While I was drafting this post I had so many stray thoughts related to the topic that I’ve ultimately cut out so as not to get too far out into the weeds. I’d love to hear y’all’s thoughts on this, because my own thoughts could obviously still use some refining. For a while now (off and on for a couple years I’d say) I’ve been thinking a lot about feelings. Emotions. Affections, passions, sentiments. Whatever you want to call them. Apparently it’s an essential part of this whole experience we call being a human. I spent a lot of my critical development years involved in martial arts, and one of the first things we had to learn were these ten maxims known as the dojo kun. The first one was, “Harmonize body, mind, and spirit.” That idea played an important role in my early life development, and I still believe that a lot of unlocking our individual potential and happiness comes from developing ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. Maybe this is something of an oversimplification, but for the sake of the point I want to make here that third element, spirit, can be viewed as our emotional self: the inner part of us that feels and responds to stimulus with feeling. While there’s a strong connection between our physical, intellectual, and emotional experiences each is a distinct aspect of who we are. Of those three elements, maybe the one we (or at least I) least understand is our emotional self. Particularly as a result of the crazy vagabond life I’ve been living the last several years, and particularly as a man so often immersed in our modern warrior culture, I very often find myself inclined to simply shut down any emotions that may come. While I believe there is value in stoicism, I think exclusively resorting to it can be a kind of emotional cowardice, and you miss out on a lot of goodness when you’re emotionally closed off to the world. I’d rather not become one of those cold, jaded souls who only feel things infrequently and shallowly.
There’s so much in this world to appreciate. And I think true, full happiness comes from filling our hearts with those good things. It’s easy for me to get to feeling cantankerous about my feelings (when I have them), because feelings so often run counter to logic and reasoning, and because of manly blah blah blah, but let’s be honest: life has so much more to offer when we keep an open heart to the world. We talk a lot about keeping an open mind, and I’m certainly an advocate of that, but we, or at least I, talk much less about keeping an open heart. However, I think they’re both probably pretty important. And just like with our thoughts, it’s important not to let our emotions run wild. But controlling them doesn’t mean suppressing them or stamping them out completely. With thoughts and ideas we often, in some cases to great lengths (the entire world of modern and ancient academia and philosophy comes to mind) examine and analyze them and decide which ones are valid and worth storing away inside of our selves. The thoughts, the ideas that we find to be of most worth are ones that become a fundamental part of our character and personality. Shouldn’t we do something similar with our feelings? Give our feelings consideration and decide which ones are valid, which ones should be developed, polished, and stored away? And conversely, which ones can be discarded and/or dismissed? That’s what I would like for myself. A lot of who I am as a person is centered around a set of ideas that I value and have taken time to study out, define, and refine in my mind. I’d also like who I am to be centered around a set of feelings that I’ve developed, worked on, and made essential components of my heart: compassion, joy, empathy, trust, friendship, love, wonder, courage.