You Are Not Your Reactions - Part 2

As Shantideva says in the The Way of the Bodhisattva, when someone goes to war they study their opponent. This is how we have to study our disturbing emotions (Sanskrit: kleshas). These “poisons” are in certain ways nothing but our own reactions. When you can regard them from a mature viewpoint—with a developed awareness as we’ve been discussing—then the more you find out, the more you will relax. The more information you have, the more strength you’ll feel inside.

As we develop a capacity to work with the mind in a mature way, we can discover how to relinquish the need to react, as well as the need to suppress our emotions through a sense of self-judgment. We can simply learn to watch our emotional responses from a detached perspective, which will achieve a balance between these two tendencies. Then we are no longer caught up in a puritanical view of ourselves, and we can also recognize the depth and complexity of these emotions. They are not black and white; they’re not as “solid” as we may have thought.

Separately from the emotions themselves, we can also speak of the sensations they cause. The sensations which accompany reactive emotions can be pleasant or unpleasant. What we label as “pleasant” is simply something we crave. What we are not used to, or what feels unpleasant, we respond to as negative.

Here again, if you don’t react in this habitual way to likes and dislikes, but observe and study these reactions, you may find that the intense sensations of depression, fear, or insecurity contain a sense of wakefulness potential. Contacting this sense of wakefulness found within the sensations is far better than simply feeling dulled, or drowsy. It’s also much better to maintain contact with this wakefulness potential than to become so excited you lose your ground.

So the instruction here is not to indulge these conceptual reactions. By this I mean do not react to the arising sensations conceptually by thinking, “Oh, these are not good feelings,” and then try to get rid of them right away; or say to yourself, “This does not feel pleasant,” and try to run away from it.

When you allow some space for your sensations to be—by just being present—then most of the time you will be able to find out so much about the sensation and the whole process of your response to it. After all, the sensation itself is a reaction. On the other hand, if we always give in to any immediate reaction, whether it’s the reactive emotion, or the sensation, or the reaction against the sensation, etcetera, then we’re just creating a chain of connected reactions and creating additional karma.

There are two kinds of sensations, physical sensations and emotional sensations. Emotional sensations seem to be the hardest for people to work with. A physical sensation is much more gross and definable so they are generally easier to work with. People know how to bear a headache until they get some aspirin, for instance. It seems that most people have enough inner strength to do this.

But it is different emotionally. Because there is so much associated cloudiness, or confusion, there is usually no tolerance for the emotional aspects whatsoever. If you can provide or create enough space around this emotional reactivity, I think you’ll discover quite a lot. Maybe you see that you’re insecure. Once you manage to give some space to it, without trying to get rid of it right away or trying to maintain your secure feelings through some other means, you can recognize your past tendencies, how you’ve reacted when you feel insecure, and how you’ve affected your own self–esteem.

When you get rid of the grasping, the attachments, the rejection, while still keeping the sensations of feeling insecure, then the sensation can become very energetic all of a sudden. You start to feel an incredible sense of energy inside. Even though you began by feeling horrible, it’s almost as if you begin to feel like a mountain or a warrior—someone connected to the heaven and earth without becoming lost. The earth is solidly there, heaven is above you, and you are in between, present and upright.

A lot of confidence comes from this, as well as an understanding of how to be very authentic. Whenever we sincerely work with our mind in this way, we become very authentic.

Taken from: Personal Link # 92 Given on  1/2/2011

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Practice, Self-Reflection