Money coach Dave Ramsey talks about the importance of “feeling money” as it passes through our hands. It’s easy to spend foolishly when we’re just waving credit cards through machines or authorizing direct withdrawals from digital accounts.
It’s much harder to make bad money decisions when we have to remove hard currency from our wallets and hand it over to someone.
So we have a choice: feel the pain in the moment or feel a lot more pain later, when the consequences come home to roost.
I’ve been thinking about how broadly this concept applies in our world. We spend so much time, money, and effort to avoid feeling immediate pain and future consequences of our actions that we end up numb. And the less we allow ourselves to feel, the more we become invested in staying numb.
Because we know intuitively that the pain behind that numbness will flood us like a broken dam if we crack for even an instance.
Numbing Out on Food
I’ve spent much of my life using food as a drug. It helps me avoid feeling bored or frustrated or sad.
And I’ve done my fair share of ignoring the negative impact of my food choices: on my immediate wellbeing, on my long-term health, on my family, on the animals who suffered for my choices, on the humans who weren’t fed so I could feed my addictions, and on the long-suffering planet herself.
My own journey has involved reclaiming the capacity to feel, and developing the courage to face the feelings I’ve spent so many years avoiding.
And it’s a humbling journey, believe me.
But it’s worth it.
Starting to feel again is like when you realize your arm or leg has gone numb. The pins and needles can be so intense, you might want to return to the numbness even though you know it’s not good for your circulation.
When you ride the wave of sensation and emotion, it eventually resolves.
And feels good. Pleasurable. Alive again.
Grief and Praise
As Martin Prechtel writes in The Smell of Rain on Dust, grief and praise are two sides of the same coin.
When we truly allow ourselves to feel and mourn our losses, we’re actually offering full-throated praise for what we’ve lost. And that allows us to feel and appreciate what we still have.
Money and food are my portals into this bracing acceptance of reality. They both challenge me to live with my eyes open, engaging fully in this dance of existence. Feeling the grief and feeling the praise.
Activism from the Inside Out
The way to individual and planetary transformation, I believe, goes through this same portal.
We can – and must – demand transparency in our food supply. And at the same time we have to encourage our community’s ability to handle that transparency by increasing our ability to feel.
We can –and must – agitate for reform of our system of agricultural subsidies. And at the same time we have to acknowledge the fears of those whose livelihoods currently depend on those unjust and counterproductive subsidies.
We can act – we must act – in communal and political ways if we want to have a future worth living.
But we must also work on ourselves, on our own capacity to replace numbness with feeling. That’s the shift in consciousness that, when it takes place, will change everything in an instant.
Transparency is the key to change. When there’s no opacity between action and consequence, we naturally do what is best.
But we have to be strong enough to handle transparency. Otherwise we will lash out and numb out when the harsh light of truth threatens us.
That’s why my current practice – personal, social, political, and spiritual – is to feel what I feel as much as I can, as often as I can.
May these words be a blessing.