Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the Week of March 28, 2022


Behind Emotions 

(Into the Stillness: 2)

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Disturbing emotions of any type overshadow our inner peace. But to stop the arising of a disturbing emotion, much less stopping one after it gains enough momentum to affect our thoughts and body, is no simple matter. The most effective approach is to make our inner peace, our equanimity, so broad and so deep that events that might spiral us down an emotional whirlpool do not send us into that abyss. Fortunately, we do not need to manufacture equanimity because it is innate, not only in us, but also in the world around us. Just as the silence has no boundaries, equanimity is timeless: whatever comes, equanimity is here.

Emotions arise in our body. Each emotion generates its own set of body states: a warmth here, a heaviness there, a different pattern of breathing, tension in a shoulder, abdomen in knots, tears on a cheek, downturned mouth, furrowed brow, wide eyes, stooped posture, red face, racing heart, barking voice, relaxed chest, and so on. By being in contact with our body, we are in contact with our emotions. By relaxing our body, changing our posture, engaging in some physical activity, or merely by being in touch with our emotions, we can change those emotions.

Emotions affect our mind, driving our thoughts to support the emotion. And thoughts sometimes cause an emotion, like when we remember an event that makes us angry or a different event that makes us happy. Generally though, thoughts and mental attention, no matter how well intentioned, do not possess the power to assuage a strong emotion in full flower.

Our body does have that power, in some cases. When an unnecessary, disturbing emotion catches us in its web, one hope is to relax our body. We need to break through that fog of emotion-driven thoughts, let go of the intention to justify the emotion even when it is utterly justified, and give weight to the intention to stop burning our energy in a wasteful and personally harmful emotion. Then we may be able to come more into our body, our whole body, first with simple awareness and then with the intention to relax our body, relaxing our face, our chest, our abdomen and the rest.

In relaxing our body, we start to touch the great silence that includes our body. In touching that silence, we go behind the disturbing emotion, toward a deeper emotion, toward peace and equanimity, the emotional counterpart of bodily silence. Like the silence, equanimity transcends boundaries and separateness; it allows connection. We let the boundless silence absorb the disturbance, absorb our ruminating justification of the emotion. We let the silence absorb us. Then we discover the peace and equanimity at the root of our emotional nature. Then we have made room for other sacred impulses to enter us: hope, faith, and love. The emotional space of equanimity allows the appropriate feeling response to emerge in any situation.

Some of us, though, have deep emotional wounds that frequently overtake and capture us during some period of our life, effectively blocking our access to peace. In such circumstances, we may need professional help to heal or manage those wounds. Then we may more readily find the equanimity in our core. The rare few can power their way through the worst events and their inner aftermath. The great majority of us, however, need help at times. Our compassion can extend to ourselves as well as to others.

For this week, please practice finding the emotional silence, the peace and equanimity. This does not mean indifference to yourself or to the world around you. Equanimity enables us to meet the trials of life without hiding or deflecting. It enables us not to spend our energy wastefully and to turn our emotions to positive action when appropriate.


     

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