Eastern Psychology

Many people are controlled by their emotions, whether they realize it or not. Emotions have of course a function, but all too often we think that emotions are telling us the truth about ourselves and the world. So it is not. Emotions can trigger thoughts that further influence our actions. Sudden impulses and unpredictable emotions can thus have far too much influence; if we do not rally acknowledge that we are not our emotions.

How many kinds of emotions are there?

Apart from specialists in the field, the average person might perhaps take a hazardous guess of close to 20 or 30 emotions with which we commonly associate. Did you know that there are as many as 90 definitions of emotions? – as disclosed by Robert Plutchik in his American Scientist article entitled “The Nature of Emotions”.

In his book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle defines emotion as “our body’s reaction to our mind” in amplified thought pattern(s) that consist of energy that is overpowering (pg 22, 36). Plutchik likens them to “feedback processes”.

Imagine this — the workaholic mind pottering away incessantly – fueled by its depository of past personal circumstances / experiences as well as things or experiences it desires in the future. Atop that, pepper in stealth emotions that have, knowingly or unknowingly, been on the simmer; then, factor in the limitations of language and one has at hand, the ingredients for one’s emotional cocktail mix of the day. Knowing this information, 90 is very plausible.

The Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion provides the names of some of the more primary emotion dimensions

Wheel of emotion

 

A basic underlying emotion – Fear

Fears are emotions that occur in response to threats that are real or imagined, mind-perceived ones. In the former case, think of extreme sports like free-fall parachuting or rock climbing from which Fearmost would instinctively coil. The latter consists of psychological mind-perceived fears such as worry, anxiety, tension, nervousness, depression, addiction, and phobia, which are much more complex to unseat. Oftentimes unless their underlying problems are accurately defined, their solutions are often hit-or-miss, deluding their seekers’ of tangible answers.

Tolle mentions that psychological fear is fear that is not associated with any real immediate risk but one which constitutes a “part of our basic underlying emotional pain” (pg 35). Emotional pain arises from very human false self or ego-manifested time-related “anxiety gaps”. They often revolve around worrying over the lack of — money, cars, clothes, recognition, status, love, happiness, self-esteem; bitterness over life circumstances, how they wish it had been better; what they wish they had done or not done, and the list goes on. There is a lot more going on behind these scenes, e.g. the ego, the pain-body etc, to be explored in future articles, with Eckhart’s help.

How to tune in and stay in balance?

development of empathyCan we control our emotions? Would it not be great to be able to access the anxiety off/on button to switch off the source that feeds one’s many insatiable wanting? No more worries and stress over things, circumstances, people but instead right to baby mode i.e. just with basic needs to be fed, washed, clothed, groomed, attended to and put to bed. Improbable as it may sound, to one’s inherent mind -filled and –controlled person, it is very doable.

Babies with their wide-eyed and wholesome manners, are always stress-free and operate very much in the present moment all of the time. In nature’s animal s kingdom, squirrels, deer, bears, tigers, lions etc gather / munch / hunt when hungry, eat, sleep and then wander around with hardly any stress apart from when predators or hunters pursue them. Thus, they live in the moment too, but can gear into action should danger arise.

Spiritual teachers and leaders alike, do not seem bothered with their lack of belongings or things. They involve themselves in relieving the stresses of the world but they themselves seem psychologically unaffected by the physical and mental suffering they try to relieve. Although the doctrines they follow differ, a common characteristic seems to be a call for the stilling of, the almost round-the-clock on-the-job minds of their followers, through prayer, meditation, chanting, and the like.

Despite the many challenging poses and sequences in various branches of yoga, its practitioners seem to be able to do them with great ease. The underlying formula to doing the poses is just to be mindful, and, present in the moment. To start, beginners will learn to relax and quiet the mind by purposefully paying attention to each inhale and exhale of their breath. Their practitioners will agree the minute they let their minds take charge,is when their poses or sequences go awry.

 

Take charge or take back charge of your life

In the Internet age and its ubiquitous presence, it is harder to switch off the dysfunctional needy mind but Eckhart Tolle has given his readers many simple and practical ways in which to do so, a few of which are mentioned here. Firstly, he suggests that one pays attention and observe the emotions in oneself as oppose to watching others. For example, if Molly has an argument with husband Jack, she should not focus her attention on what his demeanor is but rather, to watch her own manner in the episode.

Different emotionsSecondly, to learn to accept the “is-ness” or the current condition, state or circumstance, as it is, without fretting over why it should not be this way. Accept it for what it is and then take whatever action is necessary. Let’s say, Jane is about to lose her home or job because of the recession, she should accept that which is happening and take actions appropriate to salvaging from the circumstances. Stressing and worrying over it equates to wanting things to be different i.e. non-acceptance of the now situation. In fact, by being present and connected with what is, she will tap into even more creative ways to handle the situation.
Although time is factored into human lives for practical purposes, the dysfunctional mind is solely time-related and always flip-flops between clinging to the remorse, anger, annoyance, happiness of the past, or, the anticipation or apprehension about the future. That is how it sustains itself. Each moment the dysfunctional mind is forced to be in the now, depletes it of control over the person, while transmuting that power or energy to the deeper essence or being within.

One will know how and if these techniques work by putting them to the test. It takes practice to un-train old traits but if done correctly and consistently, one will shift from merely existing and surviving life, to, embracing and living life in all the brilliance it has to offer.

 

Bibliography

Plutchik, R. (July, 2001). The Nature of Emotions. American Scientist 89.4: p 344

Tolle, Eckhart (2005). The Power of Now. Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, London.

Eckhart Tolle tells us how incessant and often disturbing thought patterns bungle our minds and prevent us to live more consciously. Then he explains how emotions reinforces negative thoughts and occupying too much mental energy thus wasted on unnecessary “mental noise” ad destructive emotions. By reading Tolle’s teachings, one realizes that it is often practical and prudent to act on our thoughts, but other times it is enough just to accept, recognize and observe the thoughts going through our minds without buying into them or act. This insight is valuable, especially for a western mind, which all too often loses his temper in traffic.

Emotion and thinking

In his book “The Power of Now” (ed 2005), Eckhart Tolle writes about how incessant and often dysfunctional thinking, clouds our minds and prevents us from living more consciously (pg 12). He goes on to define how emotions are “amplified and energized thought pattern(s)” that consist of energy that is overpowering (pg 22). They tend to go hand in hand and have a way of feeding each other that can be self-destructive.

Mental noiseMany, in general, would hardly view emotions and thinking as being harmful or even self-destructive. Is that not part of our in-built system upon which we primarily rely on to survive and function in this world? Upon further reading into Tolle’s teachings, one realizes that at certain times, it is sensible and practical to act on one’s thoughts but at other points, it is enough to just accept, recognize and observe without buying into them. Many famous athletes, who win championship after championship despite seemingly insurmountable odds, often refer to how they did it by staying focused and “in the zone” i.e. by being mindful and aware of what is happening as oppose to reacting to mind-filled pressures.

 

Out of the zone

Some practical examples to which one might relate Tolle’s teachings are deliberated next. How often has one witnessed, or contributed to, road rage and other forms of dangerous driving? Many drivers will agree they have their fair share of blame, perhaps brought on by lack of sleep; unfamiliarity with roads, careless or incompetent driving, running late, and the list goes on. The topic of dangerous driving is an area to which almost everyone can relate, be it to a greater or lesser degree. Can one perhaps learn from these potentially harmful and negative experiences on another level?

Emotions and road rageImagine this incident, whereby one is driving along a two-lane one-way road, with an SUV in the left lane, moving along a little haphazardly. Then, somewhere along that stretch of road, a Mercedes Benz joins in on the right lane.    The SUV driver happens to be talking on his cell-phone and with only one hand at the wheel, his car veers into the right lane now and again, much to the consternation of the Mercedes driver. Before you know it, they slide down their windows and accusing fingers are a’waving at each other with hinted threats of “I am going to ram into you”. Rising tension and explosive emotions emanates from the side-by-side vehicles. Fortunately, for themselves and other users on that road, at the next T-junction, they take different routes.

Another category of equally prevalent road incidences are those associated with drunken driving or speed racing after a night out, wherein drivers are not in control of their senses. A dare here and a challenge there, egged on by their well-meaning but equally drunk companions, before you know it, they will be ramming their feet at the pedals and sealing their fates. Many a heart-wrenching stories have occurred because of such decisions, where those responsible were disconnected (even for split seconds) with their conscious mind.

Anger 2The trauma thereafter may bring untold stress, injury and disruption not just to the lives of the victims but to all who are near and dear to them as well. A worst case scenario would be where they go from comatose into semi-vegetative states of limited cognitive function i.e. severely diminished awareness and abilities to recognize, perceive, reason, and to judge, requiring round-the-clock specialized care. Consequently, many lives become forever changed. Although too late in the day to ask, but, at the same time one wonders if given a second chance, what could have been done different to save the day?

What if?

Let us ponder a few questions here, with the help of Eckhart’s teachings :

With reference to the first, suppose the Mercedes driver just kept a safe distance, noting the SUV’s license plates, and simply passing that along to the police. Would that not have saved him a lot of needless angst? His actions are however quite understandable, being a citizen of this fast paced world — where one can quickly and independently get things done with “a click of a button” – the reactive reflex action to want to teach the SUV driver a good lesson right now instantly kicks in, naturally and sometimes, dangerously so.

development of empathyWhere drunken driving is concerned, if drivers were to take just a few precious seconds to weigh out the state they are in; be more aware of what they are getting themselves into; and, instead of engaging their clouded emotions, to just let them “fall by the way-side”, they will be acting with their very best interests at heart.

 

Get in and stay in the zone with Eckhart Tolle´s philosophy

Are we our minds? If we are, why would we put ourselves in harm’s way as in the above examples? Is the mind not the very tool we rely on, day in and out, to survive and thrive in the world? Does it actually have flaws and dysfunctions, to which one might be oblivious? How does one ensure it functions in a way that nurtures us as oppose to forsake us? If given the choice, would human beings allow themselves to be enslaved to a tool that is flawed? How can we take charge and be in the driving seat instead?

Eckhart TolleHuman beings are magnificent creations in itself, whose physical, mental and psychological make-up have been, and continue to be, scrutinized, dissected and analyzed. Why not befriend and extend the magnificence that is within? Eckhart Tolle, through his own awakening, shares the answers to the above questions and more. One has to read, understand, and practice his philosophy in order to experience the shift that will unseat the archaic thinking to which we have been inaccurately accustomed to i.e. that we are our minds. It is miraculous how one can move into the underlying realm of truth so simply, and to live our true lives, fearlessly. The reason why his philosophy resonates and reverberates so strongly, all around the world, is because it speaks a universal truth, which just touches lives, regardless of race, religion and culture.

Eckhart Tolle is certainly a remarkable man. In this video he is talking about handling anger and destructive thoughts to live more freely.

Have you ever wondered why happiness is so elusive and no-matter how much you zip around, work and accumulate things; happiness always seems to be unattainable. Even if we do manage to feel happy; it is only momentarily and before we know it we find ourselves down in the doldrums of fear, doubt and anxiety once again. So what is the key to lasting happiness? Is it achievable in a lifetime? Is it necessary for us to spend a decade in the monasteries in Tibet or the ashrams in India?

The full story

The ego fabricates stories in order to keep us a step away from being happy and at peace. The non-verbal scheme of the ego includes convincing us that we will attain happiness and peace in the future when we get “this” or achieve “that”. It also tries to sell us the idea that we can not be at peace because of something that has transpired and therefore cannot be changed.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-open-minded-man-hearts-inside-image20937931True happiness and deep peace has everything to do with embracing reality – the moment of Now. This is what Buddha called the “suchness of life” and opposition to this “suchness” or “IS-ness” is the the primary function of the ego. A plethora of various forms of psychological suffering begin to crop up when the ego succeeds in displacing the mind from its throne – the present moment –  doing this is what fuels the ego which then creates more suffering and negativity. It’s a deadly downward spiral and almost all of us are trapped in it. The ego operates from behind the curtains and its primary strategy is always to keep its host oblivious to the tricks its pulling on us. Think for a second and ask yourself; how many times have you observed people doing exactly what they condemn others for doing? How many times have you tried to point that out but have only been met with denial, clever justifications, anger and tricky arguments? On a grander scale; have you noticed that this phenomenon is not only limited to individuals –it applies to groups, political parties, religions, governments and corporations alike?

To put an end to this vicious cycle of perpetuated unhappiness, you have to take total responsibility of what is going on within NOW – forget about everything else and simply ask yourself, “what am I feeling NOW” then be totally attentive and become aware of the negativity/unhappiness within you – also notice the voices that justify this unhappiness. Awareness equals psychological freedom and unawareness equals rigid identification with thoughts and emotions. Not being aware of the mechanics of your inner state is like falling asleep while driving at high speeds – becoming aware gives you the power to retake responsibility and to choose happiness and peace over the vicious control dramas of the ego. Freedom from the ego is not something that will happen in the “future”, its “now”.  To quote Eckhart Tolle, “You cannot find yourself in the past or future. The only place where you can find yourself in the NOW. Spiritual seekers look for self realization or enlightenment in the future. To be a seeker implies that you need the future. If this is what you believe, it becomes true for you. You will need time until you realize that you don’t need time to be who you are.” 1

The core of the ego and it’s cunning devices

Fear and greed-based thoughts disguised as “self” is at the very core of what ego is – this is the mind made “me” which is always looking for ways (real or imagined) by which it can be “more” – this also explains the ego’s insane addiction to the future. This also explains why the ego is hell-bent on looking at the present moment simply as a means to an end – and when the end is achieved the ego comes up with another end… The ego habitually uses the tools of separation and conflict to enhance its image and to strengthen its identity (this is the “us” vs. “them” syndrome). Statements such as “believers vs non-believers” are now almost cliches – haven’t we all seen nations, religions, corporations and tribes draw their sense of identity by opposing another group of people? Food for thought: who would the believers be without the non-believers?

 

The value in being self-aware and in the “Now”

Being compassionately aware of this trickery will trigger the dawn of a deeper, indestructible, un-attached and peaceful presence which can loosely be called the higher Self. This awareness is free from the trappings of the external world. Its far more intelligent. Its joy is unconditional. Its peace is deep and ever-lasting.

Hourglass on the duneOperate from this level of self awareness while going about your day to day activities and drop the idea of using the present moment as a means to an end. Make the “doing” more important than the expected results of the “doing”. The future never arrives – our lives are always NOW. Living in this way means that you have accepted the suchness of life and have understood the futility in arguing with whatever arises in the present moment.

I am not my thoughts, emotions, sense perceptions, and experiences. I am not the content of my life. I am Life. I am the space in which all things happen. I am consciousness. I am the Now. I Am.” 2                                         – Eckhart Tolle.

 

Arriving at the truth by peeling away all falsities

It is definitely worth pointing out that a real spiritual teacher will not be interested in selling you his beliefs, rules, intellectual theories and ideas. Because the real essence of happiness (and even spirituality) has nothing to do with thoughts, words and huge fortresses of beliefs and opinions; but it has everything to do with the formless, ever-present, impartial, and still truth withing you. Therefore the job of the spiritual person is not to add onto your existing thoughts, beliefs and opinions; but rather, to remove all falsities that separate you from that truth within – actually coming to this inner truth (as opposed to only intellectualizing about it) is what brings deep inner peace and true joy and happiness.

However, words have their role to play as well. Words are capable of pointing one towards the divine stillness and truth within – like signposts point us towards our geographic destinations. But beware of the fatal mistake of confusing the signposts for the destination. Unlike ordinary thoughts and words which say “look at me”; truth-bearing thoughts and words will always imply, “look beyond me”.
The destination is, always has been and always will be, within us.

In the words of Eckhart Tolle, “Most people spend their entire life imprisoned within the confines of their own thoughts. They never go beyond a narrow, mind-made, personalized sense of self that is conditioned by the past. In you, as in each human being, there is a dimension of consciousness far deeper than thought. It is the very essence of who you are. We may call it presence, awareness, the unconditioned consciousness. In the ancient teachings, it is the Christ within, or your Buddha nature.Finding that dimension frees you and the world from the suffering you inflict on yourself and others when the mind-made “little me” is all you know and runs your life. Love, joy, creative expansion, and lasting inner peace cannot come into your life except through that unconditioned dimension of consciousness.” 3

Eckhart Tolle is basically a “spiritual advisor” who currently has little influence on Western psychology. Yet his Eastern-inspired philosophy of life is an important supplement to the mental health profession, and many of his books are important tools in terms of self-development and mental balance. Today psychology begins to get inspiration from several of the great wisdom traditions, and Tolles philosophy is perhaps crucial for the modern human who suffer from stress, worries, spinning thoughts, mental noise, high standards of efficiency and little knowledge about the real joy of life.

 

Bibliography and references:

1 Author: Echhart Tolle . Stillness speaks, New World Library, August 2003 ISBN 1-57731-400-X  . Chapter 5

2 Author: Echhart Tolle . Stillness speaks, New World Library, August 2003 ISBN 1-57731-400-X . Chapter 4

3 Author: Echhart Tolle . Stillness speaks, New World Library, August 2003 ISBN 1-57731-400-X . Chapter 2

0 1714

What exactly is the ego? The Eastern wisdom traditions assume that the ego is a mental construct that constantly need confirmation in order to feel whole and valuable. Most people identify with a little ego that strives for status, material goods, more money or other things to assert itself. Strong identification with material belongings, physical attributes, status, power, wealth, or lack thereof; or even a mental position – “I am right” – is the ego at work. Ego leads you away from the moment, looking for intended happiness in the future, but during this persistent hike, you may miss out on life itself. Can we free ourselves form the destructive forces in ego?

Facets of mr/ms/mrs Ego

Can you tell what kind of ego you have? Do all humans have it? Do we need it to survive and thrive in this world? Are we born with it and how does it evolve over time?

Working metal gears inside businessman head in concrete wall backgroundIf one pays attention – be it at work, school, college, out shopping, at the movies, on vacation — one will easily catch glimpses of the ego in others. And, with practice and open-mindedness, it will be easy to recognize it in oneself. The ego covers the spectrum from that of the all-puffed up, glaringly loud ones to those who cower and cringe from the lack of self-esteem and lots of varying versions in between them.

In ordinary terms, ego is defined as “one’s image of oneself”, “inflated feeling of pride in your superiority to others” and “consciousness of your own identity”.

One will instantly recognize it in feuding parties, phrases like, “Let me show him who calls the shots”; “No one will ever get away with double crossing me that way again!” or “So they think I am not good enough for their company, let me teach them a thing or two.”. Then there are situations where one person “feels unworthy of another’s company because I am not pretty enough, not good enough”.

They tend to either express the speaker’s inflated feelings of superiority or deflated feelings of inferiority, and both stem from the egoic mind. The truth is we become what we think. So, if we think we are superior to our fellow beings, we self-crown ourselves as such, but, that crown will easily be toppled when others see through the perceived façade that the mind wants to possess. In the process, however, there might be untold damage that will arise before the truth emerges.

 

Digging into ego`s roots

Everyone comes into this world as infants with clean slates. This slate then gets written on by one’s nurturers – usually parents to begin with, then family, relatives, friends, peers, etc throughout one’s formative years. He or she is instilled with their values and principles, which have in turn been molded by their personal experiences – at the familial, cultural and societal levels. In turn, the value systems they hold, stem from beliefs and practices of their individual and collective, physical, thinking world.

development of empathyIn his book, “A New Earth”, Eckhart Tolle talks about how a child starts to identify themselves with their own names, then with who their parents are and then their toys i.e. “this is my mommy, my daddy, my teddy”. Young children often get defensive when another child plays with one of their toys, they get worked up and obsess about wanting to play with that very same toy.

As one grows up, the identification with toys is replaced by humans clinging or obsessing with how educated, wealthy, powerful, famous they are. Tolle refers to the ego as the “false self” – “false” because human beings perceive their worth or value primarily on the narrow basis of their physical, materialistic lives. This is no fault of the individual as that has been the way it was, throughout the centuries and continues to be, in the human, thinking and unconscious world. This suits the ego perfectly as it gets full control over the mind, to the exclusion of total consciousness, in which spirituality abounds.

 

Analogies

Let’s delve into a few practical analogies to shed light on Eckhart’s teachings. So, e.g. Adam, who has been brought up by his drunken and abusive dad, perceives that his dysfunctional past has been the root cause of the majority of his life failings. Whenever he is unsuccessful at anything, he feels dejected and mentally regurgitates on the bad cards he has been dealt with, in his life.

gear in head human thinking conceptHis all-consuming ego stokes the fire that keeps his past circumstances, very much alive, albeit in his mind. Although there is nothing he can do about what is essentially history, little does he realize that his ego is happily sapping away his energy from tapping into the depth of his creative being. If only he was aware that the thinking mind is but only a fraction of his total consciousness.

Then there is Fred, who although faced with similar life challenges, does not delve into debilitating mind games of his past. Instead, he accepts his failure, directs his energy at capitalizing on the lessons learnt and seeks out possibilities, even from his fallen stance. He neither strongly identifies with his past nor his previous failures. He does not allow the time-locked ego distract him from what is at hand and what needs to be actioned.

 

What happens when one is freed from Ego`s hold?

Eckhart Tolle with OprhaIn 2008, well-known US talk show host Oprah Winfrey hosted a global webcast seminar with Eckhart Tolle, for her book club selection and his book, “A New Earth”. They discussed the book at length, as well as answered questions from callers, the world over. In it, he made the thought provoking remark that if enlightenment was according to one’s material belongings, then the world would have reached enlightenment (many times over) with its deluge of shopping malls. One can sense that in fact, the world is far from being joy-filled in the truest sense; psychological suffering is far from being diminished.

Strong identification with material belongings, physical attributes, status, power, wealth, or lack thereof; or even a mental position – “I am right” – is the ego at work. One can strive towards a more comfortable lifestyle or state one’s viewpoint clearly but one need not latch on to them for dear life, wherein it takes over one’s being.

Whether it is a life challenge, an investigation, an experiment, or a questionnaire, if it is based on inaccurate evidence, the results will be flawed. Similarly, if one run their lives based on illusional ‘facts’, they would be operating at sub-standard levels, thus depriving themselves the opportunity of living the essence of who they are, and which life openly offers.

Eckhart invites all to learn to recognize the illusions that the ego often creates in order to be able to reduce the damage it is capable of creating. Just the act of recognizing it will lead to its eventual exposition and to the surface, the reality, miracle and depth of who we truly are (p 28). It is as simple as that.

Bibliography

Tolle, Eckhart (2005). A New Earth: Awakening to your life’s purpose. Penguin Group, New York.

Many of our thoughts are automatic and often repeat themselves without our conscious influence. It creates mental noise and causes distress and depression according to Eckhart Tolle. What then, is the key to mental balance? Well, a number of outstanding professionals claim that openness and attention is the key to freedom of spinning thoughts and existential anxiety.

Mental static and the rise of “I”

It’s worth noticing that the majority of our thoughts are automatic and repetitive – it almost seems as if thinking happens to us; rather than us actually thinking. This is what’s loosely termed as “compulsive thinking” and if we observe ourselves (and others) closely enough, we would immediately notice that we are seduced by this mental static – we march around, meeting people, getting things done and acquiring things as if our peace of mind and happiness depended on it. But has acquiring things, earning recognition and scaling the power hierarchies ever rewarded anyone with lasting happiness? Our history books, story books and religious scriptures are brimming with metaphoric and literal arguments against the idea of attaching peace of mind and happiness with the material world – yet we still somehow cannot stop ourselves from being constantly seduced by our automatic and repititive thoughts that which demand that we run faster and faster on the treadmill of life.

Our mistake seems to stem from the fact that we identify ourselves with our minds and the noise that our minds create – we confuse the “possessor” with the “possessed”. This is the birth of what is called “ego” – a false self which is a very pale substitute of the real self. The weight or thickness of the ego (false self) is directly proportional to the degree to which we identify with it. Hence, the amount of suffering we go through is directly proportionate to the weight and thickness of our ego. Its worth noting that our consciousness is far wider, deeper and vaster than our day-to-day mental static; but by being scammed into believing that we “are” the static; we open the floodgates to all sorts of psychological and spiritual dysfunctions.

The thickness and density of the ego differs from person to person and from time to time. Where some people are always trapped in the control dramas of their egos; others enjoy brief periods of freedom – this is when they are being creative or engaging in self-less acts of sharing and giving. Those who are permanent prisoners of their own out-of-control minds are, in essence, cut-off from their very own true self and; as a result, these people will usually come off as fake. As a way forward, these people should start off with making a genuine attempt to be more aware of their chattering minds and its seductive trance on them – this self awareness will pay rich dividends in bouts of mental peace as it will begin to awaken the still, calm, silent, deep and compassionate consciousness that’s all encompassing enough to drown out the noise of the ego. This all encompassing consciousness is the real Self.
This is how Eckhart Tolle describes this phenomenon, “You are cut off from Being(the all encompassing real Self) as long as your mind takes up all your attention. When this happens – and it happens continuously for most people… The mind absorbs all your consciousness and transforms it into mind stuff. You cannot stop thinking. Compulsive thinking has become a collective disease. Your whole sense of who you are is then derived from mind activity. Your identity, as it is no longer rooted in Being, becomes a vulnerable and ever-needy mental construct, which creates fear as the predominant underlying emotion”. 1

Understanding the mechanism of emotions

Now that we have some insight into how the our mental chatter gets entangled with a false sense of “self” to give rise to the ego; its also important to understand that emotions are triggered when the body reacts to this mental chatter.
The body operates and is regulated by its own organizing intelligence. This is the same organizing intelligence that perfectly and independently regulates the blood flow, the digestive system and the respiratory system. This is also the same organizing intelligence that immediately switches the body to “fight or flight” mode by infusing it with unbounded energy in the face of immediate danger – as a result one would feel fear, anger and a possible plethora of other primordial responses. These are prime examples of the body reacting to immediate threats in the “external environment” by temporarily taking over complete control. This is what can loosely be called the body’s instinctive response.
But, on the other hand, an “emotion” is the body’s reaction to a “thought” (and not to an immediate external threat). The body cannot distinguish between a thought (mental static) and a real, physical threat. So, you could be sitting in the comfort of your drawing room and thinking fear-based thoughts; but your palms will begin to get sweaty, your heart will beat faster and your muscles will tense-up as if the threat is real and in the physical environment. The bad news is that since the perceived threat is only because of mental chatter, the built-up of energy in the body has no means of release and therefore gets pent up in the body and turns toxic – this then causes an imbalance in the smooth and natural functioning of the body. Result: disease, sickness and chronic ailments galore.
Just as the ego strengthen itself by investing the mental chatter with a sense of Self (the “I am the noise in my head” syndrome); it also strengthens itself by identifying with unexamined emotions. At times the mind will think a though, the body will react in the form of an emotion and the emotion will trigger a response so fast that the conscious mind will not even be able to process what’s going on. This “thought-emotion-reaction” cycle tends to be so quick, unconscious and automatic because of a person’s repeated and dense past conditioning. Haven’t we all met people who would adamantly always act and behave as if everyone is untrustworthy or as if they don’t deserve love, prosperity and happiness?

 

Regaining control; shattering the vicious cycle

The only way to break this downward spiral of negativity is to become aware of the negative thoughts, emotions and corresponding reactions as much as possible. When an emotion is triggered, try to trace that emotion to it’s reactions in your body – these bodily reactions/sensations/impulses could be anything from harsh to subtle. The trick is to use the light of self awareness to completely feel these emotions in your body with an attitude of total acceptance – having an accepting and open attitude is the key to dissolving any chronic negative emotions. If you find it difficult to feel these emotions in your body then try to practice conscious breathing – feel the air entering and escaping your body for a few minutes before slowly and steadily turning your attention towards the body and its subtleties. Keep an open and yielding mind and quietly accept all emotions of guilt, anger, fear, unease, anxiety and grief etc as and when they arise – no resistance. Carry this process of “feeling-and-accepting” into your day-to-day life and a time will come when the all encompassing true self will begin to emerge and dwarf the egoic mind – this true self is deep, silent, compassionate and indestructible. In the words of Eckhart Tolle, “Surrender, one could say, is the inner transition from resistance to acceptance, from “no” to “yes.” When you surrender, your sense of self shifts from being identified with a reaction or mental judgment to being the space around the reaction or judgment. It is a shift from identification with form–the thought or the emotion–to being and recognizing yourself as that which has no form–spacious awareness. Whatever you accept completely will take you to peace” 2

 

References

(1) Author: Eckhart Tolle . The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, New World Library, October, 1999 ISBN 1-57731-152-3 (HC) ISBN 1-57731-480-8 (PB) .Chapter 6
(2) Author: Eckhart Tolle . Stillness Speaks: Whispers of Now, New World Library, August 2003 ISBN 1-57731-400-X . Chapter 6