I'll speak, as usual, only from my own point of view, and from my own experience.
When we hear the word, we think of it as an emotion. Immediately, we mix the idea of it in with all the emotions we have routinely experienced for a lifetime. This is natural... after all, we have no other point of reference, and who can possibly blame us for assuming that what we already know is sufficient?
The only difficulty is that it's not an emotion--not, in any event, as we "understand" emotion in horizontal life. Feeling, as we refer to it in the Gurdjieff work, is a capacity we work towards--not one we have. And indeed, it's hardly a secret: there are exercises in the work where we are asked to sense one part of the body, and to feel another.
Yet what this exercise consists of is subtle indeed--on a very high order--, and often sabotaged by my assumptions.
The organism is capable of depths of perception--alternate modes of perception--that easily exceed what we're used to. The development of that greater capacity for living, that greater capacity for the sensing, the feeling, the thinking of life, is one of the aims of the work. We are hoping to help the body re-integrate its senses so that they support one another in a completely new way. A substantial way, one related to the manner in which the physical substance of impressions is taken in and transformed in a fundamentally different manner.
It takes many years of work to begin to gain an inkling of what this might mean. Only then can we begin to appreciate this very material, very substantial, capacity for feeling ourselves, feeling our life in a new way.
Feeling is, for lack of a better description, a thread that provides a connection to a higher energy. It's an enlivening material which sustains organic processes we're largely unfamiliar with. Furthermore, it's closely related to that quality of attention, that quality of inner investigation which I refer to as intimacy.
To have feeling is to discover an intimacy within one's Self: that Self which consists of all my parts in a living, breathing interaction--not just the fragments I use to manage my outer world with.
It's this intimacy that can help deepen my search. It's a quality that may be found in a relationship between the body and the breath, first thing in the morning when I wake up; a trembling yet delightful uncertainty that suffuses my limbs on the sight of a flower; that peculiar moment when I see that something more delicate, more sensitive than my usual bull-headed approach is needed.
It is, in another sense, the quality that I discover when I stop lying to myself for a moment and just see. The inner dialog stops; the flow of associations which dominates "waking" life voluntarily enters suspension for a minute, and a silence arises, a silence that simply asks, wordlessly, of itself--
Feeling can't be forced or invoked. It is a blessing that comes with work, but it takes its own time and writes its own rules. I can await it, I can seek it, I can hope to understand it--yet when it comes, I always see that the only real action I can take is to prepare for it... and attempt to nurture it, should it choose to arrive.
It's a mystery, this "feeling." It's the open question of emotional center--integrated, sensitized, hoping for a tactile experience that will feed it in a new and deeper way. I don't know it; knowing this "not knowing," seeing this "not seeing," is what creates the gaps in my armor where it might leak in.
Feeling has, perhaps above all, the capacity to soften me, so that the world enters me more generously, and so that I am--God willing--more generous in my receipt of it.
It's well to ponder such questions. Gurdjieff repeatedly told his pupils that nothing new could begin to happen in a man without a new kind of participation of an emotional nature.
If I do not hold the question of feeling in front of myself--even as I ask myself what I lack--
If I am not searching for that unsentimental, unattached, yet exquisite and sorrowful receptivity which can be born in a man who prays--
Who constantly prays, as best he can--
well then, in my experience, I'm hardly in working order.
May the living Light of Christ discover us.