JUNE 21, 2019
Chronic pain is widespread and on its heels are anxiety disorders. The means to address these diseases vary widely from medication to therapy to mindfulness. Each address specific needs while also attempting to be common enough to be used by all. And yet, we still find ourselves having to justify treating our chronic pain and sometimes even asserting it is real in the face of skeptical others. Lisa West’s Follow the Feeling provides readers with a pragmatic guidebook or “‘user manual’ for exploring feelings” to give readers “an explanation of why learning to be with your feelings is a useful skill and how to achieve it.”
West has a knack for crafting direct meditation practices that while easy are deeply effective. She provides these physical and visualization techniques at the end of her chapters (there are thirty-three of them total) and several have audio files readers can access to aid them. At their core, these practices aren’t meant to provide or provoke some kind of insight (although, that may certainly happen). Rather, what West presents readers are methods designed to change one’s habits, to “fine tune your emotional instrument to facilitate your trust in yourself so that you can create a life that feels expansive, creative, and wonderfully free.” And that is the crux of Follow the Feeling, a deep-seeded commitment to the notion our physical self is intimately tied to our emotional self. West sees a disconnect between the two in the daily lives of many and most, thus she strives (and succeeds) in not just bridging the gap but demonstrating how the two are one in the same.
West is especially astute in isolating what leads many to not be about to pull themselves out of stress or anxiety–habit. While she is skilled and knowledgeable being able to provide biological science to her methods, she never shirks away from making it clear to readers emotional health requires work:
“Compare your neural pathways to rivers. If one of your rivers has been running its route for a long time, it’s quite deep and wide. When you start to exert change upon the flow of that river, you are creating a new tributary for that water to run through. You need to dig the new river pathway deep enough to route most of the water into the new channel. What that equates to in the world of mental or emotional conditioning is practice; repeating habit until they become your default patterns.”
In smooth, conversational prose, West lays out how to slow down your racing mind, develop trust in your emotions while at once embracing the messages they are sending you about yourself.
Part of Lisa West success with Follow the Feeling is in how she makes it point to ground her prose in her own experience. The tone of her book is one of genuine aid. West isn’t attempting to shame you, convert or convince you, rather she’s offering a method to readers to help them, to give a resource and means to combat chronic pain, anxiety, stress, or depression. West deftly merges reasoned, rational thinking with spiritual practices to forge a healing path. “There is no right or wrong way to do things, and every time you miss a wave of opportunity, another will soon follow. But life is a lot more dynamic and fun if you start riding the waves instead of just watching them go by,” Follow the Feeling marks a path that is certainly worth exploring.