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08 May 2011 @ 09:23 am
What we feel is what we feel  
Something was bothering me about the debate over what we should feel about Osama Bin Laden's death. We feel what we feel. There are no shoulds involved. We can choose how we behave, and we can change our thoughts to influence our feelings. But feelings don't always match our ideals. We must start from where we are. If we try to pretend we don't feel what we really feel, we give power to our shadow side. It's always better to deal with what is real for us.

I remember in the temple we were always trying to pretend that we were detached when we weren't, or to be more advanced than we really were. We were young and caught up in a game of impressing each other with our "spiritual advancement." We mimicked the behavior of our guru in a ridiculous parody that did nothing for our real spiritual progress. If all of your energy is going into pretending to be calm, serene, detached, and spiritually minded, nothing is left over for actually developing those qualities.

Watching the horror of 9/11 stayed with us. Those events evoked some primal feelings of helplessness, rage, sadness, fear, and hatred. It is not surprising that we felt those feelings once again when we heard of Osama Bin Laden's death because he is inextricably linked with 9/11 in our minds. No matter how peaceful we may aspire to be, our feelings don't always line up with our beliefs. We are mammals with a reptile remnant in our brain structure, and that reptilian brain is primitive, alert, and prone to fear and rage when threatened. We can override its dictates and behave in a civilized fashion, of course. That's where the word should comes in.

We can also have compassion for ourselves when our feelings don't keep pace with our ideals. We may get there someday if we continue to live authentically and not lie to ourselves about what we feel.