Feeling, Language, and Internal Work

Courtesy of Wikimedia In Ensouling Language, the author shares that one of the problems of the English language is that while it's useful for analytical and technical writings, its not a language that explores feelings or the internal reality of a person. For example, the word love is used to describe a feeling that can have many types of variations and yet only one word is used to describe all of that. In other languages you will likely find multiple words that describe the types of relationships and the feelings around those relationships. The author shares that when words can no longer describe subtle experiences, those experiences become lost or at least relegated to the subconsciousness of the person. I think he's right, because in my own internal work, what I've found is that the subtler experiences are harder to explain because English isn't set up to describe such experiences. I've wondered why, in this particular way, the English language is so stunted.

My answer to that question is that it seems that English is more of a visual language, in that it is oriented to what can be seen as opposed to felt, heard, smelled, etc., and that consequently part of we lack is a sensation rich description that accurately describes what we experience. Feelings aren't focused on as much. The problem with such an emphasis on sight is that a lot of subtle experiences can be missed out on because what you see is what you get. In my own work, I've shifted away from visualizations to more sensation based meditation, in no small part because there is a depth that can be useful in internal work, when it comes to experienced altered states of consciousness, and/or working through blockages and tensions.

In Awakening the Luminous Mind, the author discusses the importance of opening yourself to being by feeling it. It's not something easily described...it has to be experienced. That experience can be freeing or limiting depending on what you focus on, but I think it is can be harder for people who's primary access to describing feelings is a sight based language. There is a richness in stillness, in holding space, in terms of the experience that is essential to internal work, but can be harder to work with you if you don't have a way to describe what you feel.

Now it could be argued that trying to describe internal work takes away from it, but I don't agree with that. If anything, I feel that being able to describe what you've experienced can help you integrate it into yourself on a conscious level. We don't want states of experience to only exist on the level of the subconscious, but rather want to be able to engage them in our consciousness. That engagement is defined in part through language, and how we use language to integrate and organize the experiences.

While I find that English is problematic as a language for describing internal experiences, it's nonetheless the language I've got. And part of how you take such a language and improve on it is through learning to really focus on the sensations you feel and then describe those sensations using words that are sensorially oriented toward the sensations. For example, as I touch the keys on this key board, I feel the conclave smoothness, the slight edging of the letters and the edges of the keys as they slope upward. Such a description is more oriented toward the sensation of touch. Learning to do this with physical sensations can lead us to descriptions we can work with in describing internal states of consciousness and consequently help us get more from the internal work we are engaged in.

My latest podcast interview is with Shauna Aura Knight about Social Justice Magic and Pagan Leadership.