Lesson: Just as you identified your beliefs about thoughts during zazen, you can examine your beliefs about emotions. It is useful and skillful to articulate what you believe about emotions: “It is wrong to feel this way.” “It is shameful to feel sad.” “I am a bad person because I feel angry.” Listen to what you tell yourself. All dharmas, in this case emotions, co-arise depending on conditions. You cannot control the conditions, but you can practice ”sky mind” — the mind that is open to emotional clouds, that experiences directly, stays present, and lets the feelings dissolve on their own. Remember: all dharmas come and go according to conditions. Impermanence is a gift that keeps on giving!
Practice for today: Continue to be aware of sensations and emotions. Practice feeling directly. Become aware of your thoughts about what you are feeling. Acknowledge your beliefs about emotions. If you experience an emotion that you have been “working with” for years, intensify it and see what happens. A good weekend to you!
Recently I have been dealing with the emotion of anxiety due to a life situation (a family member who seems lost and who experiences a lot of suffering). It is an emotion that when I ‘amplify’ it can become very strong!
A description of what happens when I receive alarming news or listen to the sufferer is the image of a strong humid wind blowing through my whole being and some of it sticks, drips and globs. It has effects on the body. Emotions, anxiety in particular, are more ‘goey’ than thoughts. They have a more physical presence than just thoughts,
sensations, sounds or images. Emotions are more heavy and in the case of anxiety it can become extremely heavy and sticky to handle.
I have occasionally received help from a psychotherapist and it provided tools to handle the situation and understand the workings of the psychology of the being I am entangled with and care for. However I find psychotherapy very ‘mechanistic’. Or I am mechanistic in this context!
At the end of the day my practice consists of letting the wind blow and acknowledge the stickiness of the anxiety, let it settle and not flush it away voluntarily. Like an acid spill on flesh it needs care. Deep breathing, awareness of ALL that is and also conduct bring a settling of the emotion. Just knowing (in my guts) that through the clouds, storm and lightning there’s a pure clear horizon is the path for me. A path to peace and responsible action.
The anxiety can be brought about at any time voluntarily or involuntarily. I find refuge in meditation and my practice in general. Sometimes I have to also examine the doubt that the refuge is nothing more than a fancy shelter built by my smarty-pants ego to protect itself. Sometimes I just know, sometimes I just don’t. I hope to find the opportunity to examine doubt in a deeper way at some point on this path.