Managing Disturbed Emotions, from "Spiritualizing Daily Life".
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami , 2006-07-19
"Disturbed Emotions" from the "Facing Life's Challenges" list of Spiritualizing Daily Life. Controlling emotions. Causes of emotional disturbances. Seven obstacles preventing management of disturbed emotions. Four keys to handling disturbed emotions. Spiritual progress made through facing and handling life's challenges, not by living a complacent life.
Good morning everyone. We have a short talk for this morning. Something that is easy to relate to.
Earlier in the year we wrote a Publisher's desk called "The World is an Ashram", and it was focusing on spiritualizing daily life and gave us two lists of 6 practices; 12 practices in all to follow to try and spiritualize daily life. One list is 6 practices related to Facing Life's Challenges, and the other is 6 practices related to Finding Opportunities to Serve.
So this is from the Facing Life's Challenges list, something we all face, called "Disturbed Emotions", something we can all relate to. When we get upset by life's experiences, we have a choice: to suffer the emotional upheaval, or to strive to pull ourselves out of it as quickly as possible.
A simple way to state the challenge we face is this: Do our emotions control us or do we control our emotions? Said another way: Do the experiences we encounter in life determine our state of mind, or do we choose our state of mind independent of our experiences?
For example, if some challenges we faced during the day upset us, do we stay upset for a few days or do we quickly gain control of our emotions and rid ourselves of feeling upset? In the practice of facing life's challenges, certainly one of the most important parts of ourselves that we have to deal with is our emotional nature.
What are some of the benefits of pulling ourselves as quickly as possible out of emotional upsets caused by life's experiences rather than simply suffering through them?
A significant benefit is that we spend less time being unhappy and thus greatly improve the quality of our life.
A second benefit is that we increase our overall emotional control and are less prone to other emotions that are self-generated, such as worry and fear.
Another benefit relates to our intuition. The deepest insights and solutions come from our superconscious intuition. When we are upset, this faculty is cut off from us because the subconscious mind is disturbed. Quickly controlling the emotion returns our intuitive abilities quickly as well.
Certainly one of the consequences of being seriously upset is that we can tend to disturb the other members of our family. This can lead to unkind words and actions occurring which results in further unhappiness for all involved. The benefit of not upsetting other family members is also an important one.
Gurudeva makes an interesting statement about controlling our instinctive nature which is an example of a guru's wisdom which considers events in life in a way that is opposite to what would be the normal point of view. So this is a very interesting point. His idea is that if you are ever disappointed or discouraged, count it a blessing. Doesn't make sense, right, on the surface? If you are ever discouraged or disappointed, count it a blessing. Well why is this, right? Why is this? Gurudeva explains that it is because we make very little progress when we strive to conquer these baser instincts in a good mood. However, vast strides are possible when we are miserable and work with ourselves to replace our misery with joy and understanding. He goes on to say that you then have the opportunity to conquer the instinctive nature and really stabilize yourself dynamically on the spiritual path. In this light, next time when you are upset remember to consider it a good thing, and when you are seriously upset consider it a major blessing.
Looking at life backwards, right? So we have a simple saying on that: "Stress makes you strong if you survive it!" [Bodhinatha laughs.]
So there is a limit of course to this concept. You can't face all the problems in the world necessarily, but the basic idea is that it is opposite to what our normal thinking is. Our normal thinking is, well we want everything to be happy and sublime and peaceful, and we don't want any problems. We want life to be problem free. We always want to be happy. And that's the good life.
So Gurudeva is saying that's not true, meaning that's the sublime life but it doesn't produce spiritual progress. And of course, what we really want is spiritual progress. We just don't want to sit there and be happy, we want to evolve our soul. So in facing challenges and facing problems, that is what causes us to evolve more than when everything is perfect and easy. So difficulty is good as long as it is not too much difficulty. And so we need to remember that one next time life gets difficult and we get discouraged and all, remember Gurudeva's words. Say "Oh, isn't this a wonderful blessing", and we will change our perspective on it and realize that we need to learn to pull ourselves together under difficult conditions, meaning to be able to control our emotions, to maintain a positive attitude when everything seems to be going in a disastrous way. You know, those are qualities we can develop by following this wisdom from Gurudeva.
So, next time when you are upset, remember to consider it a good thing, and when you are seriously upset consider it a major blessing.
At the initial presentation of this lesson, which was on the last Innersearch, I asked those present for a list of common causes of emotional disturbance. Here is what they said, and see how many you can relate to.
Children not behaving. That got to the top of the list. [Bodhinatha speaks to one of the audience.] How are you doing there Veylan? You behaving?
Disappointment over self and your performance. Being falsely accused. That one really irked a few. They really got excited when they were falsely accused. Seeing someone cheating. Losing control of the situation. Relatives with plans for your life. People you know well. Overwhelmed at work. Taking on too much. Getting frustrated. Others not doing their share. Now that one of course is a good one to get you upset. Miscommunication. Jealousy. Someone sidestepping the real issue. Time issues. Stress. Over interpreting a situation if you have insecurities. Being framed or manipulated. That sounds pretty serious. Loss of money caused by others. That's a good one. [Bodhinatha laughs.] Gets you upset. Regret over past. Traffic. Lots of people get upset in traffic and say a few things to other drivers. Delays. Bigotry of others. Snobbishness. Losing. Seeing a child mistreated.
So that's a pretty good list! So moving on -- what are some of the obstacles we need to overcome to quickly pull ourselves together when we do get upset, and they came up with seven. Let me say one thing on that first, just to point out what may not be obvious. When it comes to emotional disturbance, we are not saying "Never get upset." No, that's not the point. We do get upset. The point is to pull ourselves out of it quickly. So that is what we are focusing on. We are not saying "Never get upset, life should never upset you." No, we are not saying that, that is unrealistic. We are saying when you do get upset, pull yourself out of it as quickly as possible and learn how to do that.
So this is saying, what are some of the obstacles that prevent that?
* Ending up in the state of mind of self-pity. That's a good one, right? Just kind of feel sorry for yourself.
* Dwelling on the problem without seeking a solution. That's an excellent insight.
* The tendency to justify our mistakes, which of course makes it worse.
* Caught in anger and not able to get out of it.
* Using the emotion to manipulate another. That's a great way of manipulating someone but it gets you upset in the process too.
* The desire to retaliate.
So those are what this particular group thought were seven obstacles to getting out of the emotions.
So, in terms of solutions, what are some of the keys to handling disturbed emotions?
** First Key: Certainly the emotional behavior of our parents plays a dominant role in how we handle our emotions. Did our mother pout for days when she did not get her way? Did our father express anger frequently when faced with something challenging? And so forth. Clearly we tend to copy our parents behavior unless we have reflected on it carefully and made a decision not to.
So of course that is true. The younger we are, the truer that is. You know when we start out in life in our 20's, we may be copying our parent's emotional behavior more than we realize. So how do we stop that? Well, by thinking about it. Analyzing, you know, what am I copying? Because basically, the way your parents behaved, part of you thinks its Ok, that you have permission to do that too. But if its this type of behavior, then of course you don't. It is counter-productive to making spiritual progress.
** Second Key to handling disturbed emotions: Being honest with ourselves as to the state of emotion we are in is necessary. If we won't admit we are upset when we are, that makes it more difficult.
I am sure you know someone, never yourself of course, who, when they are upset says "I am not upset." [Bodhinatha laughs.] So that doesn't work. We have to be self reflective and admit to ourselves we are upset otherwise we can't pull ourselves out of it.
** Third Key: Misery enjoys company. A common response to being upset and unhappy is to upset those around us. They have no right to be happy and smiling when I am miserable. [Bodhinatha laughs again.] This must be given up as well.
Oh, it is true! A little bit, instead of making them join you, you can join them. You know, they're happy, you're sad -- you can pull them into sadness, or let them pull you into happiness. The latter one is a better choice.
** Fourth Key: Having actually succeeded a few times in pulling ourselves together quickly convinces us that it can be done and starts to form a new habit pattern for responding to emotional disturbance.
So clearly the key is to get motivated enough to actually succeed at it a few times, such as by reading Gurudeva's teachings, you know, doing something which inspires you to change your habit pattern if you have a habit pattern of not pulling yourself together when you get upset. So having succeeded just a few times convinces you that it can be done and you start to form a new pattern, just from doing it a few times.
So there is a quote from Gurudeva:
"Feel your mind, body, and emotions, and know that you are the effulgent Being permeating through mind, which is all form; body, which you inhabit; and emotions that you either control or are controlled by."
So that is our thoughts there on emotions, something that we can all relate to. So do our emotions control us or do we control our emotions?
Then the second one here -- I guess it is probably worth saying a few words about. It is not self evident.
Do the experiences we encounter in life determine our state of mind or do we chose our state of mind independent of our experiences?
So what that means, it may be obscure but to explain it you use this example: What has to happen today for you to be happy? Does somebody have to treat you right? Do you have to make a sale if you are a salesman? Do you have to get an A at school if you are a student? You know, what are you expecting from life today and if it doesn't happen you won't be happy? You know, that is the way that we look at it. Or we start out the day happy and then someone mistreats us and makes us unhappy and we are unhappy the rest of the day because one person mistreated us.
Gurudeva's teachings are that we can control our mind, we don't have to let the experiences of life bounce us around like a ball, you know, here and there we are bouncing around and our state of mind we end up in is totally dependent upon how other people are treating us or how well things are going. No, we don't have to be like that. We can claim a state of mind, no matter if people are treating us well or mistreating us. You know, we can say, "I are going to be happy."
Gurudeva had a practice. He would come into the temple in the morning and in Shum he would say "behaishum" which in practice means "contentment". So it is a simple practice that can be done. You know, when you get yourself going in the morning, to decide, I am content, I am happy, and claim that state of mind. You know, and then, no matter what happens to you throughout the day, try and maintain that. Why not? Why not be the master of your mind? Why let life determine the state of consciousness that you are in when you can determine it? So that is the idea there -- instead of letting life determine how you feel today, **you** determine how you feel today and let life bounce off of you instead of bounce you around.
Thank you very much.
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