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About Wanting the Experience of Particular Emotions, Part 3

April 19, 2018

 

 

So far in this series I've set out in broad strokes the way we are caused to suffer as it relates to emotion. To review:

 

  1. Something happens.

  2. There is sensation/perception. As we travel through our life in this world, with all it's breathtaking diversity and complexity, we feel things, we sense things, and we perceive things. This is the way in which we are equipped to navigate through our surroundings. Something happens and we experience that on the level of sensation.

  3. Immediately conditioned mind attaches thought to sensation. These thoughts create meaning, and this meaning is backed by a narrative which is so compelling as to lure our attention away from sensation/perception and capture it in a story of some kind.

  4. The meaning/story elicits an "emotional" response. This response renders the story nearly unquestionable.

  5. Through this process identity is created. We become a "someone" who is having those thoughts, who is experiencing those emotions, and who is living in a story instead of in the present moment.

  6. (This is not a review, but in case you're interested...) The story causes us to act in conditioned ways that then reinforces the narrative and perpetuates the emotion and the identity that is having the emotion.

  7. (Also not a review, but the end of the process and the set-up for the whole thing happening all over again...) Self-hate beats us up for doing the behavior (that conditioned mind talked us into), which proves (supposedly) that we are not the person we should be.

 

Here's a simple example that (somewhat doctored) is based on a story someone told me the other day.

 

  1. A young man is walking down the sidewalk. Up ahead he sees a girl he has a crush on heading in his direction.

  2. He feels adrenalin rush through his body.

  3. The voices of conditioned mind say, "Talk to her! You have to talk to her! If you don't you're a total loser. But wait--if you talk to her she'll find out what a loser you are! Don't talk to her!..." and more along those lines.

  4. The young man feels desperate and terrified.

  5. He decides that he can't possibly talk to her. She's too pretty, and he's too much of a loser (that's the identity).

  6. He acts cool and looks the other way while she walks by.

  7. He beats himself up (self-hate beats him up) for being the loser he believes he is, and also for being a coward.

 

This is the process through which conditioned mind carries us away from our in-the-moment, meaningless experience, into a world of meaning and suffering. It's not pretty to look at (that example is cringeworthy, isn't it? Can anyone relate?), but we need to see it and see through it in order to be free.

 

Okay--so what do we do?

 

The answer is really, really simple. All we need to do, all day long every day, in order to be happy and at peace, is to drop the stories continually being generated within conditioned mind, and turn our attention back to sensation/perception. That's all there is to it (I say this with the understanding that this is the most difficult of all human things to do). If someone is aware of the stories and is unwilling to indulge stories, and if this person has a practice that provides him/her with the power to direct his/her attention, then that person will not suffer. I've been doing this work for a long time, and have worked with thousands of people as they acquired the tools of awareness practice, and even still it blows my mind that the solution to all our human problems is so simple. We need only drop the narrative happening in our minds, and just be here.

 

As this pertains to emotion, we need to question the reality of whatever "emotion" we are having. This is the same as to say we need to see into the illusory nature of the story we're being told about the experience we're having, and just simply have the experience without thought. This of course requires that we relinquish whatever "I" we believe ourselves to be in that moment; that's a tricky piece of business and awfully hard to do, especially when the emotion is really juicy and good (in either pleasant or painful sorts of ways), but it can be done with practice. We can learn to trust our natural, authentic response to things in the moment; to trust our adequacy to life; and to trust that Life will manage everything if we let go. We can learn to simply attend to the sensations in the body and the thoughts in the mind without attaching meaning to any of it. That's where the freedom lies.

 

I'll circle back now to the patient subscriber who raised the question that sparked this little series. Was that helpful, or did I miss the point of your question? If the latter, be sure to let me know and I'll give it another shot. Thank you so much for the inquiry. I love a bone like this to chew on, as you can probably tell.

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