More than ever we need to live in a huge, transparent emotional bubble. The reason being: there is so much information about Covid, war clouds, drugs, economic distress, suicides, murders, deaths and destruction around us that we could end up in an emotional mess if we are not careful. According to the US Supreme Court Justice W Douglas, our emotions direct our life — “90 per cent of our judgements is how we feel about things and 10 per cent is used to justify these feelings.”
Power off to power on. A good way to test your emotional state is to switch off your cellphone — Now, sit quietly by yourself. Is your mind racing, jumping all over the place, are thoughts running around, dialogues and monologues happening continually? “Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings,” Friedrich Nietzsche had said. If due attention is not given, they make your emotions swing like a monkey from tree to tree, from like to dislike, from pleasure to despair. To be buffeted between opposites is tiring.
And this is where emotional intelligence comes in. It’s the ability to understand how our feelings and thoughts work on our mental state and manage our emotions wisely. Don’t become the emotion. The way is: not to push away the feeling. Feel, but don’t become the emotion. Meaning, don’t flip your lid! It’s like stubbing your toe accidentally against a heavy table, getting wild and becoming the pain and kicking the table. When we lose our equilibrium to anger, the prefrontal cortex in our brain that regulates our emotion loses its ability to control our emotional limbic system. Thus we act stupidly and give ourselves more pain.
How do we hold on to our equilibrium? Do not label yourself as ‘an angry person’ or ‘an emotional person’, but understand that somewhere within you there exists a supremely intelligent, conscious self who is eternally in peace and bliss. With this knowledge, you hold on to your equilibrium and feel the emotion release itself.
The heart is big enough… Jack Kornfield, a spiritual teacher, explains the process beautifully. He observes, “A desiring mind can take you anywhere — to the mall, to marriage, to divorce… .But to be able to sit and say ‘Ah, this is desire, this is longing, this is love…’ you begin to discover that the heart is big enough to hold it all.” Isn’t that a wonderful revelation — the heart is so large that it can hold all desires and all kinds of emotions. He reels off, “You say, ‘this is restlessness, this is joy, this is fear, this is hate…’ When you acknowledge it, you get curious, you wonder, ‘What is this energy in me, how does it feel if I let myself experience it?’ Then, you invite it to open out and say, ‘All right, show me… the whole nine yards…!’”
Most of us are normally caught up in the current of our thoughts, feelings and emotions. We resist our fears and sorrow. It’s uncomfortable to be pushing against those emotions, for sadness can be an overhanging dark malevolence in the mind. We don’t even know that we are fighting with shadows. But when we identify each emotion by name, as Jack tells us to, and say, ‘It’s okay to show yourself,’ magically, the intensity dies down. The shadows fade under our attention — that’s why it’s referred to as ‘the light of attention.’ And, as Tenzin Palmo, a Buddhist teacher, says, “With awareness, we can observe it all without being swept away.” Ergo, we retain our equilibrium and sense of balance even in these disruptive, different times.
Emotion is always very narrow. Human intelligence is very helpful to develop our emotion and become wiser, otherwise only emotion is just me, me, me…!
When we are not drawn into the drama of the information coming our way, we are able to view it from the transparent emotional bubble I spoke about in the beginning. This does not mean we become unfeeling, rather it means, with the practice taught by Jack, we become emotionally unshackled and emotionally mature. We cannot work on what’s happening outside of us except silently send out healing thoughts to all troubled people, but we can, in our new maturity, work on ourselves. A long view. “Educate the heart,” urges the Dalai Lama. He advocates taking a long view. Calm all inner turmoil. Be selfless and compassionate. Create a force that acts for good — small acts like cooking for the old lady down the street from where you live. Let people know they are not alone. He points out: Every day there are many more acts of kindness than the headlines show. It is important to remember that and keep a sense of proportion.
In his words: “The whole world is interdependent, just one family. Have a feeling of oneness and come closer.” He cites his own experience which he says may help us: “When we were in Tibet, we were isolated. When we came to India as refugees, we have that feeling that we are the same, all are human beings. Then we feel much happier!” It’s a marvellous perspective without trivialising the truth.
Never feel helpless. “Use human intelligence!” He taps the side of his forehead. “Then you can see reality. Emotion is always very narrow. Human intelligence is very helpful to develop our emotion and become wiser, otherwise only emotion is just me, me, me…!” he says, “Never feel helpless. Without losing self-confidence, make the effort… make the effort… that’s important.” He says he will never give up on Tibet. “We will always make the effort!”
When we forget ourselves, we are emotionally free. Watch infants. They are emotionally free and compassionate. You ask them for something they are holding in their little hands and they give it readily. Experts say, at age five, children learn about me and mine, become more self-focused and not so ready to part with their toys or biscuits after that! Then, in school, unfortunately, they are not taught kindness but competition. And this attitude, with few exceptions, remain with far too many of us. The Dalai Lama wants every school to include kindness in its curriculum.
At age five children learn about me and mine, become more self-focused. Then, in school, unfortunately, they are not taught kindness but competition.
He lives in a bare room, has a few robes and that’s it. The only time he shopped, he bought a little bowl for his cat! The world needs him, we need his spirit of selflessness, his kindness to pervade us. I have looked into the Dalai Lama’s eyes when I met him at Dharamshala. There’s something transformative in being with him. He personifies John F Kennedy’s beautiful words: “Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”
Let’s be a force for the good. And usher in a new healing world.
The writers are authors of Fitness for Life and Simply Spiritual – You Are Naturally Divine and teachers of the Fitness for Life programme.