This school makes a distinction between emotion and feeling. Understanding this distinction is critical to our work.
Humans are perceiving beings. Perception acts through three capacities or channels—thought, sensation and feeling. Each generates and displays information. Each is ‘read’ by perception.
Emotion consists of sensation and associated thinking. Consider anger. Is it not a sensation? Does it not have a definite signature of muscular contractions and biomechanical reactions such as a shift in breathing and palpable changes in energy states for specific parts of the body? Is there not a perceivable and scientifically measurable set of chemical markers? The conclusion is clearly that anger is a body state which charges and discharges the human physical apparatus. Thinking is also involved. The physical dimension of anger has an associated set of habitual thought patterns that either have the effect of maintaining and amplifying the physical agitations of the state or attempting to suppress them.
Feeling is not a body state. The perception of feeling is not a sensation and it does not charge and discharge the body as an emotion does. Feelings are frequencies that connect to qualities of being such as being steadfast, loyal, loving, courageous or generous. There are hundreds of these qualities (some of which are identified by Sufis as the wazaif), each of which has a very specific ‘vibration’ or frequency which can be perceived and experienced. The frequency is the quality itself. The sensations of touching a hard, smooth surface tell you that there is an object that has the characteristics which give rise to these sensations. The feeling of love is love itself. Feelings appear to originate outside ourselves, certainly outside the body.
Can you clearly distinguish between sensations and feelings? There is an emotion that we call love and there is a feeling that is love. One is a body state and one is not. This is not a judgement which prefers one to another. Both are highly informative and valuable channels of perception. But if you do not discern feeling separately, it may easily be overwhelmed by sensation, in the same way that the stars are not seen when the sun is in the sky. This analogy does not mean that feelings are weaker; in many ways they are not. But sensing tends to eclipse feeling because sensing uses a less refined and more available energy.
What capacity discerns feeling? The Sufis call this the heart and they consider it an organ of perception. But this is not a physical organ. What is it? Perhaps we can say it is an organization of higher energies which seems to have a ‘home’ in the center of the chest. But as you have more experience of the multitude of feelings that exist, you may notice that some of them seemingly have a location corresponding to other places in the body which appear to correlate to the chakras of the yogic tradition.
Conscious experience includes and blends the three forms of perception. A thought, fully sensed, perhaps including an inner or outer posture, suggests (invokes) a feeling which is the essence of the other two. A feeling generates the corresponding sensation, physical posture and mental state. A sensation, carefully attended to, is a doorway to feeling and thought. When feeling is active, sensation is purged of emotion; there is no thinking loop and no charge/discharge. The energy of sensation is drawn up and in. When the dimension of feeling is absent, we easily revert to emotion and the higher, more conscious energies are drawn down and out. The human physical apparatus is a transformer of energies up or down, always feeding ‘something-or-other” with its productions.
Ancient traditions emphasize the importance of awakening the heart. For this purpose, we have sensation, thought and attention. Sensation provides energy. Thought invokes direction. Attention is the catalyst. It’s all in the human design.