A Felt Sense Revolution

Posted by Joanna Van Vleck on

Over a decade ago, when someone asked me what it meant to feel, I smirked and said “of course I can feel”. What I meant was I could feel when someone touched my arm or gave me a hug. It never crossed my mind that there was a deeper felt sense, things you feel internally, a presence. I would walk into my apartment off of Fillmore street in San Francisco with crown molding and oversized doors and it looked totally right. Right out of all the magazines piled on the coffee table, I had the perfect floor to ceiling curtains that blended with my throw blanket made of cashmere never to be touched for fear of it looking disheveld. My focus was on the external. That was the only thing I had known. I thought about the way it looked when someone else walked, not what I felt like when I arrived home. 

Then I began the slow work of learning how to feel. Unearthing the felt sense that lives in all of us and is awakened by things like elements and scents. Learning to feel has its cautions. As I would come to find out, feeling more means just that — feeling more. It included more of what I deemed good and bad. An expanded sense of things that began to permeate through all of the senses. 

Fast forward to 2023, it was time for me to start my 2nd retail venture. I sat perplexed because I no longer looked at anything through the eyes of “does it look good”. I looked at it through the felt sense of “does it feel good”. I had never known retail outside of “looking good”. I no longer followed rules that I had once sworn by — that all the woods had to match or the pieces had to be from a certain brand. Through the Path of Eros and OM, I learned to see through the felt sense. Here’s the catch…on the surface it may not look that different as I still like white couches, but felt by the senses, it is worlds apart. 

I asked myself, what would it take for people to feel their homes? How would it go if the focus was on how it felt rather than how it looked? The answer was simple, they would empty first. You begin by clearing out that which no longer serves. In the Eros Sutras it says we must first empty what is full. This process is the same whether you are talking about internal work or the space you are sitting in. Emptying makes room in our overcrowded lives and selves to begin to feel more. When something is emptied, we feel its bones of it. We come into contact with it.

I continued to sit with this idea. What if people really did focus on emptying first? What if it was no longer about how much or how fast we would consume, but how much we could empty? What if it wasn’t even possible to purchase until you had emptied? Concurrently as my mind went crazy with all the ways this was wrong, my body lit up. I came alive. 

Then I thought…what does someone do with all the things they have emptied? I don’t like waste. I believe in using everything. Everything has a purpose — even that which you no longer need. I thought of my friends who run Free Food. It is a non-profit that serves weekly sit down, farm to table meals made by incredible chefs for people without homes and those who are in need. This was the solution. We will circulate all these emptied items there, to people who could really use them. And so, the concept I know from the Path of Eros of Emptying and Circulation (before you buy) was born into retail. 

It goes against the grain of what we have been taught consumerism is. Instead, it follows a path aligned with the felt senses, the body and nature. We are beginning the felt sense revolution in retail. 

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