Emotions form the core of every human being’s life. Emotions are extremely valuable, for they are nature’s way of indicating that attention needs to be brought to something internal or external to ourselves. Let’s look at sadness. Someone close to us passes away and we naturally feel sad. At this juncture, our throat chokes, our heart strings are pulled at and we shed tears. This represents a release mechanism for the body. Emotions are literally “e-motion” , that is, something which moves. That which moves is energy in specific areas of the body.
Emotions are very very important as they are a means to help the organism release this raw energy. We need to cry when someone close to us dies. We need to laugh when we find something funny. We need to feel sadness when we are put down. This is nature’s safety mechanism. Modern science is beginning to understand the mind-body connection and many psychologists and scientists now espouse the view that the basis for many autoimmune diseases are blocked emotions. When energy in the body is not transformed or allowed to express itself, our cells and the DNA undergo mutation to create diseases. Therefore understanding and handling emotions become paramount – not just for us and our loved ones, but also society at large. Think about mass shootings in the US. These are people who have not been taught how to deal with intense emotions of hatred and fear. Emotions are therefore, vital.
Unfortunately, in today’s mainstream culture, emotions are seen as “being weak”. This image used to be restricted to men (men must be seen as strong macho figures) but we notice that even several women today show themselves as emotionless (think of Angela Merkel). Strong women are praised. But this strength is supposed to come from an absence or a control of one’s emotions. Men who are sensitive are ridiculed and even labeled as effeminate. As a society we have moved from the heart to the head. We have become overly focussed on logic and rationality and failed to place emphasis on developing emotions. Look at our school. Not a single class on how to handle anger. Yes, we were told not to get angry. But no one has taught us how not to get angry. As a society, we have managed to classify emotions are something that are below human dignity and emphasized that man is a “Reasoning Animal”. This is unfortunate and does more harm than good not only to the individual but to the overall fabric of society.
This does not of course mean that we run amok with emotions – uncontrolled rage, extreme sensitivity, over expressing one’s devotion. No. What is needed is for each of us to begin to start noticing our emotions. How?
First, whenever something happens to us that disturbs us – even a tiny little irritation – we must inculcate the practice of starting to observe the impact on the thoughts and then the body. What often happens, in that we start blaming the situation or the person outside. We do not even realize that we are irritated. At these times, we want to be “right” and prove to ourselves that the other is “wrong”. This traps us in our head. Most of these justifications are thoughts reeling in the head. This eventually might transform into harsh words (such as shouting) or withdrawl or in other cases throwing plates and cups at home or banging the door. Before we go to such extremes, we must begin the practice of observing the sensations in the body. Check in with the body. What is happening? Some strange pulling sensations in the chest? Is the face flushed and ears hot? Is the tummy fluttering like a butterfly? Do the arms and legs feel weak?
Keep the attention on the physical sensation. The mind is cunning, for it keeps pulling you into justification and blame. Observe this. And gently, lovingly bring the attention back to the body. Stay with the body and use the breath as a means of support. Slowly, with practice, you will notice the “knots” in the chest or the tummy, ease out by themselves. This brings immediate relief. For most of us who have never practiced this, it can be very hard and even very uncomfortable at first. The sensations can be so intense that we want to avoid it, we would like to run away from it, distract ourselves. But if we practice watching these sensations – without getting drawn into thoughts – we become free of them.
Each one of us must start doing this regularly. Do not expect to be a master overnight. The goal is not to eliminate emotions but merely to eliminate their unflinching grip on us. Emotions are beautiful and necessary – as long as we are their masters. Become a slave to them and we are taken over. But, fighting them, bottling them up, running away from them never works. NEVER. Don’t even try. We end up becoming volcanoes, waiting for a trigger that will set us off.
Begin by observing our triggers – be it our jobs, some specific people, a place, animals, the ocean – whatever strokes intense feelings in us. Take the attention to the body and ensure that the mind doesn’t pull you into its relentless thought-stream whirlpool. Breathe and stay with it for as long as it takes. By and by, slowly, you will begin to notice that they do not grip you as intensely as they used to in the past. This is the path towards freedom from the external world.