Emotions are harmful if they keep us from what we really want. Very often jealousy destroys love. Very often fear destroys the ability to succeed. All emotions in a sense are harmful if they upset the mind. Therefore, what we need to understand is that emotions themselves are upset or ruffled feeling.
Feeling is the intuitive part of our nature, without which we really cannot understand anything clearly. The brain can see all sorts of possibilities on a logical level. It’s the intuition that says; yes this is what’s right for me, this is what I have to do. It’s the intuition that recognizes as a truth or a falsehood. That recognizes the validity of one situation and the invalidity of another. That feeling when it’s kept calm, is able to perceive clearly.
But it’s like the ripples, it’s like the surface of a lake when it has ripples on it. You don’t clearly see the image of the moon that’s up above. The emotions are the feeling quality in human nature with ripples in it.
Emotions always relate to likes and dislikes, the attraction and disaffection. What we want to do first of all is overcome those emotions which are particularly harmful to us. Then learn how to control all emotions so that we can always direct them in the best way possible. Emotions are a tremendous aid if we use them in a focused way. But there again that transcends the ordinary aspect of emotions and brings it into the level of feeling.
It’s been said for example that nothing great was ever performed without enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is a kind of emotion, but it’s a constructive emotion and it leads toward that level of calmness which finally can help us to distinguish between true enthusiasm and false enthusiasm. That is to say enthusiasm over things that are really good for us and enthusiasm over things that could in fact hurt us. The intuitive faculty is essential even in an emotional state that we bring the intuition to bear to know how to direct our enthusiasm.
How to direct our joy at meeting an old friend that we haven’t seen for years. How to direct it lovingly toward our wife or husband or children or friends. All of these are emotions, but at the same time they’re focused; they should become focused, otherwise they’ll be disruptive to even the good things that we try to do, very often by an excess of emotion in our relations with other people. For example, if we have a disturbed relationship – If we can keep it calm enough, so that the feeling can come through the intuitive faculty, there comes in then a sensitivity that makes it possible for us to always bring our emotional and feeling quality into a constructive light.
In the theater today especially, you find that actors and actresses seem to be almost judged as to how good they are by how much emotion they can display. Usually that emotion is a harmful emotion like anger, rage, jealousy, vindictiveness. I’ve often thought that the feelings are like a hose which if you pinch it, makes the water come stronger. If we pinch the heart with narrow feelings, with ungenerous feelings then we can get a lot of feeling, of a lot of emotion coming out, but the spray will be very fine. It won’t have any real power behind it. The other way to increase the flow of water through a hose is to turn on the faucet and this is what feeling does when the emotions become calm.
Now when we think of overcoming harmful emotions, we’re dealing with a vast array of qualities to work on. I’ve written a little book called “ Secrets of Overcoming Harmful Emotions”, and in this little book I deal with a large array of these things – Cynicism, irritation, jealousy, self-pity, anxiety, conceit, greed, anger, doubt, fear of failure, fear of death, resentment, fearfulness in general, negativity, depression, loneliness, insecurity, bitterness, hurt feelings, guilt, discontentment, low self-esteem, discouragement, unkind thoughts etc.
How can we deal with all those quickly? The truth is that all of these things come back to a central reality. In that central reality we find a key to it that it will help us to overcome all harmful emotions in one swoop. In the process, we come to understand what it is that we need to do generally in all kinds of situations, which we have not even contemplated.
The feeling quality is related to the heart. In the Indian yoga teachings, they say that behind the physical heart there is what is known as a chakra or center. It’s a neural center of energy. Related to each of these different chakras that are in the spine, this being only one of them, are certain aspects of consciousness.
In this one here is the feeling aspect, and therefore the emotions. When we can learn to work with that, we find that we can get right down to our own center. You notice how in all traditions; we hear the heart spoken of is related to love. You will hear someone say I’m suffering from a broken heart when her beloved leaves her, but you don’t hear them say I’m suffering from a hurt knee.
We all know that this is where the feeling is, when we feel deep love or deep hurt or anguish. The emotions are generated there. That’s why when you feel emotional, you often put your hand to your heart and breathe deeply and your chest heaves up and down. It’s this center, which is the center of feeling, and it’s understood to be that in all cultures.
I’m going to take you a little bit into esoterica here in a way, but I’ll try to translate it into terms that you can relate to your own actual experience; instead of asking you to believe something that’s far from anything you’ve experienced.
The emotional process is related to action and reaction to likes and dislikes. They come from the heart, they agitate the heart, but what is it specifically that gets the heart agitated in a physiological way. You’ve noticed when you feel good about something that you tend to inhale, you tend to sit up straight. There seems to be a sort of a rising energy and consciousness in your body. You will find people looking up when they feel good, looking down when they feel downcast. We even use words descriptive of rising emotion and a lowering emotion.
When I’m talking about harmful emotions, basically what I’m talking about is those emotions which bring the mind down. Bring us into a low feeling, feeling depressed and feeling downcast. Everything that relates to a downward movement of energy because that takes the energy away from the brain.
Takes it away from the will and renders us virtually incapable of doing things. People for example in a state of deep depression just don’t feel that they can do anything, they feel their will to be paralyzed. Whereas anger, being a negative emotion, still can generate willpower to a large extent, yet it also paralyzes willpower. People, unless they have their anger under some control, end up just sort of spluttering.
There is a relationship between this upward and downward feeling of energy and a movement of energy in the spine. It moves in the sympathetic nervous system. I’m taking you to a very ancient tradition in the science of yoga which as you probably know comes from India. But whenever the energy rises in the spine in what is known as the Ida nerve channel there is a corresponding rising of consciousness. Whenever there is a descending movement in the spine, in the Pingala nerve channel, there is a downward movement of consciousness. These two need to be balanced. In the Bhagavad-Gita it said that you need to pour the Prana as the rising energy into the Apana which is the descending. The Apana into the Prana to balance the two out. When these are balanced then you can achieve enlightenment.
Yoga has been described in the ancient treatises, in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, as Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha. Yoga is the neutralization of all the vortices of feeling. You get your feeling desiring something and it moves in a vortex. So, you’ve got two things going here, in upward and downward movement. Then vortices that bind that movement, hold it locked, committed to a particular line of desire, until it’s released and that it can flow. But it’s only when these all become neutralized that the mind becomes so still that it can reflect the highest realities and clearly understand any reality that is presented before it.
You notice little children; they are much more emotional. They haven’t nearly the control usually that adults have over their emotions and perhaps I should add that some people are 50 and 60 and not yet adult. But anyway, we see it particularly in little children that when they find something that they really like they jump up and down, they just can’t control this energy that’s rising.
Then when they feel unhappy and they’re weeping about something, the energy is going down. Because it’s on the surface of their consciousness in their reaction to things; action and reaction. All of this is indicative of this ancient truth that was discovered by great sages, analyzing the consciousness of man, and seeing how that consciousness operates in the body and how we can use the body to bring harmony on that part of ourselves which is more difficult to observe. Our thoughts, our feelings, the subtle inner side.
Things that can help you to overcome harmful emotions are first those things which will lift your consciousness. Try specifically to lift it up, sit upright all the time. Don’t ever sit halfway up your spine on a sofa. Always try to keep your spine straight, your shoulder blades somewhat together, your chest up, look up, try to smile more and be in that attitude of always ready to do what has to be done.
“I am awake and ready”, telling yourself that every morning when you wake up. Repeat it, walk in place, and say it. It will help you to generate that thought more strongly. Even when you stand, try to stand more on the balls of the feet, less back on the heels. Everything about you, try to keep it in an upward feeling. Another thing is always to try to keep your will strong. Don’t allow it to fall into negativity. Try to learn to say yes to life rather than no. Let your first reaction to anything be “yes!” and then figure out how you can make it happen. In this way you’ll develop that kind of strong positive willpower that will automatically lift the emotions, the feeling quality upward and as it rises, it automatically moves toward the more spiritual centers in your body, up in the brain and at the point between the eyebrows. In that way automatically it will become calm. And automatically our emotions even if there are still emotion and not intuition, will gradually turn toward calmness and therefore toward intuition.
Intuition is quite simply calm feeling and when you can apply calm feeling to things you can understand things, even without having any rational reason for understanding it; you just know this is the way things are.
I remember a couple that I saw in a car many years ago, one of them was married to somebody else and they just happened to be talking and I got the very clear intuition that they would end up being married together and she would leave her husband. It wasn’t something I wanted to think, and I pushed it out of my mind. For some time, several years after that I kept thinking why did I have such a clear feeling but it hasn’t happened. Then suddenly it did happen, just as I’ve known it would.
I remember somebody whose voice I heard on the radio once and I didn’t know who it was, and I’ve never heard the voice of this person. It was Frank Laubach whose book I’d love, called Letters of a Modern Mystic. I heard this voice on the radio and I was about to turn it off because I was looking for some music, but I thought, wait a minute, that sounds like Frank Laubach. How could I know that it was he? A few minutes later the announcer said “You’ve been listening to the Reverend Frank Laubach”.
This is the intuitive quality that we all have when the feelings are calm and unprejudiced. If you will take whatever feeling you get in your heart, if you get a harmful emotion, don’t try to think your way through. Because reason always follows feeling, so leave reason out of the picture don’t try to understand. Try to redirect your energy then true understanding will come. Until then you may even think you understand but it’ll be a wrong understanding, you’ll see things distortedly.
Try first to calm the feeling in the heart. One way that can help you is to do some deep slow breathing, bringing all the energy focused here. Then breathe in and direct that energy because you see the upward and downward movement of energy in the spine are related to the breath. This is related to a great science of Kriya yoga, which I’m not going to be able to go into detail today.
It deals with the relationship between breath and this movement in the spine. You’ve noticed when you feel good about something you don’t only look up, and feel an upward rising but you also inhale. And when you feel badly you sigh, you exhale. The upward movement is related to inhalation, the downward to exhalation.
So, one thing you can do is inhale and feel that you’re drawing all the energy up and focusing it at the point between the eyebrows and just burning away any negative emotion. Then when you exhale feel that you are expelling all the negativity, all the downward feeling. Taking away those mental toxins; shoving them out of your system, throwing them out. And then become focused within, and in that inner peace.
You will find that this simple psychophysiological practice will help with any emotion that you may be dealing with. Be it jealousy or anger or fear try to get calm first, don’t react quickly. It would be good even to leave the room if there’s something that’s upsetting you, do some deep breathing calm your mind direct your energy upward then deal with it when your energy’s moving upward toward calmness that’s the safe time.
Otherwise “The mouth is like a cannon” Yogananda used to say and the words that we shoot out of it are like bullets that can destroy many things. Friendships of life, long-standing success, security, everything in life can be ruined by harmful emotions. But by the same token everything good can be achieved by directing those emotions in a positive way and particularly toward the calm feeling that is intuition.
Joy to you.