August 20, 2015

Q&A: How to Bring Wisdom into Daily Life?


Stop Following Me

This wonderful question came in the other day:

Is it true that if you’re in a fairly balanced feeling state, you will naturally respond well in any situation? Will the feeling (alone) guide one’s attitudes and behavior?

In order to answer this, let’s first define what is meant by a feeling state.

As we practice meditation, we cultivate a finer and finer capacity to sense the presence of “reactivity”—the emotionally conditioned responses of our biological, psychological and cultural conditioning.

We learn to distinguish the presence of conditioning as:

  • Somatic signatures—qualities of sensation/tension within the body.
  • Emotional reactions—fear, anger, doubt, hope—the list goes on.
  • Thought patterns—stories and internal dialogue that repeat and repeat.
  • Behaviors—ways of speaking and acting that perpetuate suffering.

Through meditation practice, we develop the capacity to recognize these patterns of conditioning—as they arise—both on and off the cushion.

When awareness is identified with patterns of thought/emotion, it is “in motion.”

It’s spinning, reactive, compulsive and driven. Struggling to wrest a sense of safety, approval, power, esteem or control from (repetitive) experience of conflict/tension.

Through reflection, we see how allowing these patterns to guide our lives is a certain formula for unhappiness.

But, along with this sobering insight, we also become aware of the presence of a more balanced, integrated wisdom.

In moments of meditative insight, we recognize the presence of an uncontrived, non-compulsive wisdom that is deeply healing. This wisdom presence is called in the Wisdom Heart tradition a feeling state.

A feeling state has no history.

Emotions, thoughts and all patterns of reactivity are linked to and conditioned by personal and cultural history. When the experience of this moment is mediated by personal and cultural history—how you think, speak and act will be heavily conditioned the well-ingrained patterns of the past.

You won’t be able to respond with wisdom, compassion or creativity—not because you don’t want to—but because of the habitual identification with the thought/emotions of personal and cultural history.

This is one of the many reasons why a regular meditation practice is so valuable.

Meditation practice develops our capacity to attune to and rest in a feeling state that is unconditioned by personal or cultural history.

In these moments of meditative insight, you experience who you are without the supports or constraints of history. This is the experience of freedom.

The fundamental quality of a feeling state is completeness.

To the degree that awareness is attuned to a feeling state, you experience completeness. There’s no compulsion. Nothing is pulling or pushing you. You are complete.

From this fundamental quality of completeness, arise infinite variations. The completeness of the feeling state isn’t boring. It is ever-new, ever-surprising, ever-fresh—and ever expansive. It is a source of creativity and in-the-moment wisdom.

The wisdom of the feeling state transcends and includes history.

When you reside in the state of completeness, your personal and cultural history becomes a resource not a limitation.

Because you are not identified with nor defined by your personal history, you can revisit your it—with loving awareness—and extract the wisdom that is encoded there.

In the same way, you can step back from your cultural conditioning and extract the wisdom that is available there.

So, the feeling itself is not the only guide. But, the feeling does provide access to the inner guidance that is available.

Resting in completeness, you can meet the present moment as it is.

You have access to personal and cultural memory tracks—but you are also open, curious, and ready to be guided by wisdom that is unconditioned by the past.

The innate fulfillment of the feeling state opens you to life.

As you move from the cushion into daily life, the awareness of the feeling state goes with you. You begin to experience with how the feeling state functions in daily life.

This is an experimental process. 

It’s a discovery process. It’s not the imposition of an idea or ideal. Just as in formal meditation, the practice of realizing, embodying and expressing a feeling state in daily life is a process of learning and discovery.

You become more and more familiar with the experiential difference between resting in a feeling state and being identified with thought/emotion. Not as an idea—but as an embodied, lived experience.

“Will the feeling (alone) guide one’s attitudes and behavior?”

The feeling state opens your awareness. The guidance comes from memory tracks. But, in the feeling state, you are able to tap into, receive, and accept memory tracks that transcend the boundaries of your conditioned self.

Here’s a practical way to begin: 

1. Become very familiar with the somatic signature of one of your reactive emotional states. There may be many, but just pick one—the most obvious one. Pick one that you know will be triggered by the people in your life. And become familiar with the somatic presence of a feeling state of completeness.

2. When you’re in a light meditative state—think of that triggering person and study the reactive pattern. It will have a consistent way of arising—first as sensations, then emotions, then thoughts, then action. Get super familiar with the sensation and somatics.

3. In meditation, experiment with resting in a feeling state while being aware of the somatic pattern arising. Experiment with how to reside in completeness while allowing the reactive pattern to move through the body.

4. And then make a commitment to notice how this pattern arises during the day, even subtly. Become a deep student of the reactive pattern—as it arises in the body. See how soon you can sense it arising.

5. And then—to do nothing. Don’t try to fix it, change it or transform it. Just be aware. And breathe. Notice any tendencies to shift from being-aware into the emotion and thoughts that are so familiar.

Stop at the somatics. Feel and relax as they ripple through and—out—in their own time. (Which will be surprisingly short.)

Then, simply engage with the situation with as much presence as you can.

Will this guarantee that things will go “well?”

It depends on what “well” means. You will certainly be more present and less reactive. You will be more acutely aware of the tenacity of conditioned reactivity and the depth and reliability of wisdom’s presence.

This deepening awareness is profoundly motivational.

It brings you back to your daily meditation with more humility and urgency. And it brings you into your daily life with more curiosity and honesty.

Meditate—realize, embody and express the wisdom presence in your life.
Reflect on what happens and continue your practice.

Let me know—What are you discovering about embodying wisdom into daily life?

Love & Shanti,




Living in the Dark (& How to Turn on the Light).


Author: Eric Klein

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Images: original illustrations by the author.


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