The Jugular and Your Emotional Journey

Natalie Goldberg taught me it's okay to feel pain and write about it. In Wild Mind, she admonishes, "Go for the jugular."

I've been following her wisdom a long time.

Yet only recently I noticed the way I avoid the jugular in my thoughts. Throughout my day, without a pen connected to my hand, I withdraw from my most vulnerable, tender places.

I think this is normal.

I'm not interested in being normal. 

Perhaps this pulling away from emotion is why I became a journal addict: for twenty years, journaling has given me permission to feel.

But a person cannot constantly be writing in a journal. (Believe me, if there's an activity that works with a journal, I've tried it. Napping? Yes. Art? Yes. Prayer? Of course. Walking? Absolutely.)

It was a new and terrifying concept to start pursuing the jugular as Natalie Goldberg taught. Looking back, pain and emotion were synonymous.

When I was small, I tightened the lid on my feelings. Emotion became pain. There was too much at stake: a family member with mental illness, a trauma to get through, the chance that I would upset or disappoint the single mother who had such a precarious hold on reality.

Fast forward to my teen years, and my new sweet foster mom would ask, "What's the matter?"

I was so disconnected from my feelings, it would take me several stunned minutes to notice that, yes, something was wrong.

What I'm learning is, it doesn't have to be painful to feel. As I continue my emotional journey, things I once categorized as simply "pain" begin to flow and take on shapes - guilt, gloating, giddiness, wonder, embarrassment, curiosity - so many feelings, all day long.

There is a painful stage, and that is okay, too, but even without a pen in hand, I can make this journey.

Learning: how to travel and not run away.

How to sit with a feeling and yet not get stuck.


Sit back from the screen for a moment. Place your hands on your throat; feel the pulsing of your jugular vein. What sensations do you notice? What arises as you sit with these sensations?

Write about your feelings.

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