Spiritual Essays #24

Meditation, Visualization and Your Emotions

Emotions

by Jayaram V

Emotions play an important role in life. They help you evaluate situations and respond to threats and opportunities. However, the mechanism is somewhat imperfect. Therefore, you do not always get the right results. Sometimes you overreact, sometimes under react, and in both cases you lose focus and balance. At times, you may also confront situations with inappropriate responses and expose yourself to further problems. On the positive side, emotions make you human. They help you feel things and experience the richness of life. It is one redeeming feature about emotions.

One of the common suggestions about controlling emotions is that when problems arise you should think rationally, rather than give in to your emotions by counting numbers or taking a deep breath. Theoretically, those responses are very appropriate, but you know that you cannot always do it. When emotions arise, you seem to lose control over your rationality and let them out. You may feel guilty afterwards for what happened, but it does not guarantee that it will not happen again.

In real life situations, emotions are common human experience. People do not feel peace until they let them out and say or do according to their bidding. It is certainly not a sign of weakness. It is what it is, human nature. We are wired that way. There are two parts in the human brain, the primitive brain, which is the seat of emotions and instincts, and the evolved one which is responsible for most executive functions.

In all situations, invariably it is the primitive brain which responds first. When a problem or a threat presents itself, your primitive brain reacts first and engages your whole attention to the perceived problem or threat by releasing chemicals into your bloodstream and invoking in you strong emotions. It does it with mechanical precision and most efficiently, and gives you little or no opportunity to think about the situation or process the information.

Therefore, it is practically impossible not to feel any emotions or to suppress them. Besides, it may not be wise to do, since they are vital to your survival. The best way to deal with your emotions is to feel them, know them, understand them, and become familiar with them. You should let them rise and fall, without damaging your inner poise. It is a tough call, but it can be practiced.

Think of the ocean. Can you imagine an ocean without waves? The same is true with your mind. You cannot imagine a mind without emotions, except in deep sleep. Waves disturb the surface of the ocean only. Deep inside, the ocean is calm. The same should be the case with your mind and emotions. Emotions may rise and fall in the surface of your mind, but deep inside you should remain calm. Here are a few suggestions to cultivate the oceanic inner poise, without suppressing your emotions.

1. Practice meditation. It gives you an opportunity to observe your own thoughts and emotions and become familiar with them. Regular practice will help you become more introspective, observant, mindful, and sensitive to your own thoughts and feelings and notice them when there are major shifts in your moods or how you feel about yourself or others in different situations.

2. Label your emotions. When emotions arise try to identify them and label them. Many times emotions linger in your consciousness, which you may not notice because you have grown accustomed to them. Many people do not pay attention to themselves and cannot identify their own emotions. They become so engrossed with the life outside or winning the approval and acceptance of others that they ignore their own feelings. It is important to know your emotions and acknowledge them when they arise.

3. Practice visualization. Visualize situations that trouble you or disturb you. Mentally play out various scenarios to see how you can deal with them so that you can gain control over your responses and remain undisturbed in situations that normally tend to destabilize you in real life. It will also help you break your habitual mental responses and routine behavior, and learn new ways to think and act, and correct your behavior and attitude.

4. Cultivate detachment. The things that you love most are the ones that can potentially cause much emotional turmoil. Your attachments make you vulnerable to emotions. Therefore practice detachment and learn to let go of things so that when you are drawn into unpleasant situations you can become a passive observer of your own mind and consciously experience your emotions without being disturbed by them. The best way to cultivate detachment is to know your likes and dislikes and maintain a healthy distance from both of them.

5. Broaden your thinking and outlook. An open mind helps you keep your negativity under control. Consider all viewpoints, possibilities and alternatives before rushing to judgment. When you view life from a broader perspective, you will learn to absorb a lot of information without being disturbed by it and grow comfortable with the conflicts, inconsistencies, instability, loss and gain, and contradictions of life.

6. Keep your mind clean. Your mind has many demons of hunger and thirst. If you are not disciplined, they will let all types of thoughts and intentions enter it and potentially disturb your peace. It is important to be true to yourself and be honest with yourself. You should be clear about your intentions and basic morality and stay away from wrong paths and questionable choices. Practice right thinking, right perception, right awareness, and right discernment, which will lead you in the right direction.

7. Keep smiling. A smile, even an artificial one, can change your moods. It can lift your mind and instantly change your emotional states. Bring cheer into your life by forcing yourself to smile frequently. Even if it is an artificial smile, do not mind. Keep smiling at every opportunity. People usually reciprocate a smile with a smile. When you smile, you will radiate a lot of positive energy and evoke similar emotions in others. It will create a very energetic and cheerful atmosphere around you.

Suppressing your emotions is not the right choice, neither ignoring them nor escaping from them. One can drown oneself in sorrow or drink oneself to numbness. They are destructive choices, which will create further emotional problems. The right way to deal with your emotions is to let them do their job and not feel disturbed by them. Accept your emotions as an integral part of your consciousness and behavior. Try to know them and become familiar with them. Express positive emotions as often as possible to experience the richness of life. Use the power of meditation to gain right knowledge about yourself and your emotions. Meditation is the art of thinking, or not thinking. With its practice you become self-aware, thoughtful, observant, stable and peaceful. It does not matter where you live, what you do, or which faith you practice. If you are not practicing it for any reason, you are probably missing a great opportunity to experience peace and stability.

*****

May God bless and protect you and…

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

Seth Kelly Curtis

Spiritual Essays #23

How to Bring Spirituality Into Your Life

Spiritual Practice

by Jayaram V

In western traditions, you will find a clear wedge between spiritualism and materialism. It is not so in eastern traditions, especially in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Hinduism is rightly called a way of life, because it advocates a God centric life in which we are expected to integrate our materialistic and spiritual aspirations around a central purpose, which is attaining liberation (moksha) from the cycle of births and deaths.

Although Buddhism does not believe in the existence of God, it projects a way of life in which the practice of Eightfold Path is an important and essential component.

Both the religions uphold a holistic way of life, in which you are slowly and gradually drawn to spiritual life, while performing your obligatory duties and your day to day responsibilities.

Both the religions agree that until you are ready for complete renunciation, you should lead a responsible and virtuous life, preparing yourself for the next stage of your liberation.

It is not difficult to lead a holistic way of life, which is complete and in which you will have ample opportunities to fulfill both your material and spiritual aspirations. It is not necessary that to lead a spiritual life you need to become a monk or an ascetic.

You can be whoever you want to be and yet spiritual, because you can with some practice make it your essential nature. You may think that you are a physical entity, but as every religion declares you are a spiritual being.

To lead a spiritual life, you do not have to seek salvation in a faraway place. Although seclusion helps you stabilize your mind, you can create opportunities to create your own spiritual zone.

For the same reasons, you do not have to go to a forest or a mountain cave to find peace in your heart or find God. You can experience them wherever you are, through the things that you seek and the actions that you perform.

To live a life that is wholesome, spiritual and peaceful, you need awareness, sincerity, commitment and sensitivity to the deeper and not so apparent aspects of life. You should remain mindful and attentive to what happens around you and inside you. You have to train your mind and senses and change your mindset, so that you can discern the reality beyond the illusions.

Cultivate the qualities that are essential to lead a divine and holistic life. Holistic means, you consider every aspect of your personality, not just your mind and body to resolve the problem of your life and work for your salvation. In this regard the following suggestions are helpful.

  1. Think deeply about your perceptions and experiences that matter to you most as they happen. It helps you to be reflective and cultivate deeper awareness.
  2. Observe life and people without letting your emotions and judgments interfere with it to develop understanding, insight, intuition, and empathy.
  3. Practice silence so that you can learn to use your speech wisely and remain secluded even amidst people and the world as and when needed.
  4. Keep your negative thoughts under check and do not allow them to influence your actions and decisions.
  5. Feel grateful for the very opportunity to be alive and experience life in all its colors.
  6. Learn from your negative experiences so that you will become wiser and better.

Spirituality is a deeply personal subject. The purpose or the aim of spiritual life is to become free from whatever that holds you in bondage and fear. Therefore, aim to free yourself from the illusions and shackles of the world and find freedom from them.

*****

May God bless and protect you and…

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

Seth Kelly Curtis