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Are feelings even a thing?

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Are feelings even a thing?
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7/20/19 6:24 PM
Hi. So this is the dumbest question ever. Screw it.

I’ve ALWAYS felt that there’s something unresolved in me. Like a gnawing tension, irritation, anger, sadness. I can feel it right now. 

But when I meditate I can’t find it. I’ll feel a tension over my chest. I’ll focus on it and I can’t feel it anymore. Then “it” moves to the stomach. I try to feel it there but now it’s in the throat. So I focus there and I can’t find it there either. I feel like I’m chasing a ghost. 

So my question is; are feelings even something? Or are they like the self just an incorrect interpretation your brain makes and exaggerates. 

RE: Are feelings even a thing?
Answer
7/22/19 1:49 AM as a reply to Kalle Spolander.
That’s kind of the point of insight practice — to directly notice that those feelings move around and change, which can lighten up the sense of immersion in them. They’re very real in that they do occur and you do notice them. It’s just that they’re not solid and permanent and they’re not you. This can definitely feel like they’re not real or like you’re  confused about something. 

RE: Are feelings even a thing?
Answer
7/22/19 2:51 AM as a reply to Kalle Spolander.
That’s the best kind of question: honest, bare questions, the ones that don’t allow you to hide behind prestige. That’s what enables real development to occur. Great answer from JP.

RE: Are feelings even a thing?
Answer
7/22/19 6:47 AM as a reply to Kalle Spolander.
Kalle Spolander:
Hi. So this is the dumbest question ever. Screw it.

I’ve ALWAYS felt that there’s something unresolved in me. Like a gnawing tension, irritation, anger, sadness. I can feel it right now. 

But when I meditate I can’t find it. I’ll feel a tension over my chest. I’ll focus on it and I can’t feel it anymore. Then “it” moves to the stomach. I try to feel it there but now it’s in the throat. So I focus there and I can’t find it there either. I feel like I’m chasing a ghost. 

So my question is; are feelings even something? Or are they like the self just an incorrect interpretation your brain makes and exaggerates. 

Feelings are real in the sense that you feel them. The illusion is what you think they mean about reality. Because feelings are just biological phenomena. It takes a mind to think of the idea "feelings" and to believe they mean something. Thoughts are impermanent, they arise and exist and fade away.  The quieter your mind is, the fewer illusions it produces.

RE: Are feelings even a thing?
Answer
7/22/19 11:25 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
That makes sense! But let me rephrase the question a bit. 

If something like fear also is nothing but quickly changing micro-sensations, does it even make sense to talk about fear? 

 In the same way that we talk about the self as an illusion, wouldn’t feelings in the same sense be an illusion? Being that most people don’t talk about these rapidly changing micro sensations when they describe their feelings. Sure, people realize that feelings come and go but I think there’s a lot more to this than that. 

RE: Are feelings even a thing?
Answer
7/22/19 12:34 PM as a reply to Kalle Spolander.
Kalle Spolander:
That makes sense! But let me rephrase the question a bit. 

If something like fear also is nothing but quickly changing micro-sensations, does it even make sense to talk about fear? 

 In the same way that we talk about the self as an illusion, wouldn’t feelings in the same sense be an illusion? Being that most people don’t talk about these rapidly changing micro sensations when they describe their feelings. Sure, people realize that feelings come and go but I think there’s a lot more to this than that. 

I'll tell you that the deeper I go into this stuff, the harder it is to talk about things like "fear". People don't talk about rapidly changing micro-sensations because they were conditioned as little kids to say "I'm afraid" when they feel those sensations. Or maybe they didn't even learn that, and instead they say "that thing over there is bad".

I'm curious to know more about what problem is motivating your question.

RE: Are feelings even a thing?
Answer
7/22/19 1:15 PM as a reply to Kalle Spolander.
This sums it up for me...


"At Savatthi. There the Blessed One said: “From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. What do you think, monks: Which is greater, the tears you have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time—crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing—or the water in the four great oceans?”

“As we understand the Dhamma taught to us by the Blessed One, this is the greater: the tears we have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time—crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing—not the water in the four great oceans.”

“Excellent, monks. Excellent. It is excellent that you thus understand the Dhamma taught by me.

“This is the greater: the tears you have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time—crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing—not the water in the four great oceans."

RE: Are feelings even a thing?
Answer
7/22/19 3:30 PM as a reply to Kalle Spolander.
Kalle Spolander:
That makes sense! But let me rephrase the question a bit. 

If something like fear also is nothing but quickly changing micro-sensations, does it even make sense to talk about fear? 

 In the same way that we talk about the self as an illusion, wouldn’t feelings in the same sense be an illusion? Being that most people don’t talk about these rapidly changing micro sensations when they describe their feelings. Sure, people realize that feelings come and go but I think there’s a lot more to this than that. 
I don't think I understand the question. Does it make sense to talk about fear? Why not? Suppose it's an illusion, you can talk about an illusion if you want to.

Some random thoughts that might or might not help you see a path out of your quandary:

"Is it real or an illusion?" also has no independent existence without a mind to think it. We are living in a hall of mirrors.

People like to talk about things, if they can describe it they will talk about it. That is not good or bad.

I don't believe holding advanced opinions is necessarily a requirement for progress. New opinions come as a result of progress they are not necessarily an enabler of progress. 

What are the practical consequences of the answer to your question?

Fear is often accompanied by physical symptions muscle tension, mental fixation, increased respiration, etc.

Those rapidly changing micro-sensations you mention are sometimes caused by objectively measurable events happening in your body. 

Sometimes fear is an illusion in the sense that it is caused by a thought. Sometimes fear is caused by physiological factors that are not dependent on thinking. Some people might say it is even more of an illusion in that case, it has no basis in reality. Some people might say it is not an illusion because you feel it and you can't make it go away by changing your thinking.

It gets even more complicated. A thought can produce an adrenaline rush in an instant. But once the adrenaline is in your system, affecting your mind and body physiologically, you can't remove it from your system in an instant just by thinking. 

I find "self" is a feeling produced by thoughts. When my mind is quiet the feeling diminishes. 

In some ways fear is like self, in other ways it is different. 

What is your original nature?

RE: Are feelings even a thing?
Answer
7/22/19 4:27 PM as a reply to Kalle Spolander.
In the same way that we talk about the self as an illusion, wouldn’t feelings in the same sense be an illusion? Being that most people don’t talk about these rapidly changing micro sensations when they describe their feelings. Sure, people realize that feelings come and go but I think there’s a lot more to this than that. 

Hi, Katie.

I agree, there is indeed a lot more to this than that.

I think it's a misnomer to call the self or fear an "illusion." They do exist, just not in a permanent form, and not in the way we usually and habitually think they do. In Buddhism we describe things like fear, the self, and all other objects as being impermanent, as having no essence. Sometimes that concept gets called "illusion" and that's sort of a shorthand way of describing what is actually a more complicated and nuanced reality. That reality doesn't mean objects don't exist. A rock falling on your head will definitely hurt.

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