Attunement to Feeling

The vehicle of yoga helps us become more aware of the body. It may be difficult to understand, initially, the role of feeling in any yoga practice, and we therefore might focus more on the movement or postures, sensing where we are tense or tight and learning how to relax into the tense areas.  Of course, it is our sensing that tunes up this refinement and awareness, and over time we might notice that through our movement and gestures, we develop a certain lightness of being. In many ways, by simply following a set of movements, we open channels which when open, support an inner feeling of harmoniousness, a sense of ground, and a clarity of being.

In the practice I teach, attunement to feeling is one of the most vital aspects of the practice. It is valuable to build ways to recognize and then stay with feeling tones in a way that approaches direct experience. We might also prefer to use terms like ‘sensing’, or ‘sensing energies’ or ‘ inner experience’ as alternatives to the word feelings; this might help us to stay away from the cognitive overlays that we place on feeling. Most often, we are not in touch with a feeling as much as our label or description of the feeling, and that process is usually automatic, giving rise to a desire to somehow manage feelings we call ‘happy’, ‘sad’, ‘upset’. If we for a moment just dropped these labels, and allowed for the direct experience to unfold, we will open the doorway to a highly subtle and nuanced inner world.

It can be a true gift to develop a vocabulary of our sensory or vibrational universe; the touch, feel, aroma, taste, texture, space, luminosity, color, sound, direction--and so much more--of our inner sensory world. In fact the more specific we can be, the more easily we attune to the subtleties of inner and outer experience.

As we notice, and then stay with these sensory tones, a lovely alchemy takes place. There is a sense of deepening, and expansion and we can invite a soft breath into the center of our feeling.

We might first develop the ability to practice with pleasant or neutral feelings--the weight of our hands, the tingling in the toes--our ability can begin to extend into the edges and realms of less comfortable feelings often frozen at the edges of our awareness. These feelings often lock us into suffering. Most of us aren’t masters of these feelings; rather, they seem to often master us.

More challenging feelings can be compelling and intense, often met with aversion, or other strategies to cope or fix or avoid. But in the end--inside of them-- they are forms of energy often trapped by judgment, conflict, and our unconscious avoidance. It takes great courage to sit down with this levels or discomfort. Most often, we’ll find a way to medicate, distract or avoid, and frankly, at times that’s the best we can do.

Let's not begin with the most challenging.  Begin instead with noticing first the inner sensory world of right now. Left to itself, all experience changes, often in gradual and subtle ways.

As we develop curiosity and increasingly subtle awareness and appreciation, our labels become unhelpful, we can let them go, and go with the rich dimensions of our human experience.

We also develop the ability to watch feelings change. The metaphor of a sunset comes to mind. As the sun gradually sets, we're captivated by the beautiful changes in the sky, clouds, and landscape, moment to moment. It can be as if a new masterpiece is being created each instant. This is one of the ways that we can, 'be with' and 'stay with' and develop our inner experience. We develop a kind of rapt attention.

Another metaphor may also help. When we cook, perhaps we add salt to taste, then sweet to taste, or we add this or that flavor to enhance our creation. Each addition adds to the wholeness, and we can detect both the whole, and what's been added. Or sense of taste is extremely refined, energetically connected to our heart, attuned to what we take into us.

Feelings at times have personality; they may contain a sense of an identity that we developed or adopted years ago or even recently. As we allow the sense of them to expand, what was a fixed way of navigating the world, begins to support openness to all life as it is.

Some may view feeling attunement as a form of indulgence. However, we are tapping into a wisdom of the body that has been lost to us for a long, long time. It is a wisdom that allows us to be the true authority of our life and it is the bridge to the entire universe, and as we listen with our cells, we might hear the movement of distant stars.

Don McGinnis teaches Kum Nye Tibetan Yoga on Salt Spring, Duncan and Victoria, and offers one on one body centered counselling sessions  He runs a retreat on Salt Spring yearly. For more information contact Don at 250-897-5576 or email or website

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