on our knees is to allow our inner selves to be heard. When we begin to listen to our hearts and silence our minds we can see the ego has had it’s day.

Look around and witness what has been achieved.

Disconnection, deceit and despondency: these are the consequences of all our thoughts and actions, but we need not chastise ourselves endlessly. Let us remember that we all have the capacity for great compassion and forgiveness when we look though someone else’s eyes. To know and accept another is to know and accept yourself.

I was taught a wonderfully simple meditation by a friend of mine called Ho’oponopono, which dissolves the hardened shell of the ego and connects you with something far more powerful: love. Whenever you need to forgive yourself or others, simply breathe and recite these words “I Love You, I’m Sorry, Please Forgive Me, Thank You.”

Know that you may not always get what you want but you do always get what you need.

These gifts sometimes come in surprising packages. Don’t throw them away before opening the box.


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Editorial Assistant: Paige Vignola/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Image via Wikimedia

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