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  • Writer's pictureReuben Berger

Feelings ~ our compass in life

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

When I was leading wilderness canoe trips, I relied a lot on my intuition. The day the lake was quite rough, waves breaking on shore, at our lunch break, caused me to make the call that we'd be camping at the lunch spot for the night.


One day we had a four hour paddle from the top to the bottom of Lake Opeongo in Algonquin Park ~ it was rainy, windy and cool. I noticed one woman was shivering ~ realizing she was in the first stage of hypothermia ~ I decided to stop at a campsite, get a fire going make some tea while she changed into some warm, dry clothes.

It's like, out there in the natural world, relying on ourselves, we were guided by nature. On bigger lakes, we'd use our map and compass to make sure that we were heading in the right direction.


In life, in the societies that we have created, it's as though so many have lost touch with where their internal compass is trying to guide them.


It seems that many lose touch with that inner guidance when we step into grade one. In Kindergarten we were allowed, for the most part, to choose where we wanted to flow ~ perhaps some time in the sand box, then over to the blocks, maybe a bit of time in the kitchen area. I always recall recess being fun ~ perhaps that was the only time in my life I actually got to play by the time I was in Kindergarten. We'd have rest periods, and stories were read to us.


And then we step into grade one where we mostly sit in rows and are reprimanded if we talk with the person across the aisle from us. In that situation, we may likely be bored but it's like we can't get away. Some may misbehave and then get put into 'special classes' for those who they label as having 'behavioral issues' never recognizing that their behavior is more of a statement that they are likely bored and uninterested and frustrated that they can no longer truly follow their heart. And so, some act out. Most just accept it year after year ~ all through much of their childhood and adolescent years...sitting in rows, doing meaningless assignments, listening to boring teachers, hearing the piercing recess bell interrupt their play and exploration at least twice every day.


So many get conditioned from an early age to never express how they really feel in a situation. Our feelings truly are our compass in life but when we don't act on those feelings, depression and boredom can set in and substance abuse often follows to cover over those unpleasant feelings.


It's like we get used to being in environments that we don't actually enjoy being in ~ we learn to cope as best we can. We learn to suppress our feelings and 'go with the flow'...school, University, a job to pay off debts...


Lately, I have been admiring certain people who truly seem to be following their heart ~ one is living on the coast of Mexico, another is moving to the Dominican Republic, one woman is exploring plant medicines in Peru and another friend is playing music and traveling through Guatemala and Mexico.


It can truly be challenging following your heart especially when one lives in our materialistic society where most seem to have homes, cars, cottages, perhaps clubs they are members at. Possessions own you.


I asked a friend once what she would do if she won a million dollars; I loved her answer. She said that she'd quit her job and then go to a nice beach for a while. I felt as though she said so much with so few words. It was like she was aware that she wasn't even sure what she would do ~ it's hard to know what we truly want to do when locked into some kind of lifestyle where it makes it practically impossible to follow that compass within. She intuitively sensed that after leaving her job and going to the beach, she'd have more time to truly explore her inner compass.


When we spend so much time doing work that we are not truly aligned with, it makes it harder to explore and know what you really want to be doing with your precious days. I have a sense that many people would need to spend six months to a year at a beach in order to truly get in touch with where their heart may have been trying to guide them for a long time.


I have been exploring various ways to get more in touch with your feelings. Interestingly, the cold plunge (submerging in icy water for a few minutes) that I discovered this past year, seems to actually get you more in touch with your feelings. I have noticed certain people say that it is not for them and my sense is that just the thought of it puts them in touch with their deeper feelings ~ people do tend to avoid what is painful ~ no pain, no gain.


Only when all those stale/trapped feelings are washed away can our compass of the heart guide us to that life that brings the greatest joy to ourselves and others.


The first time I had tried the cold plunge, I was aware of extra painful sensations in my forearms ~ I could only keep them in for 20 or 30 seconds initially. After a few weeks of almost daily cold plunges, that pain had gone away. When I sat down to write after those weeks, I was somewhat surprised by how much I was writing. I looked at a map of where emotions are stored within the body and discovered that anger/sadness is often stored in the forearms (as well as other places). It was as though the ice bath somehow helped release those trapped feelings that nothing else I had tried, up until then, had been able to do.


Perhaps that is why so many love going to the beach ~ there, walking barefoot much of the day, one can literally get grounded and thus more in touch with their deepest feelings.

Yes, my friends idea of spending time at the beach after winning a million dollars is truly a wise move.


May you find your way to truly follow the compass of your heart.

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