We so often have the misconception that our emotions interfere with our experience of ultimate peace: that they are the storm that distracts us from spacious calm. They seem to limit our experience of freedom and obscure the boundless field of grace, which by nature is vast, free, and emotionless.
There are so many false notions about emotions. We usually learn at an early age that there are "good" emotions and "bad" emotions. If we cry as a child, our parents are quick to shut those "bad" emotions down, saying, "Come on dear, dry your tears. It's time to go to school. Chin up..."
Only "good" emotions are allowed. If we feel fearful, shameful, hurt, or angry, we are taught to cover it up, push through, and be strong. "Bad" feelings only make us appear a wimp to the rest of the world, and a sissy to those more strong than us.
Pretty soon, any strong emotion can cause an instantaneous shutdown and cover-up, as we quickly try to transmute it into something more comfortable to society. Even if we secretly sequester ourselves away, hiding in our bedrooms to allow ourselves a few private moments to experience an intense emotion, still we often try to talk ourselves out of it or diminish its importance, and maybe even feel ashamed of our "weakness."
The instant anything arises that we or society feel is too emotional, all our strategies to annihilate, deny, or transmute it arise: we fight, resist, and try to explain it away; we argue, project, blame others, and blame ourselves. Ultimately, we start to develop more long-term strategies for suppression. We take up smoking, drinking alcohol, overeating, senseless television watching, endless reading of just about anything - all in an effort to numb and put to sleep any and all so-called unacceptable emotions that might dare to raise their heads and try to destroy our peace, or rob us of our self-acceptance or the larger acceptance of society.
Emotions Are Not The Culprits
Emotions become the culprits to be destroyed before they destroy us. It is almost as if some terrible devil called emotions lurks within each of our beings, and our job is to quell them, oust them, subdue them, get rid of them, push them back into the recesses of our consciousness - back into oblivion, where they belong.
Some spiritual traditions train you to repeat mantras or incantations anytime a "negative" emotion arises - to avoid its ill effects and keep your attention on the supreme. Other traditions ask aspirants to submit themselves to extreme austerities and self-deprivations - braving the elements, chastising the body, undergoing fasts - punishing their bodies as impure vessels that give rise to these "bad" emotions.
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Some yogis meditate in caves for years, so they won't be required to engage in any activity that might cause emotion to arise: that way they aren't plagued by these "worldly demons." Even some Western religions demonize emotions: either in confessional booths or testimonials to congregations, one confesses the sin of experiencing unholy feelings or impure impulses. Then you provide further penance by performing a series of tasks, the difficulty of which is dictated by how bad your emotion or impulse was.
Nearly every spiritual tradition stresses the need to get rid of or conquer the natural expression of human feelings, and those rare beings who seem to have successfully purified themselves of their unholy emotions are celebrated as saints or holy ones.
Indeed, almost everywhere we look, in every context, it seems that society is conspiring to kill our emotions, to suppress our natural feelings. It seems nearly everyone agrees with the culturally conditioned belief that most emotions are bad and must be subdued at all costs.
Fighting Wars Against An Internal Enemy
It's no wonder we can't experience peace for any length of time. We are always on the battlefield, fighting wars against an internal enemy - one that won't give us any rest, for as soon as we quell one regiment, the next surge of emotion comes marching behind it, in an endless stream of never-ending waves. It's a battle we all fight, even though we know it's one we will never win.
For as long as we have breath in our bodies and have life in our being, emotions will come as a natural part of being human. It is as if we are fighting our very selves.
What a fruitless, endless battle it is. It's exhausting. It's as ineffective as standing on the shore and holding up a shield against a tidal wave. In fact, it is our very struggle against feeling that robs us of our peace and disturbs our well-being - not the "negative" emotion itself, but the struggle against it; not the feeling, but the ferocity of our will to kill it. When so much effort is wasted trying to resist the natural flow of life, there is not much life force left to experience the inherent joy of life.
Then, when the battle becomes too much, we collapse into depression, into a place of numbness, where the acute pain of the fight cannot reach us. We seek counselors to help explain our way out of the war zone, or we ask doctors and psychiatrists to prescribe drugs to block out our intense feelings. Or we engage in pointless and mind-numbing activities to distract us from our feelings: We zone out watching vacuous television shows.
We wash the car or vacuum the carpets when they're already clean. We gamble or take recreational drugs. We chatter and gossip endlessly about other people's problems - all in a game of emotional avoidance. Or we temporarily raise the white flag and plead for mercy: we turn to God and pray, seeking respite, or we go to an enlightened master and learn to meditate or to recite mantras. At best, these things provide only a short window of peace before the next battle begins.
It never occurs to us to drop the role of warrior and cease the battle altogether.
Deciding Not To Play The Game of War Against Ourselves
But, what if you decided not to play the game of war? What if you finally said, "No, I don't want to be a marine. I never signed up for the army in the first place." What then? What if you gave up all resistance? What if you simply refused to fight?
What if, instead, you said, "Come one, come all. All of my emotions are welcome into the ocean of love that is always here"? What if, instead of a battlefield, you discovered that life is actually an infinite field - a field of trust, openness, love?
What if, in this infinite field, all the natural flow of life's feelings were free to come and go? What if you provided no resistance whatsoever to the natural flow of life? I wonder what would happen.
That which you resist persists.
Your resistance to emotion perpetuates the very thing you wish was not there. It's in the moment of true surrender, openness, and acceptance that your emotions feel so welcome that they easily come and just as easily go. Resistance keeps your emotions in play and creates only more of itself. Resistance begets resistance.
The invitation is to finally lay down your arms, dear one, and welcome all of life with all your heart. Your old enemy will turn out to be your closest friend, and the only enemy still at large will be realized to be resistance itself.
Befriending Your Emotions
The time has come to befriend your emotions. They are the gateway to your self.
Let's examine our emotions. Just what are they? Right now, allow a feeling to give rise to itself - any emotion. If you are really welcoming, you will discover that it arises quite easily.
But what is it? An emotion is actually just a simple sensation in the body. Some of these sensations are comfortable and pleasant, and some are uncomfortable, but they are all ultimately just a bunch of physical responses to chemicals flooding through the body. We can either resist the flood or welcome it and allow it to flow through.
If we choose to resist or suppress the feeling, it only gets driven deeper into our subconscious and comes up more intensely later. When we resist an emotion, hold it at bay, it merely waits in the wings for the chance to come back on stage to be fully experienced.
However, if we welcome it, the feeling is free to rise, be fully felt, and subside naturally. As long as we don't engage in any story about it or stir up any drama about it - as long as we just let it arise completely, purely, without examination or analysis - then it will simply be felt and dissolve back into consciousness. In this way it doesn't get driven anywhere or stored anywhere. The emotion feels so welcome, so free, that it just dissolves in the bath of love provided and doesn't bother to habitually revisit us. In freedom, the embrace of love provides no resistance, and emotions naturally ebb and flow like the tide.
Have you ever sat and watched an infant playing? It sits completely content, just resting in some sweet innocence of being. Then, some strong emotion will come flooding into its consciousness, and the child will experience it freely and openly - providing no resistance to it. Out of nowhere, for seemingly no reason, joy will come through, and the baby will laugh, gurgle, splutter, and giggle as the wave of causeless happiness courses through consciousness. Then, in the next moment, discomfort may arise: the infant will screw up its face, pout, clench its fists, and pound against the rails of the playpen. When this too passes, once again the infant will just rest in open-eyed awareness. It may notice a mobile floating playfully above its head and get lost in complete wonder. Next, it may reach for something beyond its grasp, and it will cry inconsolably in abject frustration. Eventually, each emotion melts away, and once again the child is left in open presence.
The whole palette of human emotion dances through an infant's consciousness, but because it has not yet learned that it is supposed to resist emotions, it just innocently lets the natural feelings flood through. Ultimately, the child is untouched by any of it. The emotion doesn't stick anywhere because there is no resistance to it. Like a spring tide, it rises fully, is felt in its totality, then subsides and recedes. The infant's essence, its being, isn't affected or changed in any way. It remains wide open and free.
Of course, the infant has parents, and before the infant can even understand language, the parents embark on the huge project of "socialization": instructing the child in the way of the emotional warrior and how to suppress, subdue, narcotize, and deny the simple, natural feelings that come through consciousness.
Providing No Resistance
I wonder what would happen if we provided no resistance? Would our essence be touched in any way by what came through it?
I often hear adults say, "I feel so disconnected from myself. I just can't seem to access the real me. I've read in books that there is a huge potential inside, but somehow it eludes me. I sense it's there; I just don't know how to get past the blocks inside. I don't know how to find it."
Of course they don't! They've lost sight of the infinite self, of their essence - they're out of touch with their own hearts because they've spent a lifetime on the battlefield, denying the feelings that are the natural expression of their own essence. When they deny that expression, they deny themselves. They lose touch with themselves, and they feel separate, bereft, alone, distanced, numb, and disconnected.
And yet, every time an emotion arises, it's presenting an open invitation to experience your self. It is offering a doorway to your own essence, a gateway to your soul.
Sometimes as adults we end up on an endless search to experience the divine, to find the truth of our own being, yet every time an emotion arises, we push it away. In so doing, we push away the opportunity to open into the infinite. Our prayer is being answered, but we ignore the response because it doesn't come in the expected form.
This that you have come to fear and therefore subdue is, in fact, a gateway to your soul.
Reprinted with permission from the publisher, New World Library.
www.newworldlibrary.com. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2006. by Manifest Abundance Unlimited.
This article was excerpted from:
Freedom Is: Liberating Your Boundless Potential
by Brandon Bays.
Brandon Bays, who began her inspirational work after healing a large tumor through natural means, uses her trademark simple, sure, and gentle approach to guide readers toward the stillness and joy within them. A popular seminar and workshop leader, she draws on that experience to help readers eliminate emotional blocks, lift away negative self-images, and release past limitations. Freedom Is contains powerfully effective process work, user-friendly tools, meditations, contemplations, and inspiring stories from the author's popular seminars.
About The Author
Brandon Bays is the author of the international bestseller The Journey. She travels all over the world bringing her teachings of healing and awakening to thousands of people each year. She pioneered her transformative work through her own experience of healing naturally from a large tumor without drugs or surgery. Her website is www.thejourney.com.
Watch a video/guided meditation with Brandon: Welcoming Your Deepest Emotions: A Gentle Process