An immense amount of life happens beneath the surface. We don’t see or think about it typically. This past week I took a few minutes to flip over bricks around a raised bed. I specifically, was looking for slugs. This bed is full of Hostas, a green decorative ground cover, and last year slugs nearly wiped them out. I found these slugs particularly like hanging out under bricks around the bed. I discovered their hideout at the end of the season last year. I’m going to try to reduce their population early in the season this year.
As I started flipping bricks I was astound at all of the life happening just beneath the surface. Pill bugs (what we called roly polies as kids), tiny centipedes, worms, itsey bitsey spiders, ants, and snails galore were all milling about doing their thing. Oh, and I found one lonely slug that I promptly relocated under shrubs were a host of song birds love to feed.
I would have never bothered to explore this world if it wasn’t for those pesky slugs destroying my hostas last year. Now I’m regularly poking around under the bricks to weed out these little menaces before they do damage again.
Poking around beneath the surface like this has become a regular practice at a more personal level. Last year, I started practicing a form of meditation that helps reveal what’s going on beneath the surface of my life. I take a concern, for example, a decision I seem reluctant to make, or an event I’m unduly stressed over. and I dig beneath the surface by asking a series of repeated questions. In a way, this practice isn’t too unlike flipping bricks to find whose damaging my garden.
I’ve discovered that for every concern I examine, beneath the surface an interconnected dance goes on between three things: my thoughts, my emotions, and how my body carries it. So for example, maybe someone says something cutting to me and I can’t shake it. When I reflect on the question, “What am I feeling?” I might think, “I feel like that was really unfair.” But, notice something. What I just expressed is not really a feeling. That’s an analysis or a thought about what happened. The feeling, the emotion, is more like, hurt, betrayal, or anger.
A third factor is always at play as well. The third factor is how we embody the emotion. Perhaps, we feel the anger as a tightness in our throat and a headache coming on. In yoga, we have a saying, “The issues are in the tissues” because everything we feel registers in our body somewhere. Psalm 22 comes to mind as an example. The psalmist in great anguish states, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it is melted within me.” Psalm 22:14
These three factors, your thoughts, emotions, and body felt sensations, are like a braid at any given moment. They are intertwined and recognizing one opens the door for your to discover the others. If you find yourself, mentally dwelling on an event, consider asking yourself, “What am I feeling?” And, when you ask, pay close attention to your answers. How are you answering? Are you mainly recognizing your thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations?
Once you identify one of the three, explore how the others are in play as well. For example, if you recognize that you are a deeply sad, note physically how you feel. Note also, what thoughts are bubbling up.
Lastly, God desires you to love him with all your heart, mind, body, and spirit. How can that possibly happen if you aren’t even aware of what’s going on in these places? I would encourage you to flip a few bricks and see what’s lurking beneath the surface in your life. Please do so before it starts doing visible damage like my hosta devouring slugs.
Questions: What is an unsettling thought or emotion you are feeling right now? What talk goes on in in your head around this issue? How does it physically make you feel? If you had to put one word to the emotion connected to it, what would that word be?
A Collect for Awareness of the Hidden Life: Holy God, who knows us more intimately than we know ourselves, please bring us to greater understanding of what goes on in our mind, body, and emotions, so that we can submit ourselves more fully to your service, in Christ’s name. Amen.