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Sunday, August 16, 2020

Dealing with feelings and emotions


In Hinduism, we are taught to meditate to a point at which we become witness (sakshi) to our own thoughts. It is part of gnana marga to merge with the divine.  A witness is an observer and a reporter. He does not judge. At that level, the mind is the subject and, also an object of perception. The idea is to reach a point at which there is only the Subject.

Buddhism expanded on it and applied it to living in this world. Starting with Buddha himself, Buddhist monks developed methods to deal with human feelings, emotions and “mental formations”. They said “when feelings arise, just observe them without judgement . Do not fight them. Do not get carried away by them either”. That is being a witness to our thoughts, but with a different purpose.

Buddhist teachings advise us to acknowledge the feelings and emotions. Instead of fleeing from them, name them, experience them without judgment, and even embrace them. If you do so, you realize that “you are not afraid”, but “fear is in you”. You are able to see fear as apart from you. You are able to see that fear is not controlling you but that you are in control of fear by observing it, naming it and looking at it as a witness rather than as a participant.

Behavioral psychologists have started using this approach. In fact, I heard Mr. Tristan Harris say the same solution in dealing with social media which control our lives. He says: “Instead of saying I am a victim”, take the approach “I am being victimized”. That may or may not be true, but makes you think differently. Who is in control?

Guided meditation exercises which teach us how to deal with our emotions and feelings, accepting their presence without judgment will be helpful in dealing with emotions such as fear, anxiety, sadness etc. Living without fear, anxiety, anger is a bliss by itself.

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