Mindfulness of feelings and emotions are a very important
part of my practice. When I am
aware of what I am feeling, I am less likely, as Katagiri Roshi used to say,
“to get tossed away by them.” My
reactive emotions comes from my basic misunderstanding that I have to protect a
“self”. Sometimes I think I am
going to die from an emotion it seems so difficult. At that time, I don’t believe that the emotion is going to dissipate
or disappear on its own if I just let it exist and feel it. I don’t align myself with the truth
that things, feelings, people, circumstance come and go.
Through zazen practice I can really practice and strengthen
my ability to just hold things or be present with circumstances and feelings as
they are. Pema Chodron has said
that meditation practice helps us increase our capacity to hold negative
emotions. We need to digest and see
the truth of our negative emotions so that we don’t act out or suppress. Acting out actually increases the
negativity for ourselves and those around us. Suppression doesn’t work, as eventually that suppressed
energy comes out sideways.
Awareness is to be awake to our feelings and to be able to be with them
I have often called our feelings and the energy of our
hearts, the melody of humanity. It
is the song of the ups and downs of life that come with being a human. We do not want to eradicate them or
obliterate our humanness but rather we can aspire to be a fully alive human who
can experience the full range of our emotions with integrity.
Zazen in stillness and mindfulness in activity, teaches us
how to be aware of what is happening internally and how to hold our life
without being reactive. Ken Mcloed
says our awareness has to be just a smidgeon larger than the feeling or circumstance.
As Katagiri-roshi said, “we don’t have to poke our heads in there.” Each part of our life can be held in a
gentle loving awareness, without “doing” something to escape it and without
Thich Nhat Hanh has spoken beautifully of the difficult
emotions that arise from past circumstances.
From Thich Nhat Hanh, “Touching the Earth” page 41:
Thanks to practicing
mindful breathing and walking, I can recognize different mental states as they
arise. I know that the wounds of
my ancestors and my parents, as well as wounds from my childhood until now,
still lie deep in my consciousness.
Sometimes painful feelings associated with sadness rise up in me and if
I do not know how to recognize, embrace, and help them calm down, I can say
things and do things that cause division or a split in my family or my
community. I can use this mindful
energy to not suppress these emotions but to help them calm down. I know these feelings and emotions for
the most part arise from narrow perceptions and incomplete understanding. Investigating and letting go of my
narrow ideas and wrong perceptions, my painful feelings and emotions will no longer
have a basis to arise. I promise
that from now on I shall practice looking deeply to see that the majority of my
suffering arises from my ideas and perceptions. I shall not blame others when I suffer, but shall return to
myself and recognize the source of my suffering in my misconceptions and my
lack of deep understanding.
Larry Rosenberg, “Breath by Breath” chapter on “Breathing
with feelings.”: (page 73)
One of meditation’s
function is to calm the mental processes.
A feeling arises – even one as powerful as fear – using the conscious
breathing, you stay with the feeling, stay with it, stay with it. You let it be. Conscious breathing and mindfulness
take the power out of the feeling so it doesn’t condition the mind to get
hysterical. Our feelings lose
their potency to propel us into unwise states.
That is what the
Buddha finally said about feelings.
“The enlightened one has become liberated and freed from all
attachments. One sees as it really
is, the arising and passing away of feelings. The relishing of them, the danger of them, the release of
I find that so interesting. Buddha said that we tend to relish our feelings and
attachment even though we know that clinging to a state by pushing it away or
attaching to it, produce our suffering.
That’s the danger of our feelings and attachments. If we want to have release from them,
we have to find the balance point between taking care of them but also not
clinging to them.
Labels: Buddha on feelings. Thich Nhat Hanh Larry Rosenberg, calming the mind, conscious breathing, meditating with painful feelings, mindfulness of emotions. reactive emotions in Buddhism, zazen and emotions