One of the keys to spiritual growth (as well as mental health) is not to identify with our thoughts, feelings and other sensations. Think of how toddlers and small children can get completely lost in their feelings: they feel angry so they rage, or feeling hurt they will ball their eyes out for what seems like hours. Part of maturity is allowing our sensations to come and go. This doesn’t mean stuffing things inside. It means fully experiencing strong feelings but reminding ourselves that however strong they are, I am not identified and need not get overwhelmed by them. We can say (as James Finley puts it), “I am not my thoughts/feelings/sensations but I am not other than my thoughts/feelings/sensations.” This is a very healthy paradox that allows us to fully experience our inner world without allowing ourselves to be swallowed up by it. I seem to come back to this on a daily basis in my spiritual practice; it is one of the leading ideas that helps put my inner world into perspective.
Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability. View all posts by Jonathan Erdman