Managing Strong Emotions

flooded riverManaging our stream of strong emotions is like having charge of maintaining and channeling a powerful river.

If we fail to look after the river by clearing away debris and removing obstacles to the natural flow of water, then over time there will be log jams, overflow of the riverbanks, and uncontrollable flooding that destroys or hurts the surrounding environment.

Like the river, if we fail to manage our daily flow of emotions, if we allow them to accumulate by repressing or denying their troubling nature, if we distract ourselves from painful emotions with television, video games, drugs or alcohol, then eventually the buildup threatens to overflow our boundaries or banks.

Like the neglected river, our emotions then overflow, breaking the banks and  log jams we have allowed to accumulate through neglect or denial, causing suffering to others, and compounding our own frustration, fear and anger. Like being the diligent custodian of a river, Meditation has proven to help manage the flow of our emotions and it does this in a two-stage aspect.

We have learned that meditation involves primarily pausing the mindlessness of our distracting lifestyle for a period. Because this aspect is what most people have difficulty achieving, yoga and mediation teachers have strived for ways to impart a method to their students to achieve this. Controlled breathing is often cited as a prelude to this state of mindfulness, so I offer my own samples to method on this Link.

The second aspect of mediation involves looking deeply while in the state of mindfulness. This state brings with it enough energy to discover the true nature and origin of the thoughts, emotions and feelings that we experience during mindlessness. By discovering the truth, we are able to direct those troubling thoughts and feelings toward  love, compassion and understanding of ourselves and others.

The trouble with emotions and feelings is, some of them are so powerful we think we can’t survive them, so we deny (or repress) them until they explode, causing hurt and suffering to ourselves and others.

Simplified, emotions come, stay for a while, and then leave. Prolonging the “stay” interval through resentments and obsessing, or through distraction or denial, causes a logjam of needless suffering that will eventually overflow unmanageably, but if we practice looking deeply while mindful, we can uproot the sources of painful emotions.

If we know how to breathe our way to mindfulness for periods of 20 minutes or so, then the chaos will roll away, leaving us with awareness that we can survive the storm.

If we practice emotional maintenance, we can experience surviving strong emotions and we can rest assured that the next time they come, we can survive them again.


Experimenters with the Human Condition

Apple seedsEach of us has everything it takes to be full human being. Think of the progression to full humanity like the seeds of an apple tree.  

Every apple seed holds the promise of growth to a new apple tree, and each seed contains all of the genetically inherited experience of previous generations of ancestoral apple trees. 

Yet also within the seed is a spirit of what we cannot see, let’s call it a wisdom, an intelligence, that knows how to become a fully functional apple tree, with a trunk and branches and blossoms and apples with seeds.  

The invisible wisdom is there to start the seed growing, only when conditions are exactly correct. This invisible wisdom also guides the steps from germination to flowering apple tree, as well as applying the inheritance of previous generations as the tree grows, flowers and produces new apples with seeds. 

Like the apple seed, you posses everything required to become fully human, but what do you do with, or do you even acknowledge the invisible spirit of wisdom? Do we have to wait aimlessly until conditions are exactly correct for the seed of full humanity to sprout?

Meditation can open a channel of discovery into what it is to be fully human, by clarifying the concept of spiritual wisdom. This first allows us awareness of invisible wisdom. With awareness and determination we can then cultivate favourable conditions for the seed of full humanity to sprout and function as its maker intended.  

Too often we dis-function in the human condition, appearing like amateurs freely provided with all the tools, building materials and maintenance equipment for a full construct of humanity.

But we sometimes fail to build the set as given by the invisible wisdom, having discarded the free instruction manual it also provides. We flail around as if lost in a swamp, when meditation can help recover the instruction sheet of what we need for full humanity.


Mindfulness, Resentment, and the Inner Child

temple bellAs infants we were instinctively aware that we could not survive without our caregivers. This produced “original fear”. Even as we grow from infant to child, we were aware of the feelings of needing someone to protect us, defend us and nurture us. We were dependent.

As we mature, our bodies and minds change and develop from new experiences and education. We learned in childhood how to cooperate with our caregivers in exchange for protection and attention, setting the stage to deal with groups and adult situations, to live with what presents toward us, to live in the present. As we become independent of caregivers, we begin take care of outer selves.

But within each of us the original fear leaves strong memories, and if we are not mindful to educate and advance the inner child, the fearful infant inside can awaken old feelings in new situations.

We have learned that recalling a past suffering without awareness or mindfulness, causes the same feelings again – a resentment– for us to suffer again, despite that the painful event occurred only one time.

Mindfulness reminds us when presented with resentments, that it’s possible to be in the here and now. Mindfulness reminds us that the present moment is always available to us; we don’t have to live resentments over and over again.

Because it is so easy to be resentful of past events, it’s helpful to have a reminder to stay in the present moment. Monasteries and retreats have a proctor ring a bell at random times, reminding all to practice breathing in and out mindfully, thinking; “As I listen to the bell, it brings me to my true home – the here and now. The past is not my true home.”

You might want to say to the infant inside, the infant of the past, “The past is not our home; our home is here, where we live our life. We can get all the nourishment and healing we need here, in the present moment.”

Some of our original fears persist because the inner child hasn’t been liberated. Mindfulness and controlled breathing can, with practice, help this child realize that she is safe with you, the adult, and by degrees she can be freed.

Mindfulness’ Role in Resentments

Pondering childSubconcious mindTo understand “original fear” (from a previous post) with resentment, we must first understand resentment, which is the replaying in our minds of a past event. Resentments cause suffering but why can’t we just let go?

Understand resentment;  “re” means again, “sentment” comes from sentimental – emotions from the past.

Resentment comes from our subconscious brain that stores all the memory of experiences of our lives, like a continually running video recorder. Incredible, but science proves it’s true.

Resentments are linked to powerful experiences. Common events, like combing our hair, aren’t resented because combing  is not as important to our survival as running from danger.

But when confronted with a stressful persons or situations that cause real or perceived threats to survival, our bodies release powerful hormones: epinephrine, dopamine norepinephrine, and glucose, into our blood stream. This comination  spreads instantly to the brain, center of memory, sensitizing it to imprint a strong “survival” recording of what is happening right now. This, when similar conditions arise, we unconsciously, automatically and instantly awaken a defence mechanism imprinted on memory telling us to react to insure our continued survival.

This is how humanity survived threat. It is automatic, unconscious and it is still with us today, though in modern times, without mindfulness, can cause great personal suffering.

Mindfulness is capable of disarming resentment. Mindfulness can “re-mind” us that the resented event has passed, “It only happenned once!”.

Without mindfulness, resentment can trick us into experiencing resentment as if it is happening again, for the first time. Mindfulness asserts that the resented experience occurred only once, regardless of what memory tells us!

Allowing memory to replay the resentment without mindfulness causes the body to release the identical hormones from the first event, causing the same emotions, but now with panic, “Oh no! It’s happening again!”.

The brain becomes overdosed- imprinting, this time, the resentment, overtop of the original memory that is closest to the truth. The truth becomes bent, even lost in the re-imprinting.

The hormone rush creates panic. Panic causes  overload, disorder, faulty memory. Mindfulness soothes the panic, preserves the truth.

We see that resentment without mindfulness causes bent truths and suffering, but here is a caution of resentment with mindfulness;

Resentments that cause a release of hormones can overpower the will of mindfulness. If you notice frustration during mindfulness, this is likely what is happening; the hormones are causing a conflict between memory and truth. 

Always stay with the truth.

Now that we understand resentment, we can look forward to the next post:  Resentment and Original Fear



Mental Massage Therapy

Brain actiivyt copyAs our bodies require a good circulation of body fluids to eliminate toxins, our conscious minds can benefit from a type of psychic circulation that comes from mindfulness and meditation. 

We instinctively rub or massage a painful spot on our body to stimulate circulation and remove the toxins that are causing the pain. When we touch the spot it hurts; this is the same as touching a knot of stored consciousness in the mind. When we see, read, speak or think of a past hurt, it comes up into the conscious mind where we react to it again.

Practicing mindfulness and meditation is like practicing massage to a knot in a muscle of the body; similarly, mindfulness works on our stored consciousness of experiences.

Without the treatment of mindfulness, a mental knot can crystallize into a lump that is toxic to our mind consciousness. Practicing mindfulness allows us to detect and transform the toxin and over time to eliminate it.

Embracing the knots of anger, sadness and regret in our stored consciousness is like practicing massage to a sore body. Mindfulness can create the type of energy that allows psychic pain to dissolve and be flushed out.

The Ties that Bind Us

knotEveryone has internal stores of pain, anger and frustration caused by our judgments toward others who have been unkind or insulting to us. Taking these slights personally causes internal formations that are like ropes that bind us and obstruct our freedom.

If we don’t know how to cut these internal ropes and transform them, a knot will form that tightens every time that we meet someone who is unkind or insulting. Over time, the knot begins to crystallize into a hard lump of irritation. We might try drugs, alcohol or mental diversions to relieve the pain of these irritations. This complicates the issue, causing ropes and knots of addiction.

But through mindfulness, we can find these knots, and through meditation we can experience transformation by untying them.

Be aware that formations caused by pleasure can cause suffering and lost freedom.

The pleasure of falling in love is a huge internal formation. When falling in love we are not free – we can all think only of our beloved – we cannot study, we cannot work, we think only of the object of our love. When falling in love becomes an internal knot we become unstable.

When we taste, hear, or see something pleasant, then that pleasure can become a strong internal knot. When the object of pleasure disappears, we miss it, we search for it, expending much time and energy to re-experience it.

If we consume alcohol, go to the casino, view pornography or violence, and begin to like it, the liking starts an internal formation in the body, in the mind, due to the sensations caused. We begin to look for more of the substance or act, and become very anxious when we see it running out or it is gone. We are not even finished with the first one, and already we are thinking of ways to get more. The knot crystallizes.

Pleasant or unpleasant, internal formations remove our liberty.

The first step in untying the knots is admitting we have them.

Prayer and Meditation can help us accept how they were caused.

Mindfulness can prevent new knots from forming.

Lesson on Anger

Angry childWhen I was a child I reacted to an incident with anger and I spoke to one of my playmates very aggressively, and told her that I would never play with her again. She began to cry and threw something at me, and told me to get away.

I stormed home, where my father seeing my angry face and motions, asked me why I was so upset. I related to him the small incident that had sparked my anger and what I had told my little playmate.

“She’ll be sorry for what she did to me!” I said.

Father patiently explained to me how I had allowed my sudden anger to take control of my true feelings toward my friend. He said that I might possibly regret my actions and my speech.

“Then, you will be the one who is sorry.” he said.

Having cooled down a bit, I reluctantly agreed with him, then asking what I could do to repair the friendship.

Father, sowing a seed of regret, explained that any forgiveness would rest solely with my playmate, it would be her decision alone to forgive, and even if given, the forgiveness may contain conditions, especially if I had hurt her before this incident.

Noticing my further distress, father gently explained that the hurt I caused might not be repairable, and that preventing angry outbursts the only sure way not to damage loving relationships.

With considerable desperation, I asked him what I should do to prevent future angry outbursts.

“That’s easy,” he said, and the word easy grabbed my attention, because nothing my father tried to teach had been “easy“.

“As soon as you feel yourself getting angry,” father said, “You silently count to ten in your head before you say, or do, anything.”

More confused than ever, I asked, “What good will that do?”

“Counting to ten as soon as you notice your anger prevents you from doing and saying hurtful things that you will soon regret.” he said.

“Counting to ten helps you to see how silly anger really is, and how hurting other people will eventually make you feel bad too.”

Elusive Mindfulness

Blank canvasWe forget that people are so naturally creative and observant that they can perceive the truth and create new truths within their own experience, if they are willing to observe it. Creating a blank canvas or framework for the truth, and having some faith in the process, is all that is required, but that is a tall order for most of us.

Mindfulness can elude us because we have been conditioned that enlightenment is a commodity that others hold, that mindfulness is earned or worked for, or we pay others to dispense it as therapy at a tropical retreat, or as room service, in appealing flavours.

Seeking mindfulness can imply work in a temple or with a guru, of turning every stone, using mental cunning, devising trickery, creating illusions or visions, impersonating something or someone else, as if we can attract the spirit though self deprivation, suffering or hard toil.

We are conditioned to believe that “working hard” and “sacrificing” is what yields concrete results and benefits in material terms. No Pain, No Gain, has become the modern catchphrase.

But the elements of mindfulness are not a state achieved by a trick or technique; mindfulness is a way of being, especially away from the guru, at home after the retreat and in the world outside of the temple.

With this concept, we can be people of faith in learning to use mindfulness to create a psychic clearing, or a blank canvas, on which the divine can bring action toward truth. Seeking, we will find, but it is our own responsibility to be observant and seize the opportunity of happiness.

We know that universally, Nature abhors a vacuum. Creating a blank canvas for mindfulness to appear creates a sort of vacuum, wherein Nature works to fill the empty space with possibility for transformation and healing. It is up to us recognize and nurture possibility into ability, which leads to growth.

By setting an anchor or still point within each practice, we create a reference or pause, from which we can gain energy for the next steps of the journey.

Letting Go of Results

Tightrop walker woman copyIn Europe and North America we are results driven people, this proven by the paradox that we likely come to meditation and mindfulness practice because of pain, anger, depression or fear, with avoidance of these symptoms as the goal.

The “goal” paradox is, that the benefits of meditation/mindfulness appear when we deliberately unfocus on fixing problems. When a student says they are interested in being more relaxed, enlightened or pain-free, what they really say is, “Right now, I am not okay, I can’t accept where I am at”.

But with practice, we discover that eliminating the drive for results can yield something like what we want; better awareness of our natural psychic balance, despite the unbalance. Acceptance becomes a key that unlocks the door to enlightenment.

If we are teaching meditation and mindfulness it is essential to embody this concept of natural innate balance in the face of students who come to us results driven, wanting to get somewhere, anywhere, other than where they are at right now.

But befriending ourselves right now is prelude to an enlightenment that germinates naturally, without force, flourishing under the right conditions that meditation and mindfulness create.

The teacher’s own practice and talk should embrace the knowledge and confidence that a willingness to accept all student’s innate ability for mindfulness creates a global climate that conducts growth and inhibits scepticism, doubt or inhibition.