How do you feel?

If I asked you how you feel right now — could you answer without words?

(I encourage you to try it before I spoil your experience with my answer)

A few weeks ago, one of my friends posed this question to me and I was shocked to realize I never even considered our natural affinity to answer everything with words. And how doing so inherently limits the realm of conversation.

In order to answer the question, “how do you feel” without words, I have to close my eyes. It’s how I enter my inner world. The first time I tried this my answer was a display of flashing lights. A brilliant red shooting star stands out in my memory because of how vividly the color flashed against the darkness. Since then, I have begun playing this game with myself more frequently. And for a while, it was always just flecks of light in one pattern or another dotted behind my eyes like stars in the sky.

But then, one day, it was a field of beautiful green flowers blooming into each other so closely, there was room for not a speck of darkness. It was such a magical feeling, an unprecedented experience really.. and now I’ve had the luxury of feeling several more abundant pastoral scenes of beauty (substance-free I’ll note).

Now I recognize the irony of me telling you all this using word after word, but that’s exactly my point. The reality is I have no words to properly express those feelings with others, and as a result, I only broach these subjects with a very limited set of friends: just one person actually. Together we struggle to put into words the myriad of wordless sensations, often coming up with crude and painfully reductive analogies for the incomparable. I often wonder how many others feel these feelings. Is it just that we don’t talk about it because we don’t know how? Or are we limited to feeling only that which can be described, that which we know to look for…

It saddens me to think that my world is so limited by the words in my mind and that I attach to them with such haste. Meditation has taught me to stop hanging on to every passing word and to look for a deeper world of experience in the space between. However, I struggle greatly in keeping that space alive as reality is a formidable foe.

But maybe it’s because I only practice inside. I’ve always meditated with my eyes closed and even during yoga, my favorite form of moving meditation, I often squeeze my eyes shut to trade thought for feeling. But could I do the same keeping my eyes open?