Tag: feelings

Understanding Emotion with Mindfulness

Understanding Emotion with Mindfulness

With mindfulness practice, not only are we able to look at and understand our thoughts, but we can also similarly look at and understand our emotion. When we watch the arising of our emotion without judgment, we can learn a lot about how emotion arises and unfolds.  

Some people find that watching our thoughts is more challenging than watching our emotion. This is because thoughts are swift and fleeting. On the other hand, emotion is usually more intense and obvious. So, emotion becomes a useful window into understanding our inner world. 

The Origin of Emotion 

What gives rise to our emotion? Emotion arises with thoughts. These thoughts may be something that we are consciously aware of, or they may be just below our conscious radar, in our subconscious mind. When we observe these thoughts further, we learn that they are not just any thoughts. Specifically, they are thoughts of wanting – wanting things to be in a certain way. They are our desires.  

When we want things to be in a certain way, and we expect to get them in the way we want them, then we feel hopeful. On the other hand, when we want things to be in a certain way, and we expect not to get them in that way, we feel fearful and apprehensive.  

So, both hope and fear are projections of future outcomes.  

It is said that hope is expecting what is desirable to happen, while fear is expecting what is undesirable to happen. Both are almost identical. The only difference is what you choose to focus on. When you focus on the positive, hope arises. When you focus on the negative, fear arises. 

Types of Emotion 

We can group emotion into three categories – positive, negative and neutral. 

A positive emotion is what makes us feel good, pleasant and hopeful. A negative emotion makes us feel bad, unpleasant and fearful. Neutral emotion neither make us feel good nor bad. In general, we do not have a problem with positive or neutral emotion. Our problem is with our negative emotion. Thus, learning to understand and manage our negative emotion is essential to our well-being and happiness. 

The most fundamental of all negative emotion is fear. We can say that fear is the mother of all negative emotion. Fear manifests itself in a great variety of ways. It can give rise to small irritation and frustration. It can also give rise to anger and rage. It is the cause of our anxiety and worry, and our depression. It is the cause of our obsessions and compulsions.  

So, to manage our negative emotion well, we must learn and understand fear. We must be willing to face our fear, befriend it and be totally familiar with it. Only then can we do something about it. If we deny it, or hide it, or push it away, we will not be able to confront it and know it well. We will be denying ourselves a great opportunity for transformation and growth. 

Understanding Fear 

We are often told that fear is an acronym for “false evidence appearing real”. This is a simple, yet accurate description of fear. Why? Because fear is not real. Fear is an illusion. It is a creation of our own mind. This is not to say that danger is not real. Danger may be very real, but fear is still optional.  

Fear arises when we feel threatened – physically or psychologically, or both. When we sense a lack of safety or security, we feel fearful. That is why safety is one of the human needs listed by Abraham Maslow.  

Fear manifests itself in many ways. Fear is mind-made, so it manifests itself as unpleasant sensation of the mind. When it is mild, it may manifest as mild irritation or discomfort, frustration, or a lingering sense of unease. As fear grows, this sense of unease becomes more obvious and troubling. We may even direct it outward, putting the blame on an external person, thing or event. This may show up as anger, or in severe cases, rage or hatred.  

Unmitigated or uncontrolled fear is costly. Psychologically, it is painful and unpleasant.  

We often express fear in unhealthy ways, in the form of anger and hatred, thus damaging or even destroying important relationships and friendships. When we deny fear or suppress it, fear may be expressed physically in the form of physical discomfort, pain and even disease. Fear, or any negative emotion that is not expressed properly in a healthy way is toxic to the body and mind. So, it is important that we learn to express our negative emotion in healthier ways. 

Managing Negative Emotion 

The way to manage any negative emotion, including fear, is to first acknowledge its presence. Do not deny it.  

Denying it or avoiding it only makes it more difficult for us to resolve it. Running away from our problem is never a good solution. We may need to step back once in a while to give ourselves some space to recover or to regain our strength, but we can never avoid a problem indefinitely. At some point, we must find the courage to confront it. 

When we are faced with our negative emotion, there are two options for us. One option is to confront it as if we are going into a fight. Our adrenaline is flowing maximally, our muscles all tensed and ready for a fight. The other option, which is a better one, is to face the negative emotion with compassion. This means we do not go into the confrontation ready for a fight. Instead, we go in with an open mind, with a compassionate mind, with an attitude of learning and understanding the emotion. In this way, we become more relaxed, not tensed. We become more accepting and allowing.  

Often, this second option of facing negative emotion is itself very therapeutic and healing. It allows us to recognize and acknowledge the negative emotion, and to allow its expression. A lot of pent-up energy can be released in this way. 

Pent-up negative emotion needs an outlet, preferably one that is neither harmful to self, nor to others. One simple way to do this is journaling. Journaling offers us a few benefits. Firstly, when we write in a journal, we have time to reflect, analyze and understand our emotion better. Writing it down provides clarity. It is also a gentle way to release the pent-up energy.  

On the other hand, some people may prefer a more overt physical expression. This is especially true if we have pent-up anger or frustration. Some people find it useful to release their tension by doing physical exercises, such as running, boxing or other physically intensive sports. Others release this energy by punching a bag or screaming out loud in a controlled and often private environment. Yet others may benefit from attending workshops that are designed for this very purpose of releasing pent-up energy, guided by an experienced facilitator. 

Best Time

When is the best time to manage emotion? Well, the best time to manage emotion is before it arises, at the point when your thoughts arise. The next best time to manage your emotion is when it first arises, before it gathers momentum, and especially before it explodes out of control.

Let’s use an analogy of the river.

Imagine that you are in a paddle boat that is floating slowly in a calm river. Then you notice that the boat is picking up speed on its own. Now you begin to hear the roar of a waterfall up ahead. At this point, it is easy for you to divert the boat to the bank with your paddle. However, as the boat picks up speed, it becomes harder to do so, and you will reach a point of no return if you leave it too late to divert your boat. When that point is reached, you cannot avoid falling down the waterfall as the momentum of the boat is now too strong for you to fight against.

In the same way, our emotion is like the boat in the river. If we can note its arising early, we can easily manage it. We can change our thoughts, replacing them with something more positive or useful. We can also divert our attention to a different topic, situation, person or event. We can distract ourselves. In this way, we can diffuse our emotion.

If we leave it too late, we may reach a point of no return with our emotion. By then, the inevitable outcome is that the emotion will burst or explode out in the open for all to see. Often, this complicates an already difficult situation.

In this way, mindfulness is an essential and useful tool in managing our emotion as it allows us to be aware of the arising emotion as early as possible.

Summary 

In short, mindfulness is a great tool to help us understand our emotion. It allows us to observe, reflect and analyze our emotion, and to bring about an understanding of how our emotion arises and unfold. It helps us to face our fear, to befriend it and to finally be free of it. 

As Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Fearlessness is not only possible. It is the ultimate bliss.” 

Making Decisions

Making Decisions

We would all like to believe that we make rational decisions, based on facts and logical thinking. However, the truth may be far from this simple assumption.

There are two ways we make decisions.

The first way is to make decisions based on what we think, and by this, we mean logical thinking. Thinking that is based on facts and reality. Thinking and making conclusions based on logical deductions.

However, we must be aware of the fact that we actually have a lot of irrational thoughts – thoughts that are not logical. Many of our thoughts are simply assumptions and beliefs. They are not evidence based. And we make conclusions and deductions based on these unconfirmed assumptions and beliefs. Not surprising, then, our conclusions are wrong.

To make rational decisions, we therefore need to verify our assumptions and beliefs, checking them with facts and evidence. We also need to make sure that our logical thinking process is valid, thereby the conclusions we come to is accurate and sound.

The second way we make decisions is based on our feelings. This would be considered an irrational way of making decisions, and often inferior to the first way. However, the reality is that many of us do make decisions based on how we feel. Sadly, we are not even aware of this fact when such decisions are made.

Without this awareness, we can be easily manipulated by others. They can easily rouse our emotions through clever and manipulative speeches. Advertisers are very good at this. Politicians too. Think Hitler. Think Trump. You get the idea.

If ever there is a need to make decisions based on emotions, then, always choose love over fear.

Examine your motivations. Are you motivated by greed, lust, hatred, anger, fear? If so, drop them, like you drop a hot iron. However, if you are motivated by love, compassion, kindness, gratitude, then you can choose and act on them.

You are likely to enjoy a better outcome with love.

The Power of Feeling Good

The Power of Feeling Good

Today I am going to share a powerful lesson that you can use to immediately achieve any success you want in your life. And I promise you that if you do what I suggest you do, your success is guaranteed.

You will have everything you want in your life and enjoy the total fulfillment that you deserve. Remember this… there is no limit to what you can have, be and do. Every thing you can imagine, you can achieve. And you are going to find out how to do it now…

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Thoughts and Happiness

Thoughts and Happiness

The principle for happiness is surprisingly simple to understand, yet difficult to attain. Just as when a sage was asked by a king about the guide to happiness, the sage explained that happiness can be achieved simply by abandoning evils, doing good and purifying the mind, whereupon the king exclaimed, “This is so simple that even an eight year old can understand it”. “However,” said the sage, “even an eighty year old man cannot practice it well”.

This is not to say that happiness cannot be attained. It can be, but only with proper cultivation of the mind – and herein lies the challenge. It is simply not enough to abandon evils and do good, without cultivating the mind, for the cause of your happiness is your thoughts, as illustrated in the diagram below.

thought-feeling-actionIn fact, the cause of all your emotions – both happy and sad – is your thoughts. Like it or not, you have to gain mastery over your thoughts in order to gain the happiness you seek.

 

Seek First to Understand How Your Mind Works

Understanding how your mind works is crucial to mental cultivation. To understand how your mind works, you need to be able to look within your mind and be aware of all the thoughts that arise. This means you will need to be mindful of your thoughts and feelings.

  1. Mindfulness is an indispensible tool for self understanding. So, start training yourself to become more mindful – meaning to become more aware of your body, feelings and thoughts, and watching them in a non-judgmental or impersonal way. As you watch your body, feelings and thoughts, see how they affect each other. Examine their relationships with one another.
  1. Satisfy yourself with the accuracy of the observation that your thoughts affect your feelings, which in turn move you into actions (as shown in the earlier diagram). See how every positive emotion is preceded by a positive thought, and how this is true also with negative thought and emotion.
  1. Notice also that although external objects (people, things or events) may trigger an old memory or mental habit, it is your present state of mind that determines whether they may affect you in a particular way or not. This is called conscious living or living in the present moment. In karmic lingo, it is said that what you experienced outwardly is old karma, and how you experienced them inwardly is new karma. In short, you must recognize that while you cannot control what is outside, you can be in full control of what is inside – your thoughts. This insight puts you totally in charge and fully responsible for your own happiness (or sufferings).
  1. Recognize also this very important principle – what you feed becomes stronger, what you starve becomes weaker. This principle is what you will use to strengthen wholesome mental habits and weaken unwholesome mental habits. How do you feed your mind? You feed it by choosing what to focus on. Focus on what is wholesome, such as unconditional love, kindness, generosity, compassion, altruism, fair play. Discard what is unwholesome, such as fear, worries, anxiety, habitual speculation or making assumptions. It is important to recognize negative mental habits and remove or replace them with positive habits.

 

Some Observations about Thoughts

After you have examined your thoughts for a while, you will start to realize some things about your thoughts.

  1. Your thoughts come and go according to certain causes and conditions. Specifically, thoughts are triggered by association between what you are in contact with now (people, things and events) and your past memories or experiences about them. From there, it proliferates according to your mental habits. Thus, the state of your mind when the impression or contact is made can greatly influence the outcome of your present experience.
  1. Thoughts are NOT created equal. Some thoughts are more important and useful to you than others. However, you have the habit of treating all thoughts with the same urgency and importance, giving them equal weightage and attention. You need to change this habit.
  1. In the ultimate sense, thoughts are empty of any intrinsic values except what you give to them. Thoughts are simply thoughts. They become real only when you believe in them.
  1. There is no one to own the thoughts. They simply appear when certain causes and conditions are met. You personalize your thoughts and everything else in your life when you claim ownership over them.

 

The Power of Appreciation

The Power of Appreciation

There is a powerful force within each one of us that you can use to overcome any obstacles, no matter how bad the situation is. Once you know how powerful this force is and how it works, you will never have to worry about anything in your life, no fears, no worries, and no anxieties. Life becomes an easy and fulfilling process. You start to enjoy your life; you start to enjoy every moment of your existence.

Are you getting excited about knowing what this power is? The powerful force that I am making reference to is “The power of appreciation.”

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