Trusting What I Feel

BY AARON

The team-building game was supposed to be fun, but I found it irritating. Instead of making me feel closer to my co-workers, most of what they said just made me hate them. I had to walk out in the middle of the exercise. It was just one example of many situations where I tended to get emotionally bottled up. Sometimes I'd be so overwhelmed by my feelings, I'd get angry and lash out. I had no agency over my reactions or my emotional state. My friendships were few and not very close.

I'm good at academics, and I've been able to find great jobs, but I've always had trouble with dating and relationships. I used to try to be strategic, thinking if I did X, then Y would happen, and eventually it would lead to getting together. My strategies never panned out. In college, I'd go out for coffee with someone, walk her back to the dorm, say “Oh, that was fun,” and just walk away, sabotaging any possible relationship. One woman came by to watch me play volleyball, but I was following the strategy of paying her minimal attention, playing it cool. How different my life would've been if I'd kept things simple, just stating what I wanted. That idea never even occurred to me. 

A lot of my life, I felt like I didn't understand how to connect with people. I'd say or do something, and someone would tell me, “No, that's not the way to be.” I told some guy friends I'd seen a woman we all knew at the grocery store, and we said hi to one another in passing. When I said I'd sent her a Facebook message, one of them said, “Dude, you don't just message someone on Facebook after running into them once.” I couldn't figure out why, and I felt out of touch with the social norms  of how to be “cool.” I wanted to know the proper way to behave with people. I needed to change, but I didn't know how.  

It was my dad who told me about OM. He thought it might be good for me, so I went to an event and met some people who practice OM. I was amazed by how direct and candid they were. They asked me personal questions that felt like they had a genuine interest in me, and they shared vulnerably about themselves too. The level of depth and honesty was so refreshing. Maybe I could learn to be like that.

My first OM was terrifying. I had no idea what I was doing. Afterwards I decided I wasn't going to do it again for at least a month. But then I considered the nature of practice; you have to do it a few times to start building a new skill, to really get it. I thought, I might as well keep going and see what I can get out of it. So I ended up OMing again the next week.

By the third time, I had stopped worrying about each step, and it started to feel less mechanical. I could pay attention to the sensations instead of the physics. When the session ended, I felt settled, looser, and more grounded, like you feel after a long exhale. 

Then I had a series of OMs that left me feeling revved up and fiery. These sensations were intense and uncomfortable, to the point where I started doing more yoga to calm my body down. But I kept OMing because I liked having a feedback mechanism with another person. I liked the sense of engagement. 

OM was also helping me be more direct with people. The practice was so far out of the realm of what I would ordinarily do, and I thought, What other rules do I have that I could break? I remembered my complex and unsuccessful strategies with women, and then I considered how we ask for an OM: 

“Would you like to OM?” 

“Yes.” Or, “No.”

It's so explicit and clear. I started saying to women, “I'm attracted to you, and I'd like to get to know you better. Would you be interested in meeting up?” Even if the woman says no, it's so straightforward, and I know just where I stand.

There were some OMs where my partner would give constant adjustments, which made me feel agitated. I wanted to run away, but then I realized, Okay, here I am. This is what's happening. I was able to hold both feelings, the discomfort and the awareness of being present. The agitation was similar to what I felt sometimes outside of OM when I got overwhelmed and blew up. But in those cases, I didn't even notice the feelings until I was already over the top. OM helped me recognize the irritation sooner, so I didn't have to let it build up until I lash out. I could step back and pinpoint what originally upset me, instead of feeling so overwhelmed by my emotions. 

Since learning to OM, I've had several relationships, both short-term and long-term. I still have 

a connection with those people, which feels really good. I have a group of close friends who OM, and there's a lot of honesty among us. 

When I'm OMing, my life takes on more structure. The OM container has steps that enable us to agree ahead of time what the process is going to look like. Following that pattern, I tend to set up more of a schedule for myself, which is stabilizing. In a similar way, I can express what I want to have happen in a relationship, which has led to more intimacy. I'm able to come out more as a person, be more expressed.

OM has taught me to appreciate and understand so much about the undercurrents of our connections with each other. Now that I’m attuned to my emotions, I trust what I feel.