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Exploring Self In The World With Feelings

It is important that we think more about how we can explore a meaningful connection with life through our experiences and emotions. In my post the Meaning of Life, I mentioned that “If life fails to deliver on our expectations, then we question those beliefs.” This mismatch between expectations and experiences is a gap between how we intend to live and what comes of those intentions. We only notice the gap through our emotional responses to this difference. It is important that we think more critically about our emotions, how they create meaning for us and what we do with meaningful development.

One of the symbols I use to think more about spirituality is water and the related symbol of the mirror. I used to think the mirror as a symbol was associated with air and thinking. However, I realized that air and water are different kinds of thinking. Air symbolizes how we define and distinguish things. It is how we separate out one kind from another kind in the world. Water is how we connect personally to the things that we define through air. It is more individual and tailored to us than it is about what things are by themselves. A mirror isn’t really about looking out at the world but looking inward at ourselves. In that sense, it seems more like water. Also, nature’s mirror is water, which further supports this connection. When we look at water on a sunny day, we see the light reflecting what is above the surface back at us. However, there can be life below the surface, obscure but perhaps sensed. This is very much a theme of water and ties strongly with mirrors as they help us get past the reflected world down into what is beneath the surface.

Our emotional connection

Emotions, or feelings, are a bridge between us and what is around us. They are below the surface, or certainly can be kept there if one is capable of controlling ones expression. They are also not the same as sensations. Sensations tell us things like if something is hot or cold, wet or dry and smooth or rough. They can’t tell us whether we like a hot, wet day or a smooth, cold surface. If we like something, that is a feeling. It creates a relationship to what we experience around us and determines how we react to it if we experience it again.

Emotions don’t just create a relationship with discrete physical sensations but also broader, more complex, abstract ideas. Although our senses may remember the smell of freshly baked cookies, we may also remember it was our favorite aunt who made them. Maybe we bothered to get to know our aunt a bit better thanks to her baking skills and found out we enjoyed her other talents and traits. Although our sense may remember the witty words a rival spoke to deflate our egos, we likely have kept the rival at a distance thanks to the humiliation we felt. Anytime we heard anything more about them, we simply dismissed it or criticized it to keep from feeling any kind of vulnerability toward someone who hurt us.

The complex connection we have to life is through our emotions that sort out what things mean to us, not just what things mean by themselves. Although we may define things in and of themselves through an air like process of comparison and observation, we oftentimes experience things and develop a personal relationship to them. Over time, we come up with our own judgments about what is worth supporting or trying to do ourselves and what should be shunned or ignored.

Intentional living

Through our complex emotional connection, we develop an intentional way of living. We elevate some things as ideals and sink some things as admonishments. We may even put into words the ideals we say we hold dear, such as being honest or being loyal. However, we may find that these ideals are not easy to maintain at all times. We may find ourselves in new situations that test whether or not we really are willing to be honest or whether or not we will stick by someone’s side if we have to give up some of our own comfort or if two ideals conflict.

Intentional living is the product of our meaningful life and how we choose to contribute to that life for others as well as ourselves. However, there can easily be a gap between our stated intentions and how we behave. Some people are less focused on others and only intend to live life for themselves taking an individualistic approach to life. They may say they uphold an ideal of some kind, but the way they behave shows they are really in it for themselves. For others, they may truly believe they are making life better through an intended ideal way of life, but perhaps they fail to recognize all the consequences of their actions. Intentional living is a growth process, balancing our expectations with realities and focusing on the spirit we create around us through how we live. It is the next layer to spirituality built on our meaningful experiences and together create universal spirituality.