Disturbing emotions are easy to arise. Once it happens, it blocks our thinking and demotivates us. Yes, sometimes life is hard but we can make it more difficult by our way of thinking which increases that suffering. The pain, the negative way of thinking intensify those painful emotions, and they become worse and worse, and worse.
If you’re in a difficult situation, it is important not to increase the difficulty by the negative way of thinking. Logically, it makes things even harder. So what to do with this emotional suffering? What are the antidotes? Here are some tips for you to decrease our emotional suffering.
1) Letting go of the painful emotions through mindfulness
Mindfulness is very popular these days; it works to a degree depending on the intensity of the emotion. When the suffering arises, you can observe the emotion. Just watch it, just be aware of it as if you were watching TV. Instead of moving forward into the emotion, you’re sitting back and just watching the emotion. You’re noticing its presence, “mm-hmm, I see anger, I see jealousy, I see doubt, whatever it is but I notice it”. That means we’re not suppressing. We’re using mindfulness or self-awareness to be aware of the emotions arising in our mind. An emotion such as anger, especially in the beginning quickly needs awareness before it becomes too strong. Then we can control and deal with it effectively through a regular practice of meditation; our mind will become calmer and less likely to react with anger.
2) Step back into the nature of the mind dis-identifying with the emotion
If being mindful of the emotion does not work, the second technique is to dis-identify with the emotion. Here we need to remember the nature of the mind, that the mind is clear. It’s not physical, it’s a stream of mental events that arise and pass away. Those mental events which are thoughts and emotions are impermanent; they appear, they disappear, they come and they go, they’re not permanent, fixed entities. So when you dis-identify with the emotions, you’re thinking of the emotions like clouds where the emotions appear like a cloud and you watch them just disappear. “My mind is clean-clear, my mind is like the clearest water, even though the emotion is obscuring that clarity but the clarity is still there, it’s still present.” So if we are patient and tolerant, we can just wait, we can wait it out so that the emotion disappears because its nature is impermanent. You can experience your emotion as a wave, coming and going. That can be very interesting.
3) Remember, you are not your emotion
It’s not necessary to act on the emotion, and you can remember times when you felt different. So whatever the emotion is, remember another time when you didn’t have that emotion, and you felt much better than you are feeling in the moment. This way your mind starts to switch towards the positive instead of holding on to the negative.
4) Practice accepting your emotion, not judging the emotion
We need to be non-judgmental noticing the trend of thoughts. We need to have loving awareness and acceptance of whatever arises in the mind. So whatever arises in the mind, we think: “Oh, my way of thinking is like that, but I don’t have to follow that. There it is, let it go, there it is, let it go.” So accepting the emotion for whatever it is but not acting it out. We need to see that there might be a lesson for us in that emotion. So what is there to learn from that emotion? When we’re angry, what can we learn from that? We need to take it as a learning situation. We’re in the university of life: what can we learn from these situations?
If we want to decrease the emotional suffering, it’s important not to block or suppress the emotion. We’ve got to be more skillful with the mind. Don’t try to keep the emotion around, hold on to it or amplify it. The mind’s nature is smooth, calm, peaceful. We need to understand that intellectually, then in our practice we need to keep going back to that peacefulness and clarity as a habit instead of the habit of disturbing the mind.
This article is abstracted from “Healing Disturbing Emotions Online Certificate Course” module 6, taught by Venerable Namgyel.