Materials needed: Journal, collage making materials
Practices and Exercises:
The element in the third chakra is fire. This is symbolic of the emotions as they have many of the same characteristics. They can flare up at the slightest provocation and may do extensive damage if they are not controlled. Both are difficult to control and have the properties of rajas, heat. Emotions like fire are in constant motion, they flicker, roar, enflame the passions and can escape their boundaries without notice. Their changes are rapid and can be devastating. Both consume the material they depend upon for their existence, whether it be wood or the body or the psyche. This suggests that another similarity between fire and emotions is that both have transformative power. Therefore, fire is symbolic for the potential in all of us for transformation. We can "burn" up the dross in our lives and purify ourselves in preparation for enlightenment.
Emotions in many people's lives are like a roller coaster casting them continually from the heights of joy to the depths of despair. Women especially are encouraged to use their emotions as a means of controlling others and are excused for their unrestrained expression. We are all familiar with cartoons and soap operas that show women crying to get their own way while the men in their lives stand by in a blue funk. However, generally women are supposed to express only tears and grief, but not anger. Men, on the other hand, are not permitted to express grief but anger is allowed. This unbalanced form of social control means that both genders must disallow part of their emotional makeup. Such warping can lead to very unpleasant consequences especially in relationships where people are bound together, as in families or work situations, where they may feel safe enough to unload their suppressed and often irrelevant emotions on unsuspecting others. This is called "gunnysacking." We carry around suppressed emotions that are disallowed by society until the load becomes too much to carry, then it all spills out regardless of the consequences. Typical of this is a person who is afraid to confront others at work and who then brings all the suppressed rage home to dump on the family.
Emotions According to Psychology
Emotions are basically impulses to act. Our animal heritage provides us with various drives that ensure we do what is necessary to survive. Some of the most elemental are hunger and thirst, the need for shelter and sex. The first three are committed to self-preservation and the last to species preservation. We could call these motives "instincts" because they operate without any conscious decision being necessary. Their activity is mediated in the brain through the limbic system including the amygdala. At this level, we can respond to an external threat before we recognize and identify what the stimulus is. For example, if you are walking down a path in the forest and suddenly come upon a snake, the chances are that you will have jumped to safety before you even recognize what triggered your action.
Human instincts can be put into three general catagories of movement: 1) the tendency to approach, 2) the tendency to destroy and 3) the tendency to run away or escape. You will easily see in these the emotions of love, hate and fear; or the Buddhist concepts of passion, aggression and ignorance. Some people think that all of the so-called negative emotions come from fear, and we can probably make a case for that. If we look deeply enough for the trigger, we are likely to find a threat to either one's self-preservation, physical or psychological as in the case of a threat to self-image, or to species preservation. If a threatening situation presents itself, we literally are programmed neurologically for fight of flight. Our adrenal glands secrete adrenalin and the whole body gears up for a struggle.
Variations in how we respond to threat individually make up all the forms of self- protective emotions. We are born with the basic instincts and individual temperaments which shape the way we react to the world. So some babies will fret gently when hungry, others will scream with rage if they are not immediately satisfied. Frustration of basic needs usually leads to anger or rage which leads to aggression if not checked either by someone else or by oneself. We can see that a fear of self-destruction does indeed underlie this aggression especially if it is humger or thirst that is challenging. An attack or pain or punishment also activates the aggressive responses unless the person has learned that retaliation leads to even greater pain. In such a case, the response is most likely to be withdrawal or flight. Severe child abuse has this quality even to the extent of multiple personality disorders which involve dissociation of personality aspects. If we cannot defend ourselves against pain or attack, we try to escape. In that case, the fear drive comes into ascendency. Anxiety is a form of fear that emerges when the source of attack is unknown or repressed. We can also escape by going within, withdrawing from the world and other people. Depression would be an example of this.
Because all human beings require others for survival, lack of love is life-threatening and can lead to the usual forms of self-preservation or to grief or depression. Most of us have no idea how widespread this deprivation is in our materialistic society. Children who feel unloved may turn against another sibling of whom they are jealous or may take out their anger on animals or younger children. If they feel powerless, they may cry a lot or withdraw. Some run away from home. Separation and/or rejection in childhood are devastating because children are powerless to help themselves. There is even a phenomenon called "separation anxiety" that is seen in young preschool children before they acquire object permanency.
Even in infancy social conditioning is operating with selective rewards and punishments for various kinds of responses, and the stage is set for later emotional behaviors. When the ego appears, it takes on the job of self-preservation, and later on conscience or superego accepts responsibility for species preservation in the form of the social norms, rules and sanctions that it enforces. Both ego and superego are learned patterns of behavior, so we see that they must be conditioned by the people and circumstances that surround us in infancy and childhood. The school-age period of development is no exception.
1. Read chapters 1, 2, 12-14 and Appendices A-C in Emotional Intelligence. Think about how your school life might have been different had this book been widely circulated when you were young. Put what you have learned about the training of children's emotional experiences together with what you have learned about their intellectual and social development. It might be interesting to make a chart similar to Table 1, Book I. If you could step into your parents' shoes, how would you change your early training?
2. Make a list of examples from your life of your movements toward, against and away from other people and things in your environment. Just jot them down without censorship as they come to you over a period of five or ten minutes. If you cannot see yourself in this, ask a family member or friend to do it for you. Then look at them and see what category predominates. You might want to sort them into the categories you discover for ease in processing. What in your childhood is associated with this pattern? If you can dig out the roots of it, you may be able to understand it better and/or to let go if that seems desirable.
Did you discover that some movements are combinations of the three mentioned above? More often than not this is the case. What then are the components of the mixed bags? How do you account for the particular combinations? Is there any pattern in those? How much of your fight or flight emotions are due to frustration? What are the major sources of frustration in your life? What are you going to do about them? Think about each of them and see if the true sources really exist outside of you or primarily in your mind, i.e., how you interpret what the triggers mean? How many of your emotional responses are automatic - that is, you make a response before you take time to think about what the situation means? Are you capable of a premeditated anger reaction? That means you think about the situation and decide that anger is an appropriate response, so you confront the person involved.
3. Read pages 159-169 in Planetary Brother. If you have been working right along with these guidebooks, you should already have this book. How does Bartholomew suggest you deal with your fears? What is the role of awareness? Do you agree that fear can be transmuted into peace?
An excellent article on fear by Sam Keen appeared in the Yoga Journal, May/June, 1999, p. 58.
The Yogic Attitude Toward Emotions
Yogis deal with emotions in terms of how they interfere with the journey to enlightenment. So they are not as interested in how they are categorized as they are in what triggers them and what we do about them.
Role of the Mind
In general the yogic position is that emotions are triggered by thoughts in the mind. They are a response to the mind's interpretations of the meaning of what is going on at the moment. For instance, mother comes into the bedroom and finds her eight-year old daughter sitting in front of her dressing table. She immediately assumes the child is into her makeup, gets angry and begins to chastise her as she crosses the room. When she finds the child sitting quietly looking over all the items she has displayed there, she may feel a bit foolish about what her mind did with the "trigger." However, the emotional arousal has already occurred and needs to be discharged, so mother may find something else to fuss at the child about, like why has she not yet done her homework? We do this all the time - make assumptions about what is going on and react before checking it out to make sure the response is appropriate. Probably this tendency is exaggerated to the extent to which we are already stressed out.
In previous discussions, we have made a distinction between emotions and feelings with feelings being a refined, higher level form of emotions. This is not to denigrate emotions because they have their place in self-protection, but to help sort out the various manifestations of our instincts. At lower levels of expression and when ego gets into the act, emotions may become a reaction to the frustration of self-gratification.
The ego is invested in getting its own way. This manifests as self-will which may enable us to gain the objects of our desires if we persist doggedly enough. However, dedication to self-gratification gets in the way of our progress toward unity consciousness because it wastes energy, strengthens ego in its enforcement of duality and its sense of being in the driver's seat, and it creates detours that are unnecessary. Desires are created by fantasies of the mind, as opposed to needs which are the body's messages about what it needs for survival. We have seen how the imagination gets carried away with fantasizing and elaborating desires. So this is another role of the mind in generating emotions, one we can easily do without.
Self-gratification takes up most of our waking time. I want... How many times a day do you think "I want..." or "I don't want...?" Or "I wish..." We have been brainwashed by all the advertising in our culture to think constantly about our wants and likes and dislikes and to connect their potential satisfaction with our sense of well-being. Look at the malls that are dedicated to self-gratification, the big, shiny cars, the built-in obsolescence of all our electronic equipment especially computers. Try to go through a day without thinking "I want."
Sex is part of this, and it is also inflated by advertising, so much so that many of us cannot perform adequately because we hold ourselves to an externally generated standard of what intercourse should be like. Soap operas, romance novels and locker room braggadocio spread the word and feed the fantasies. Men are encouraged to identify with sexual prowess and conquest of women to sustain their masculine self-images. Women must wear makeup, girdles, panty hose and brassieres, all of which must be purchased, in order to attract men. What for? Gratification of ego needs. Anyone can see that the sexual drive does not need any such help to gain its ends. Besides, what really attracts the opposite sex is pheromones.
The way out of this dilemma is to work systematically on becoming aware of our emotional reactions and then to connect them with the mental activity that sets them off, so we can intercept the energy before it is invested and divert it to more useful purposes. The process might look like this:
How do we do this? Practice.
The Witness Self
One of the first steps is to become aware of the Higher Self that is sometimes called the Witness Self. This is that part of ourselves that does not get emotionally involved with the dramas of life but maintains a certain amount of detachment. Thus it can oversee our lives from a neutral position. It is related to the still,small voice we hear commenting on events from time to time. It can be accessed in meditation, in guided imagery, in deep relaxation and on other occasions when we are relaxed, mentally quiet, alert and open to guidance from within. The Witness Self is a valuable ally in the effort to tame emotions just because it is detached.
Exercise: Higher Self
Read chapers 3 and 4 in Emotional Intelligence. Then begin to watch yourself for several days to try to catch glimpses of the Witness Self. What part of your body is it in? What, if anything, does it tell you? As you become more familiar with the Self, you can set it to watch your emotions as they come up. When that process is established, stop the emotion at its beginning long enough to figure out what the real trigger is. Then make a rational decision about whether to express the emotion - if it is still pending after the source is identified. Often the source will turn out to be some expectation you have that you could do without. Or perhaps there is something in the situation you just have to accept because you cannot change it. You can always change your mind though you cannot always change the external environment.
You may object to making a rational decision on the grounds that emotions are not meant to be rational. Only part of that is true. Emotions do not obey rational laws, but you can deal with them rationally. In fact, you must, if you wish to make progress on the spiritual path. The most effective way to deal with them is to change the way you think about the things that trigger them.
This process is not easy. Sometimes, you may have to go through weeks or months of time struggling to identify the missing piece. But, once you do, everything will fall into place and you will know what to do, or the emotion will be defused.
We can also work with desire and the emotions that result from its frustration through renunciation of both desires and outcomes. Or we can refine problematic emotions into feelings by moving them from the third chakra to the fourth chakra. Let us take lust as an example.
1. Pick a time when you are suffering from unrequited lust. This might be a time when you are experiencing sexual desire for someone who is an inappropriate lover or you do not have a partner or you are celibate. Go to your prayer room or altar and sit for meditation. You might want to prepare the altar for this specific purpose by putting relevant articles on it, whatever speaks to your condition. Keep in mind that you are about to raise the level of vibration of this desire and purify it, so you might decide to use an image of a deity who would help you transcend your dilemma. You may also want some form of Light, an offering and other symbols to support you.
When you sit, allow time for your spirit to settle and get into the solitude of mindlessness. Practice deep breathing until the rhythm of your breath settles down and becomes even. When you are quiet, begin to get in touch with the desire. Locate where it is in your body, and in which chakra. Allow yourself to feel it in its fullest intensity. Look within and allow yourself to see it. What color is it and how big is it? Does it have strong boundaries or is it fuzzy edged? What is its texture?
When you have a clear feel for the desire, then visualize rolling it up into a tight little ball. See what color the ball is now and what size it is. When you have it firmly in your control, begin to raise it to the fourth chakra. You do this by breathing into the ball and on the outbreath visualize it moving upward. It may help to imagine you are placing the ball in the heart center. Continue with this breathing and movement until the ball is solidly located in the heart center. Then release it and allow it to open up - very gently and sensitively as if it were something precious.
You may want to conclude by offering the energy you have released to the Divine One.
Make notes in your journal about what happened.
2. Read verse 19 in the Tao Te Ching.
"Anger, driven underground, poisons my life." - Adrian van Kaam
Emotions are like the multiheaded hydra. Whenever one is cut off several more seem to grow into place. It is as if the body contracts with fear cutting off the normal channels for energy flow, and, when they are blocked, the energy runs off in all directions overloading and messing up other parts of the body that were not originally affected. So we create a monster by not keeping the system in pristine condition. We suffer from pain of all kinds, stress, chronic fatigue, illnesses of body and mind, depression, addictions, etc. most of which have emotional disturbance at their roots. Our repressions, suppressions and frustrations pile up unexpressed emotions like a nuclear waste pile ready to blow at any moment and giving off noxious fumes in the interim. The system of social conditioning to which we are subjected creates some degree of emotional disability in all of us except perhaps a lucky few who had exceptional parents or those who have worked extensively to transmute these energies.
It should be fairly clear to us by now that most, if not all illness is psychosomatic. There is ample documentation that most dis-eases can be cured by spiritual healers using a diverse assortment of methods. You may not want to buy this observation because we are so deeply committed to the medical model. However, more and more people are straying from the medical establishment in search of more humane, less invasive ways of curing their ailments. And they are finding alternative forms of healing that meet their needs often in the face of medical failures.
Emotions like anger, hatred, rage, fear, distrust, suspicion, and others undermine our health because we allow them to give messages to the body that things are out of balance. However the body does not selectively observe valences. Whatever strong emotions are in the body are manifested in tissue changes regardless of whether they are positive or negative. Hence, we say a person's life is reflected in his/her face and body. If someone withdraws chronically and allows their chest to cave in to protect the heart, a curvature of the spine can result. Compression of the lungs, heart, liver, stomach and pancreas may also result conveying a message of depression that can spread to every cell of the body. We have seen how the cells communicate with each other and with the neurohormones of the brain. So we know what mechanisms are used to spread the word throughout the body.
Read chapter 11 in Emotional Intelligence. How do you think we might help our medical establishment come to validate emotional illnesses? How would you treat one in yourself?
Stress has the same effect as emotions except that it operates via the autonomic nervous system that is the defense arsenal of the body. The result of chronic stress is a long standing siege that will if unrelieved eventually result in complete breakdown and exhaustion. The weakest systems in the body will go first. And there is usually a psychosomatic message in which system is most vulnerable (it will manifest first). Consider, for instance, the relationship between Type A personalities and the tendency for them to have heart attacks. A Type A personality is driven to achieve. Such a person cannot relax and allow the body to recuperate. Nor does s/he have the time or inclination to engage in deeply satisfying and relaxing intimacy. One imagines a business tycoon, whose family is essentially fatherless and husbandless, who eventually dies in his office or a mistress' bed from heart failure. Is the connection so difficult to make? Such an individual lives in his head, his heart is closed because it is too vulnerable to have a place in his business dealings. So it implodes and dies. You might want to look at an interesting article on reducing stress by Mark Matousek. It was published in Common Boundary, March/April, 1999, 30-35.
Lung cancer is another case in point. Research tells us that smoking causes cancer. But the studies are all correlational, and correlation does not establish cause and effect. It only says the two things occur simultaneously. What if the people who smoke do so because they do not feel loved and what if cancer also occurs in those who do not feel loved? Does smoking then cause cancer or does the not being loved cause both the cancer and the smoking? To my knowledge, the condition of lovelessness has not been examined as a potential cancer-producing agent. It has, however, been suspect in heart conditions. Dean Ornish's work speaks to that association. Another suspect as a cancer provocateur is lack of the opportunity to grow. A person cannot grow because of life circumstances, so the cells in the body grow instead in a flagrant and wasted outpouring of life energy.
Pain can be physical, mental, social, psychological or spiritual. It occurs anytime there is an injury or imbalance in a system. Generally there is a boundary to the pain that gives it definition and accounts for a contraction somewhere in the bodymindspirit. It serves a warning purpose and forces us to seek healing when we might not otherwise do so. We are fairly familiar with the parameters of physical pain, somewhat less so with psychological and mental pain and virtually not at all with spiritual pain.
There is good reason to suspect that disruptions in the spiritual domain, if not corrected or balanced, may manifest on the mental and psychological planes where, if not detected, they may emerge on the physical level. This idea is based on the model of the person as a series of concentric, interpenetrating circles or domains (see Figure 2-1 and Govinda, 1982, pp. 148-9). If this is true, healing should begin at the spiritual level and could be expected to work its way downward finally into the body. Those who have tried this method will be able to give testimony to its effectiveness. Saints, with a few notable exceptions, have been examples of positive wellness all down through the ages. These are people who have worked extensively on their spiritual health, and we see it reflected in their lucid minds and healthy bodies.
Depression can have many causes. But, if we look at the symptom itself, what we see is dispiritedness, lifelessness, hopelessness, lack of vitality. One of the main causes of depression is the turning of anger inward upon oneself. This may be coupled with feelings of loss of control over one's life and the inability to change things which leads directly to fear and anxiety. Clinical depression is now called an affective disorder giving credit to its emotional etiology. If we cannot manage our emotions, we may become depressed.
1. Read chapter 15 in Emotional Intelligence. How does Goldman see emotional literacy preventing depression? As you read this chapter, make a list of all the skills he mentions in connection with emotional literacy. Then rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 on each skill. When you are finished strike an average to see how you fare in your own judgment.
2. Scout around and see if there is a teacher of Qigong or (Chi Kung) available near you. If so, take a series of lessons. As you do so, keep in mind the possibility of using what you are learning to deal with troublesome emotions especially depression. Ken Cohen (1999) has put together a set of audio tapes called "The Practice of Qigong"if you want instruction. They are available at www.soundstrue.com.
This is a term coined by Daniel Goldman (1995). It is the inability to function normally because of emotional problems. In this category, we find such disorders as delinquency, bullying, dropouts, depression, eating disorders, addictions, sexual abuse and fascism. What is most disturbing is that all of these disabilities are increasing at an alarming rate in our society. It is very tempting to see inadequate loving as one of the causal factors because these manifestations of social disability are all tied to personality problems that begin in the early years of life either because of neglect or of outright abuse usually by parents. That many of these parents are not home enough due to the need to work long hours to provide for the family does not mitigate the problem though it goes a way toward explaining it.
It is apparent that, as a society in general, we do not care very much about our children, all of our children, that is, since we refuse to take responsibility for the children of others less fortunate than we are. And since we are all One, that neglect causes pain and a disordered spirit and soul in all of us whether it is experienced consciously or not.
How to Work with Negative Emotions
Although emotions can be seen as either positive or negative, I am going to focus attention on those generally felt to be negative because they cause us the most trouble. It is probably fair to say that all of us have emotional problems. Our social system does not provide adequate means for the safe expression of negative emotions. We want people to stuff their anger and fears and not "rock the boat" because it makes us uncomfortable to witness their problems or to feel obliged to deal with them. It is probably also true that others' negativity stimulates our own to come into consciousness, and since we do not know how to deal with it ourselves we would just rather not know about it.
This being true, the first method of dealing with negative emotions is to throw light on them. We need to find the initial causes, one by tedious one, which will lead to insights and understanding which will lead, in turn, to the ability to let go of them. It is the hiding of them in closets of the mind that causes the explosiveness. As well, they suffer distortions when not brought to light, so they become hideous to confront. Hitler's rage is a good example of this.
Another thing we can do is to reprogram the mind to change the way we think about issues of importance to us. This may mean unseating the critic which we will deal with in unit 9. It also means reexamination of all our cherished opinions, preconceptions, concepts, ideals, prejudices, attitudes, assumptions and expectations. As part of this, it helps to try to become more open-minded about the positions of others and to become more open to new ideas about how to be in the world. If we can gain a new and different perspective on how things really are, it can change our whole lives rather drastically.
Jamie's mother constantly whines about her loneliness and the fact that her children do not seem to care for her any more. In fact, she complains so much that her children simply do not like to be around her. "I'm so tired of being by myself," she says. "I can't get any help in the yard anymore." "No one calls me anymore." "I just can't do what I used to do, and it makes me so mad." "The doctor doesn't take me seriously." Finally, Ned, Jamie's brother, asked his mother, "What do you get out of being a victim? Their mother broke into tears protesting that they were picking on her and adding insult to injury. Later, however, in the privacy of her own room, she had to look at her habit of blaming others for things in her life that were going wrong.
We all have to take responsibility for our own life's scenario. Other people do not "do it to us" unless we allow it. And the chances are that the whole thing is a projection of our own repressed negativity that we are unwilling to face. As long as we are making these interpretations with our thoughts, we are getting in our own way. One thing that helped me deal with some of these issues was to consider that maybe I, as an unborn soul, chose my parents and all the major events in my life before I was born in order to learn certain lessons from them. This enabled me to take responsibility for things I did not directly choose in this life. Once you do this, you can reframe your interpretations of past events that have driven your life.
When we can take such responsibility, then we need to learn new ways to respond. This can be very difficult especially if our habits of responding to life have persisted for a long time. Ingrained habits are notoriously difficult to change, but not impossible given adequate motivation. We change our style through practice. It helps to have a group of like-minded supporters to keep us on the path during this phase. Since this is a form of ego education, it is perhaps impossible to do alone. Families can help since they tend to be unblanchingly honest. So can spiritual communities such as ashrams, monasteries and convents. Any group of committed people can do this job if they are not afraid of you. However, you have to be open to corrective feedback.
Another practice is to make yourself stop and think before expressing your emotions. If you ask where the energy is coming from and what triggered it, that may give you time to sidetrack the train. An analogous practice is to do the opposite of what you are inclined to do. If you want to express your rage, do something kind for the person. This acts as a kind of antidote.
But, you may say, I thought it was unhealthy to keep my rage suppressed. That is true. It is. However, what you are aiming for is to undercut the emotion at its roots before it becomes full blown rage, or fear or whatever it is, by rooting out the causes which are most likely to be found in your thinking process and memory. If you can transpose it before it blossoms, there will be no negative energy to mess up your system. On the other hand, anger freely expressed can wreak havoc with your relationships. The energy stays around for a long time and the pain it causes in the other person is not easily forgotten. Usually, they will try to avoid future encounters with you for that reason. You can assure yourself of this if you look back into your family history at some instance of a parent's anger. You may not be able to remember the cause of their anger, but you can certainly remember its impact on you and the fear it engendered. Aggression evokes fear which leads to defenses.
Any form of resistance to training the ego and mind falls into the category of negativity because the ego does not want to change. So how do we deal with this unpleasant situation? Gently. There is a tendency to respond aggressively as soon as the emotion is identified. So, when we are feeling a strong negative emotion, for instance, instead of pushing it away or trying to ignore it, go into it. Allow it to be what it is and watch it. Experience it fully. You do not need to take action on it, but allow yourself to feel it. When you own it, you create space to be skillful in dealing with it.
Negative energy can be transmuted into wisdom. You identify with it and become it by not pushing it away. When you identify with it, there is no longer an object of it, you are just anger or whatever it is. Then it turns into just energy. However, to achieve this, you must avoid thinking about it. Just feel it. Thinking or labeling puts edges around it and makes it solid. The point is not to try to get rid of pain or negativity, but to gently lean into it and own it as yours. Watch it move and change with a kind of detached curiosity. The emotion is not really bad. And, when it is transmuted into compassionate wisdom, it can then be expressed.
A final suggestion is that we do something constructive about educating our children and each other in emotional control, disarmament and social negotiation. If we discover ways of settling disputes and protecting ourselves with sensitivity and grace, we can begin to mend the socially-triggered diseases we have created.
Exercise: Toxic Emotions
1. Read chapters 5, 6, 15 and 16 in Emotional Intelligence. Then see if you can get an appointment with the counselor in your local middle or high school to discuss the topic of emotional literacy. If you can afford it, give him/her a copy of this book.
2. Select one of the types of emotional disability such as depression, delinquency, bullying, dropouts, withdrawal, eating disorders, addiction, sexual abuse or any other that is relevant to you and make a collage of it. Then make notes in your journal about how this creative work changed your attitude toward it.
Transmutation of Emotions
"Emotions . . are the blood shed by ego. ." - John Welwood
Transmute means to change from one form to another. So if we apply this idea to emotions, we might be able to change the way the energy behind emotions is manifested, thus keeping ourselves out of trouble and making the energy available for the spiritual journey. Or perhaps we would be able to change the valence of the emotions to more positive ones such as compassion, joy, harmony, peace, love, etc. that are some of the feelings we discover in the heart chakra
Exercise: Transmutation of Emotions
1. Read chapters 8 and 9 in Awakening the Heart. How does Welwood's attitude toward emotion differ from the Yogic and the usual religious approaches. John is a Buddhist practitioner. Can you see how his recommendations fit with the Buddhist tradition? How does van Kaam suggest we deal with anger? Do you think it would work? Would it work for you? Will you try it for a month to see?
Now, let us look at some of the tools traditionally used to achieve emotional transmutation.
Whether it is mantra or Gregorian chant, sustained, chanted repetition of words, phrases or sounds that have been invested with spiritual energy over centuries of practice leads to harmonization of the whole human system. Chant works to align and raise the frequency of vibrations in the body as you can ascertain for yourself by engaging in the practice. However, it takes time to achieve a lasting change in your bodymindspirit. I have often wondered if that has anything to do with the notion that all the cells in the body are renewed every seven years.
To work with emotions using chanting, you can vary the rate, volume and inflection of a mantra while you are chanting it and, at the same time, visualize the emotion dissolving or changing into something more acceptable. However, you should not change the pitch as that is directly related to the frequency of vibration of the chant which is what is effective and lasting. You may practice with any mantra including OM which is intoned A-U-M repeatedly. The pitch of OM may be varied.
A variation on chanting which does not necessarily have spiritual overtones in quite the same way is a practice called toning. To tone, you lie down on the floor and relax. Then begin to make random sounds drawing them out slightly to get the full effect. Let the sounds come from your deepest body sources trying not to censor them and watch what happens to them over time. Do this practice until you feel finished.
Since we will be meeting the warrior Rama in the unit on empowerment which follows, why not practice his mantra? All of the notes are in the octave just above middle C. All of the Ram notes except the last one in each line and the OM notes are held twice as long as the others. The A notes are half as long as the others. This is not exactly correct but is as close as I can get in words. It is 3/4 time.
F# G# F# G# F# G# F# ^ E F#
Sri Ram Jay Ram Jay Jay A Ram Om
D# E F# D# E F# E ^ E E
Sri Ram Jay Ram Jay Jay A Ram Om
The exact music can be found in Mantras, Bhajans, Songs at Yasodhara Ashram (1979). This little book can be ordered from Timeless Books, Box 3543, Spokane, WA 99220-3543. There are other mantras in this book that we will be using.
Some forms of pranayama and breathwork can be helpful in dealing with emotions. For one thing, deliberately taking deep breaths and focussing attention on the inbreath and outbreath can calm the mind and the emotions. We would expect to find emotional energy in the etheric body (pranamayakosa sheath), and this is the realm of pranayama. So working consciously with the breath should have a beneficial effect on emotions to balance and harmonize them.
There are a great many different forms of breathwork you might sample if you have a chance. One is Holotropic Breathwork designed by the Grofs. You can read about this process in "The Thirst for Wholeness: Addiction and the Spiritual Path" by Christina Grof in ReVision magazine, Vol. 15, No. 4, Spring 1993, pp. 162-168 or "Holotropic Therapy" by Stanislav and Christina Grof in New Realities magazine, March/April, 1987, pp 7-9, 54-58. If you look through some of the New Age type or Yoga magazines, you will probably come across announcements of workshops in Holotropic Breathwork given by the Grofs should you want to experience it for yourself. Or you can contact them directly through the magazines above. If you cannot find these magazines in your local library, you can order copies of the articles from Interlibrary loan. Ask your local librarian.
TransformBreathing is a process developed by Caron and Tom Goode and is offered in Boulder, CO. Their organization is called Goode Works. You can reach Caron at: email@example.com
Bioenergetics is a type of psychotherapy that works directly with the breath and emotions to help clients gain release from the negative energies and access the unconscious.
Various types of bodywork and massage can also help release old holding patterns in the body due to emotions that were not allowed expression in the past. Hakomi therapy combines psychotherapy with massage. However, most massage therapists are familiar with the body's holding patterns and, if you allow it, work on the tense muscles and fascia may help you access old traumas and release the associated emotions. Massage is especially good for this because of its nurturing qualities and because touch is such an elementary need. This type of massage also uses breathwork.
Pranayama. You will need two or three blankets and a bath towel for this exercise. Fold one blanket until you have a square about 2' X 2'. Open the other blanket on the floor and place the folded one where your upper body will be when you lie down. Fold the towel so it will comfortably elevate your head and place it on the folded blanket. Lie down with the folded blanket edge at your waist and your head on the towel. This will elevate your torso and your head above the torso thus supporting your chest and back. If your legs are uncomfortable, you may put a bolster or a pillow underneath the knees. If you wish you may cover yourself as well so you do not become chilled. If you have an eyerest, you may place it over your eyes.
Begin to breath naturally. When your breath settles see if the inhalations and exhalations are even and balanced. Make an "ssss"-like sound on the inhalation and an "hhhh" sound on the exhalation. When that is well established, you may modify the sounds to "So-ham" which is a mantra. See which works best for you and continue with that. Do this for ten minutes. Set a timer if you need to.
Second step. Exhale through your mouth until the lungs are empty but do not strain. Then inhale normally through the nose. Then exhale slowly and deeply until the lungs are empty again. And repeat the cycle for ten minutes.
Notice what this does for your emotional condition.
We need to rethink our jaded concept of worship. It is not just attending church, singing a few hymns and saying a few prayers. Unless our hearts and souls are engaged, those are just fruitless substitutes for the real thing. We have to bring to the service or ritual ourselves, our deepest spiritual intentions and unconditional love. Worship in not meant to be an opportunity to ask for what we need nor to appease a judicious god. It is intended to be an opportunity to merge with the Divine One. So we bring to it our loving devotion, an humble heart and a willingness to put ego aside for the interim. We come in a state of grace, or, if we are not in a state of grace, we do the necessary spiritual practices to achieve that state. This may include some form of confession if we feel our separation deeply. Confession addresses all those things which separate us from the One. Then we approach the godhead.
First we invite the Divine One to be present. This can take the form of some sort of invocation. We may do a ritualistic feeding of the Divine One. This might include offering ourselves in surrender to Divine will. We may then sing or chant our praises and express our joy in the Divine Presence. We may express our gratitude for the Universal Love within which we are encompassed. If desired, we can observe some form of communion using food and/or water to symbolize our connectedness. All of these parts of ritual serve to bring us closer to Divine Love and overcome feelings of separation and grief. Worship nurtures us in its process. The ritual serves to keep our minds focused on our intention.
1. Read Return to Shiva, chapter 15. Think about the symbolism expressed in this reading.
2. Create a worship service for yourself that uses symbols that are meaningful to you and that addresses either a deity that attracts you or a symbol for the Universal Reality. It is not the form that is important but the Presence or Essence of the Whole, of the One that contains us all. Use rituals that speak to your heart and soul and that express your devotion in this moment in time. If you have been worshipping right along, use this as an opportunity to review what you are doing to see if it is still current and meaningful. If you go out to a church or other religious center for services or meditation, use this as an opportunity to create a service you can use at home, perhaps daily. Engage in this service regularly for a month keeping notes in your journal about what you experience. At the end of the month, write a short paper for yourself summarizing what you learned from the experience.
It will be a good idea to continue your worship and also to periodically review what you are doing in order to keep it up to date. This is especially important for you if you are an intellectual or a person who tends to live in your head. Devotion is a heart activity and, if practiced faithfully, will assist in your heart-opening.
"Gratitude is heaven itself." - William Blake
Gratitude means more than just saying "thank you." Someone gives us a gift and we say, "thank you" then go on to our other affairs without, perhaps, sparing any thought for the motivation of the giver or any obligation on our parts to return the favor. However, there is a balance involved in doing things for others, one that is usually subconsciously registered. We have an intuitive sense of whether we owe our neighbor a favor or whether it is our turn to initiate that phone call. And, if someone gets way overdue in his/her balance, others may strike them off of their list of receivers. If you never give a party, you will soon find yourself not being invited to any. And if you stop sending Christmas cards, your intake of them will soon suffer. All of this is familiar to most of us, but this is not the only level on which the balance or lack of it operates.
In the spiritual domain, the same law holds true. It is as if energy moves in a circle - what goes around comes around, so to speak. If I take and take and take spiritual gifts and never express my gratitude by giving something back, eventually the channel becomes clogged and I may find myself feeling alone in the universe.
The usual form of giving back spiritually is giving selfless service to others. However, it also includes expressing our gratitude in worship and in giving love either to the Divine One or to others. For, in the spiritual domain, what we give to others is also a gift to the Divine. Jesus said that whatever we do for others, we do for Him. Since we are all One, it can be no other way. That goes for inflicting pain as well, incidently.
Since giving back involves an extension out from ourselves, it is a great antidote for self-centeredness and suffering. It is also a means to transmute negative emotions since it is, by its nature, loving and caring rather than hurtful. May I remind you that we have a certain amount of life energy available to us for daily living. It is our choice whether we cast it into a loving or aggressive form as it leaves us for a journey in the outside world. So what this says is that the perfect antidote to suffering is to do something for someone else. And if that person is disadvantaged in some way or suffering themselves, the value of your gift increases. However this does not mean in terms of a return directly to you. Gratitude, in the spiritual sense, is not a 1:1 ratio. It may flow from 1 to 1 to 1. . . in a very large circle before it returns to you and then be unrecognizable as a return. This is part of what makes it selfless: the ego does not recognize it as an outcome.
The adjective "selfless" is the key. If we offer something of ourselves without thought of return, it becomes a spiritual gift and a spiritual practice. Contributions to tax-exempt funds and organization do not count because you get a return on your investment at tax time. Even being thanked for your help is a return because it makes you feel good. Selfless service is doing what is in front of you because the opportunity is there and you can do it. That is all. Period. Mother Teresa is a good model.
Make a list of the things you have to be thankful for. These can be actual objects, people in your life, good things that have happened to you, good feelings, etc. What ever you are grateful to have in your life. You can add to your list as you go along. Then find a way to express your gratitude every day. This does not have to be a big deal. The value is in remembering to be grateful on a regular basis. Try to carry out your ideas secretly so as not to get rewarding feedback from anyone. As an example, your mailperson says something nice to you and makes you feel good. You might express your gratitude by giving a dog bone to your neighbor's dog. Or you might sit down and write a letter to your mother. Carry out this exercise until it becomes a habit.
One of the great examples of channeled scripture is A Course in Miracles. And one of its central tenets is forgiveness. When someone does you a wrong, it can be extremely difficult to forgive them especially if they are not penitent. And the deeper the pain, the more difficult the forgiveness. We can even say, "I forgive you," and still not mean it if we are pressed to do so. But to really be redemptive, it must be heartfelt. How, for instance, do we forgive Hitler? How do we forgive our ancestors who massacred 12 million Native Americans? How does a woman forgive her father for incest? Another woman for rape by a stranger? When your soul is damaged, how can you forgive? And, make no mistake, you must come to forgiveness or be prepared to repeat the karmic exercise. Negative energy also comes around again if the circuit is not broken. Forgiveness breaks the circle.
There are some things you can do to assist the forgiveness process. You can do tong len. You can transmute the anger and grief into love and compassion. Or you can study your aggressor to try to understand his/her motivation which may then engender some compassion.
When people undergo psychoanalytic psychotherapy or other forms of therapy that allow them to access repressed trauma, they may find themselves faced with the dilemma of how to process the old memories so that forgiveness becomes possible. One thing that helps, in my experience, is to try to understand why the person had to abuse you. This may require some research expecially if you were young at the time or if the person is now dead. Nevertheless, if you study their personality and family history and talk to people who knew them when they were younger, you may well come up with some understanding of their life tensions, stress and frustrations at the time. It goes without saying that you will find this especially difficult if you are in the throes of rage yourself. You may need to calm your own emotions first or pause to settle them as you progress if they resurface. Often people who abuse others were, themselves, abused as children. So you may find yourself able to empathize with them in the knowledge of their suffering, and so become able to forgive.
What if the abuse is current? First you must get it stopped even if that means leaving the relationship. There is always help to do that if you really want it. Then you must recover physically and psychologically. Then you do the research. Do not allow yourself to forget before you have forgiven because the suffering will intensify in the unconscious. Get help if you can. If you cannot, you might consider forming your own support group to help you through it. You can even do this online.
Another way to deal with forgiveness is to approach the other person directly and try to talk it out expressing your own feelings, but, instead of blaming, ask for clarification of the other person's motives. You may not have all the facts. When you get them all, you may feel differently. Study some books on conflict resolution and learn how to listen for the objective truth. Ask for a mediator if you cannot stand up for yourself. Maybe therapy would help you sort things out. But do take action. Holding grudges poisons the system.
Cultivate Empathy and Attunement
Most of our emotional stuff comes from injury we perceive is done to our self-esteem or self-image. To the extent to which this is true, we need to work with ego to change the perceptions. If that is not the case and the damage was intentionally inflicted, there is a challenge to understand the perpetrator. Ask yourself what role s/he is taking in the we-are-all-One process. For all the evil in the world belongs to all of us, so there has to be grounds for empathy. You may have been spared the trauma that evoked the aggression in the one who hurt you. There is gratitude in that perception. Probably enough to invoke a certain amount of compassion. Keep ego's voice at bay while you are processing this sort of thing because it will take a defensive stance that is inimicable to forgiveness. Incidently, forgiveness does not mean you sanction the behavior or that it does not need to be prevented. What we are talking about here is cleansing your soul.
The attunement part of this refers to self-protection. Before you engage the process of empathizing with a perpetrator and their negative energy, you protect yourself by attuning to Divine Energy. You can do this through meditation, by doing The Divine Light Invocation (Radha, 1987), by surrounding yourself in Light or some similar protective practice. And you hold on to that Divine connection with one hand while you descend into the morass of negativity that needs forgiveness.
Read chapter 7 in Emotional Intelligence. Think about how you might have lost some of your earlier abilities to empathize. Do you find it easier to empathize with anger or fear or grief? If you cannot empathize with one or more of these, is it due to an inability to deal with these emotions in yourself? If so, what might you do about it?
"To reach God you have to be turned inside out, burned with the fire of love until nothing remains but ashes" (Vaughn-Lee, 1999).
Lovemaking, whether it is done on a physical or spiritual level, crowds out negativity. They are mutually exclusive. When you are in a state of ecstasy or rapture, you cannot hate, and love overcomes fear because it instills trust. By lovemaking, I do not mean just sex though sex at its finest is an expression of true intimacy. Lovemaking is any intimate contact that brings you into union with the Divine One. Most often It is embodied in another person, but It can be solitary, group-oriented or global as well since we are all One. You know it by its blissfulness, the shimmering scintillations of grace. You feel ecstatic in your oneness with all there is and the mindlessness of true rapture. It brings you to a more or less permanent state of enlightenment. Meditation is intended to bring you to this state of Grace. So is worship.
Read verse 55 in the Tao Te Ching.
Longing to Go Home
"It's fire. Give up if you don't understand by this time that your living is firewood." - Rumi
You are minding your own business going about the daily chores or perhaps sitting at your desk at the office. Maybe you are jackhammering a hole in the pavement or delivering papers. Without warning, in a quiet moment, you are assaulted by an intense feeling of longing that opens a bottomless pit in the middle of your abdomen. It is a sense of solitary loneliness that almost makes you sick. If you are very busy, it may pass and be forgotten. But it may return at the end of the day when your work is finished and you are tired with your defenses down. You may take a drink, smoke another cigarette, have a chocolate sundae with whipped cream or a piece of cheesecake. Or you may try to instigate a sexual encounter. You may go to the refrigerator and gorge yourself on whatever is in there and then throw up. You may turn on the television and watch it mindlessly until bedtime or just go to bed and lose it in sleep.
But it always comes back. It is the need for union, to become whole, in identity with the One. Nothing short of that reunion will satisfy this longing because it is designed to lead us back home. That is what this work is all about.
Read pages 71-81 in Planetary Brother and do the exercises Bartholomew suggests.
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Grof, C. (1993). The Thirst for Wholeness: Addiction and the Spiritual Path. ReVision, Vol. 15, No. 4, 162-168.
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Vaughn-Lee, L. (1999). Love is a Fire and I am Wood: The Sufi's Mystical Journey Home, Audio cassette tape set. Sounds True Catalog, Summer, 24.
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Yasodhara Ashram Society (Ed.) (1979). Mantras, bhajans, songs. Kootenay Bay, B.C.: Yasodhara Ashram (now Timeless Books).
In Unit VI. Emotional Upheaval we have seen what extensive damage uncontrolled emotions can do and have learned some ways to work with them to reduce their chaotic impact on our lives. Unit VII. Male Sexuality includes the physiology of male sexuality, aggression, warriorship, transmutation of sexuality into compassion and male menopause.
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