Buddha statue quiet lake
Mindfulness of Emotions
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Mindfulness of Emotions (18 min.) MP3
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
November 3, 2013 - Dallas, Texas

Thank you, dear friends, for your practice. So, as you practice, and as we immerse ourselves in the dharma teachings of our spiritual ancestors, such as the Buddha and others, and contemporary spiritual teachers, such as Thich Nhat Hanh and others—as we immerse ourselves in the teachings in the study of the teachings and the practice of the teachings, we get the benefit of their insights.

We get the benefit of ancestral insights and contemporary insights. But as we keep practicing, we start noticing that some of these insights really start becoming our own insight. And we may even have our own insights that can arise over time as we keep practicing, insights where maybe we have our own particular angle on something.

So, as I kept practicing, of course I tried to learn the basic foundational teachings, and I tried to understand what in the world was Buddha thinking or the Zen masters and others. What were they thinking? And what is very interesting is that there are so many layers of meaning, and different meanings come out depending on your level of consciousness. So, as we keep practicing, even if we come back to the same teaching that we learned 10 years ago, it is different. There is a different level of meaning there, a little bit more depth, maybe a different angle based on your maturity and life experience and your particular depth of consciousness.

So, I just really appreciate that for me, this practice is not so much about handing me or you all of the pat answers, you know? I kind of sometimes wish that was the case. You know, I have to confess that I have days when I wish everything was written out exactly and I don't need to think too hard. This book or this document will just tell me everything I need to know and everything I need to believe. But as I practiced with many years of this kind of practice, I have realized it is not the way the universe works. It is just not.

So, I appreciate this kind of practice because the difference is not on right belief or correct doctrine. Of course right beliefs and correct doctrine are not bad things. It would be nice to have them, but the emphasis is on the process of the practice. The emphasis is not on a set of beliefs. The emphasis is on practicing things that help us to develop a mind that is more open, more clear, and that can have more understanding.

So the emphasis is really not on a document. The emphasis is on the practice and the experience and our own consciousness expanding. That is really where the emphasis is. Now that is not to say that, you know, correct beliefs and all of those things are not important. I mean, obviously they can be helpful if you have them, but the emphasis is not on that. The emphasis is on are you putting yourself in the process of the practice? Are you allowing your mind to continue to grow and to expand? Are you helping your mind and consciousness to be more clear and more in harmony with the universe, in harmony with reality?

The various insights have arisen in my own life, and I am sure they have arisen in your own life as well. And I don't know why, but a couple of weeks ago, this very short teaching came to my mind, and so I thought I would share it with you. It is basically on emotions. I am just going to draw a little stick figure person here who is sitting in meditation.

So, we have 3 major energy centers in the body. And there are more. There are other ones. There is even one at your hands and feet, but anyway there are 3 major ones. One is in the head. One is in the heart, and one is in the lower abdomen. The lower abdomen represents earth energy and our physical foundation, and the heart is our humanity, our emotionality, and then the one in our brain area connects us to the heaven energy, spirit energy, cosmic energy.

So, as I was contemplating on this, I was thinking about emotions and thinking about how there are so many different kinds of emotions, but actually most of the emotions can kind of be boiled down to very basic ones. So, I thought about peace, and I thought about love and joy as being very basic emotions that we associate with the positive. But then as I kept meditating on this, I realized to be a human being includes a lot more than just peace, love, and joy. There are other emotions also, and even though we may not label them as positive, they are also part of the human condition and are valid and to be appreciated as part of being human.

So, I realized that you could correspond these 3 positive emotions with the other emotions that are also equally valid emotions, but maybe they are sort of the complement of the other. So we have fear instead of peace. Instead of love, we might have anger. And instead of joy, we might have sadness.

Now when I first meditated on this, at first I thought, okay, so fear is the opposite of peace, and anger is the opposite of love, and sadness is the opposite of joy. Our practice is to get rid of the fear and anger and sadness and only have peace, love, and joy. But then I realized that that is not a mature view. A more mature view realizes that we need to be able to embrace and appreciate all of the spectrum of the emotions and not label one as negative versus positive. Because there is actually nothing wrong with feeling afraid, you know? Especially when a lion is chasing you. And of course, from time to time, we feel anger. You know, if someone is doing something very unjust to someone else, we can feel angry. And of course, sadness. Everyone feels sad from time to time.

So there is nothing wrong with these emotions, but here is the thing. I think of these 6 basic emotions as healthy emotions. And of course, you can combine different emotions to create other kinds of emotions. I believe that this is sort of the 6 basic emotions that can be healthy for a human being in balance.

The problem, though, is that because we tend to suppress, repress, or reject certain parts of ourselves, well, whenever you suppress one of these—especially maybe with this side of the emotions—it is going to have to express in some other way, so it is going to find a way. It has all of this is just energy. Do you see how they correspond to these energy centers? It is just energy. It is all just energy, energy that expresses in certain ways, but it really all boils down to energy. So energy of course can shift and change. If you try to suppress one kind of energy, it is going to come out another way, and sometimes it comes out in unhealthy ways.

So if we are not practicing mindfully with our emotions, then what happens is instead of being able to express these emotions in healthy ways, we start expressing them in unhealthy ways. So then we have unhealthy expressions of these normal emotions, normal, valid human emotions. But then fear turns into anxiety or paranoia. Anger can turn to rage or hatred. Sadness can turn into debilitating depression and unresolved grief.

So, if we are not careful, if we are not able to be very mindful, many times these kinds of emotions can turn to unhealthy forms. And I was thinking about mental illness also. And I realized as I was meditating that all mental illnesses are just—they are not actually abnormal. They are actually just human emotions that have just gone to an extreme or just human states of consciousness that have gone to an extreme. But they are not alien to the human condition.

For example, multiple personality disorder. Multiple personality disorder is just simply an extreme form of what is going on in all of us all the time. We all have sub personalities. We all have little selves. Haven't you ever tried meditating, and you have a little committee going? Right. So it exists in us, but in the mentally ill, it just becomes an extreme, and amnesia, you know. Well, amnesia is just an extreme form of what is actually going on in all of us because we have all forgotten who we really are. We have all forgotten our true nature, and we are in the process of awakening.

So, when I thought about it that way, I realized, those who are mentally ill, they are not freaks. They are just mirrors, extreme mirrors, to remind us of our own condition and to help remind us that we need to practice mindfulness in order to bring back healthiness to our states of mind and emotions. And so, in that sense, it made me smile because it was like, oh, okay. I do not have to be scared of people who are considered mentally ill. They are just simply brave souls who are reminding all of us to look within ourselves. They are just outward mirrors reflecting back to us the human condition, maybe in an extreme form, because when we do not listen, the universe screams it out a little bit more in extreme ways.

So, through mindfulness, we can really work with our emotions and help our emotions to heal from unhealthy expressions to healthy expressions. But now, as I kept meditating on the emotions, I realized, well, peace, love, and joy also have unhealthy forms. I was kind of shocked when I meditated and realized they also have unhealthy forms.

Peace in its unhealthy expression can become apathy or indifference or uncaring, right? And love in its unhealthy form can become obsessive-compulsive possessiveness or lust or—

Female: Jealousy.

ChiSing: Jealousy. All kinds of things. So let's just say this up here. Clinging. Grasping. And joy can become kind of crazy mania. And some people get so manic that they do really crazy things and endanger their lives or others' lives all in the name of fun. It is not a healthy form of joy.

So, even what we think about as positive has its unhealthy forms as well. Through our mindfulness practice, we want to honor and appreciate the messages from each of these basic emotions and to see where we have allowed them to go into unhealthy expressions and to mindfully figure out different ways to bring it back to healthiness.

So now, here is one thing I want to say. What I teach here is simply to encourage all of us to practice mindfulness. But that does not mean that mindfulness will directly do everything for you. Okay? But mindfulness opens the door. Mindfulness is a good foundation, and mindfulness will help you to know how to look for the answers for yourself.

So I cannot provide all the answers for you. I am just giving you the fundamental practice of encouraging you to be mindful, and then hopefully as you practice mindfulness, your mindfulness will lead you and guide you to doing things that will help you stay healthy and transform unhealthy expressions.

So, for example, if you are practicing mindfulness, you may realize that you might need to change your diet because you are more aware that there is something that your body is telling you that you need to use a little bit differently. Or, maybe your mindfulness will start to help you realize, gosh, I really need to exercise more or try yoga or qi gong on a regular basis or something like that. And I cannot teach you yoga and qi gong. I cannot cook for you. I'm not very good at cooking.

So I cannot do everything for you, but what I do do is I just offer you the encouragement of the practice of mindfulness, and then mindfulness will then become your teacher. Mindfulness. But you have to listen. That is what mindfulness is about is really deeply listening. So, listen to your emotions, and they will teach you and guide you. Maybe you need to go see a therapist to deal with some of the unhealthy forms, or maybe you need to do other things. I do not know. There are many things.

So, that is true for all spiritual teachers or facilitators. You know, not all of us have all of the different answers. And I am not a therapist, so do not look for me in that particular way. But through your mindfulness practice, you can start to realize that you need those things, those extra things to help, and I encourage everyone, please, after you have made a foundation of mindfulness practice, continue to open yourself to other modalities that will also help. Your mindfulness will guide you.

Okay. I think that is it. It is a nice short teaching, not too complicated. But by the way, and just for fun, I was thinking jealousy, for example, another emotion, is the combination of anger plus sadness plus love. Right? Yeah. And I am sure if you think of other emotions, you can combine different things to create them, right? With mindfulness practice, you are just more aware of the layers of your emotions and what they are made of, and actually many times our emotions are also a combination not just of other emotions, but also thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and our reactivity to those thoughts and ideas and beliefs.

So, that is what mindfulness does. It helps us to be much more aware of the many multi-layered aspects of our inner psyche.

Transcribed by Jessica Hitch

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