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Lions Roar : Nov 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2007 67 arise and pass away, we begin to see their essentially empty na- ture. They arise as little energy bubbles in the mind, rather than as reified expressions of a self. Just as there was no all-powerful wizard behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz, the only power our thoughts have is the power we give them. All thoughts come and go. We can learn to be mindful of them and not be carried away by the wanderings of our mind. With mindfulness, we can exercise wise discern- ment: “Yes, I will act on this one; no, I’ll let that one go.” WORKING WITH EMOTIONS In the same way, we can train ourselves to be mindful of emotions, those powerful energies that sweep over our bodies and minds like great breaking waves. We experience such a wide range of emotions, sometimes within quite a short period of time: anger, excitement, sadness, grief, love, joy, compassion, jealousy, de- light, interest, boredom. There are beautiful emotions and dif- ficult ones—and for the most part, we are caught up in their intensity and the stories that give rise to them. We easily become lost in our own melodramas. It’s illuminat- ing to drop down a level and look at the energy of the emotion it- self. What is sadness? What is anger? Seeing more deeply requires looking not at the emotion’s “story,” but at how the emotion man- ifests in our minds and bodies. It means taking an active interest in discovering the very nature of emotion. The America monk Ajahn Sumedho expressed this kind of interest and investigation very well. He suggested that in a mo- ment of anger or happiness, we simply notice: “Anger is like this,” “Happiness is like that.” Approaching our emotional life in this way is quite different than drowning in the intensity of feel- ings or being caught on the rollercoaster of our ever-changing moods. To do this takes mindfulness, attention, and concentra- tion. We need to take care, though, not to misunderstand this practice and end up suppressing emotions or pushing them aside. The meditative process is one of complete openness to feelings. From the meditative perspective, the question is, “How am I relating to this emotion?” Am I completely identified with it or is the mind spacious enough to feel the grief, the rage, the joy, the love without being overwhelmed? NOV 64-69.indd 67 NOV 64-69.indd 67 8/29/07 2:19:45 PM 8/29/07 2:19:45 PM