The other night when I was laying in bed, feeling a little stressed and totally insecure for some unknown reason; I asked myself, what exactly do I feel like at this moment? The image of a poor little lemon seed in a cup of dark, brown, tasteless coffee popped into my mind. A seed that was not able to see clearly, that had been totally taken over by the bitterness and the not so good quality of its surrounding liquid. When a coffee is bad, it really causes misery to the delicate taste buds of coffee lovers, so this coffee was one that you wanted to touch only with a long stick. And it was not going away that easily. I must say, as absurd as my analogy was, my mood was just as illogical, un-understandable and absurd as the picture portrayed.
However, this is exactly how emotions work! Even though evolutionarily they have helped us find the safe path, they don’t always have to make sense. They are the fluids that fill our glass, with their qualities, quantities and their absurdities. We try to rationalise what we are feeling and sometimes even try to change them, thinking ‘of course I have control over my emotions, who else will have it?’, but mostly they are there with their full force and weight, thus moving us accordingly!
When you are very happy, the glass is filled with your favourite liquid, the experience is what is called happiness, the world that is seen through this fluid is interpreted with pleasure. When you are not so happy, it is because another liquid has come in, with its darkness, discomfort and lethargy. Taking over all of you, distorting your view on everything, and all you can do sometimes is to lie in bed and hope for it to pass, like a big rain cloud in a subtle breeze.
So what can one do? Are we just going to be laying in bed for things to pass? Or be grumpy beings, trying to run away from the liquid that is enveloping us; by going for a run or planning on travelling the world, away from it all?
Well for starters, wherever you go, the glass is coming with you! And some pumped up endorphins might be great, but as good as a meal is, meaning lasting till it’s all digested.
So rather than quickly and literally ‘jumping’ the gun, realising what the moment has in store for you, is a good beginning. Pausing for one moment and acknowledging the emotional content of the momentary predicament you are in is the key. When you do sense the emotion to the fullest, apparently an inner distancing happens inside which helps you self-regulate! When you feel the liquid surrounding your core being, what you are actually realising and in the back of your mind focusing on is your core being, hence the lemon seed nature of you. This nature is the unchangeable, purest form of you. And all the self-help books talk about this, but you cannot feel this core, without being willing to feel the liquid surrounding it. It’s both or neither.
The healing quality of feeling your emotions has been also shown in neuroscientific studies.
Uwe Herwig and collegues in 2010 have done a study where they asked people to either feel their emotions (emotional introspection) or to think about what and why they might be feeling what they are feeling (self reflection) during a task. What they have discovered is that when one feels their emotions, something happens in the amygdala (which is a group of cell bodies that are in the shape of almonds in your brain important for feeling emotions). The left amygdala activity decreases during emotional introspections, which means there is less of an emotional arousal, compared to self-reflecting, which has an increase in activation. The authors go on saying ‘increase of activation in the left amygdala during self-reflection makes sense when considering that thinking about oneself may be accompanied by an emotional evaluation, for instance memories, future goals or cognitive self-evaluation which are associated with an emotional impact leading to higher arousal’. They have also added that focusing the attention and awareness on bodily sensations and emotions without the intention to regulate them, is what works! So rather than feeling them to get rid of them, just feeling for the sake of feeling is the way to go.
It seems that feeling is healing, thinking and trying to figure things out are in no way, a bed-time therapy (it might be useful for other times). When I was full of tasteless coffee in the middle of the night, I knew all the logical facts ‘this too shall pass my dear’ said the little Buddha, ‘impermanence is the only permanent thing’, ‘focus on some good experience’ said the little psychologist. I could have gone through many spiritual books that tell me one thing or another. But none of them would have helped as much as just laying, and feeling, and staying with it. With an emotion!
And it was bound to move!
And it did!
So being a long time yoga teacher, and a practitioner of meditation for many hours does not immune me from feeling bad, or having unexplained spells of intense emotions. But it does help me sense, introspect and self regulate to the best of my capacity. And it might help you too!
If you can handle it, don’t be afraid of feeling it. Try it (maybe with a specialist if you are seeing one). Don’t feed your feelings with your thoughts of what should be’s, or what can be’s. Leave the liquid that is surrounding you alone. Remember, feeling the emotional liquid surrounding you (coffee in my absurd example) is actually helping you register the seed quality in you (your core being).
Will I Ever See Clearly?
Here is the million dollar question! Will we ever experience a pure liquid, where we see through all the ‘illusions’ or the ‘barriers’ of our senses and emotions? Especially after all this yoga, meditation and striving for enlightenment?
Well, I don’t think the lemon seed ever jumps out of the glass to meet the ‘real world’, this is my interpretation. We are in the end, limited by our perceptions and the capacities of our body (even though we have figured out ways of flying and diving, without wings or gills). However there is a possibility that the seed does become wise enough to watch the changing environment of its own nature. This is called mindfulness. And then at one moment of silent insight, a clear liquid fills the glass, and the world is seen and experienced, with as little distraction as possible. It is a moment of awe as some teachers call it. Then immediately, a thought starts filling you: ‘ I should talk about this in a yoga class or write it in a blog’. These thoughts are the signals that the liquid has lost its clarity, you have come back to the dualist perception of the mind, and you are interpreting things from your little perspective.
But it’s OK. That’s how it has always been.
Moments of clear view and awe are surrounded by many other moments of swimming in some form of coloured liquid.
So rather than worrying about what you are feeling and trying forcefully to get rid of it, enjoy your swim!**
Here is a little poem by Rumi, where he describes beautifully, the glass I am talking about and it’s called “The Guest House“.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
**If you are having chronic depressive thoughts, mood, or having frequent mood swings, please go and speak with a specialist (therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist). This blog does not claim to contain any medical advice or medical solutions.