The Liminal Frontier of Feeling

This website describes the feeling mind. Its territory is not well-represented in current maps of human experience. Other contiguous territories have been thoroughly charted, and these efforts have pressed up against feeling from many sides, so you might think feeling has been explored and described well enough already.

I am writing to convince you otherwise. As I hope you will discover in the course of what follows over coming months, the feeling mind lies in a liminal zone between perception, thought, emotion and behavior. It is not sight or sound, taste or smell, touch or proprioception, interoception or evaluation. It is not logic or judgment, imagination or fantasy, memory of the past or vision of the future. It is not the physiological sensations generated by the variety of emotional operating systems in the body and brain, not the mechanisms preparing us hormonally and neurologically for threats and opportunities. Finally, feeling is not our actions, not what we do by habit, instinct, or conscious intention. The feeling mind touches all of these territories intimately. It powerfully influences and is influenced by them, but it is distinctly separate, exhibiting its own unique properties, operating by its own internal dynamics which to this date have remained opaque to us all.

The Water We Swim In

How is this possible, that something I am claiming to be so central to our existence has remained so invisible? Feeling is the water we all swim in, but it so infuses every moment of conscious, semi-conscious, and unconscious existence that there is no easy way to discern where it begins and where it ends. It therefore fades into the background, away from the focus of our awareness. Instead our attention is drawn to the bright, shiny bits, to our thoughts and sensations, to our plans and memories, and to the rich and infinitely varied world around us.

Consequently we currently have no sufficient language by which to speak to one another of feeling. We have had no adequate tools with which to investigate it. We have no reliable maps by which to navigate it. Instead we make do by proxy. In order to manage our experience of this everpresent inner milieu, we fashion interfaces and handles from the material in those contiguous territories by which to manipulate feeling according to our desires as best we can. We watch one another scrupulously and infer through our most empathic judgment what the other experiences, and we attach language vague enough to pass, specific enough to carry some meaning as we speak to one another about these, our most private experiences. As we turn our attention to ourselves, we pay close attention to the patterns of our thoughts and engage with the intent of curtailing undesirable thoughts and promoting those we consider more desirable. We establish certain habits of activity and practice by which to fit our full consciousness into an ideal shape we strive to attain. In our collective efforts to investigate our experiences scientifically, we study physiological circuits of emotion and neurological patterns of brain activity, looking for ways to manipulate our bodies and brains to create desired states of being. And we harvest our findings and apply them to ingesting all manner of special foods, supplements, medicines, and other substances to try to create conditions more amenable to the states we wish to cultivate. Ironically, feeling itself influences and constrains these very efforts to gain control of it, and so we can only go so far in these journeys by proxy. The snake ingests its own tail. The right hand draws the left, which draws the right, around and around we go.

What I am trying to tell you may sound like nonsense at this point, at least a little bit. As I said, in the rational worlds of scientific, psychological, and spiritual disciplines, as well as in the world of ordinary, everyday life, the territory of the feeling mind does not explicitly exist. It is at best limned from the context, chalk rubbed over paper, a vague sense of something floating in the space between. From the perspective of a world dictated by logic, I am speaking gibberish; the words I use point into a great void.

Allowing Experience to Lead

That’s OK. Fortunately, I don’t have to rely on words to convey to you the rich landscape of the feeling mind. Fortunately, I am able to lead you by experience into the heart of this territory so you can explore and make sense of it for yourself. Among the articles that follow will be experiments for you to conduct. Please engage with these, every one of them. Build your awareness of the feeling mind from the ground up, in your own direct experience and by participating with others through their experience. As the territory gradually takes shape in front of you, the features and dynamics I describe will gently stride into sharp relief. The once-amorphous, undifferentiated field of feeling will resolve itself for you into an elegant and complex landscape full of promise and beckoning with possibility.

This is a new world. It is close at hand, closer and more potent than any we have explored, and we are pioneers, you and I. Let us enter this frontier and commence our journey of mapping the feeling mind.

Want to participate in conversations about the feeling mind? Over the coming year (2019), depending on interest, I’ll be I’ll be hosting live, group calls where we can go much deeper into the material and practice the skills. If you think you might be interested, please reach out to me.