You Are Not Your Reactions - Part 3

Cultivating the kind of detached awareness that I’ve mentioned allows us to develop a maturity regarding our emotional reactions. We gain a perspective that is balanced—not viewing the emotions as “black and white”—so we find that we no longer feel a need to react aggressively or judge our own behavior. Instead of suppressing or running from our emotions, they can become the stimulus for our own wakefulness. And by remaining present to the sensations that are connected with our reactions, we actually can become like a warrior, confident and authentic.

This same approach is also used with fear. If you can just be with the fear, get a grip on the fearful response and allow a space in order to discover where this fear comes from—not creating a new chain of reactions—then you begin to feel an energy really awakening inside you. As that energy awakens, you’re becoming fearless, even with the fear still present, as it slowly transforms into fearlessness.

Depression is like that as well. People often feel so terrible when they are in the depths of it, and of course, it does feel horrible in the beginning before you really understand what the depression is. But once you get the hang of it, and again let yourself have more space to just let that feeling of depression be, you will recognize how the sensations are often more physical than mental. You may feel this incredible sense of anxiety in the chest, you know, or even a sort of overwhelming dread that the earth is about to crack open in front of you and throw you down into some miserable lower realm.

Depression often appears as a physical or even chemical reaction. In Tibetan we call it a “wind disturbance.” If you can manage just to be with it, without having a chain of reactions, from physical to mental, to emotional responses—particularly not reacting with tremendous fear—then you realize it is not the solid, dreadful thing you may have pictured.

So without trying to study it conceptually, but rather understanding it through your  experience, all of a sudden you will reach a point where it’s just not that big a deal. It becomes more like a headache, but instead of being in the head, it’s in the chest, right between your ribs, or something like that. But, it’s no longer a big deal at all. It may even feel enjoyable to have it because there is a lot of wakefulness with it. However, if you’re caught up in the fear, when you’re caught up in the chain of reactions, then it becomes more solidified and turns into a big difficulty, dominating your world and your senses, and even interfering with the capacity to think clearly.

I often have a sense of depression, and a heaviness in my chest. Even now I have it, but, you know, it doesn’t really feel that bad. When I experienced it as a teenager, it felt very bad, but over time that sense of “this feels so bad” has diminished. That sensation now has the quality of wakefulness. So, what I’m saying is that it doesn’t have to be a big deal to have sensations. Don’t be so afraid of allowing sensations to occur.

This is not like some great and deep meditation experience that I’m telling you to have, or the secret to some deep level of samadhi, or anything like that. This is something that comes up in our everyday lives, and I’m trying to emphasize how this could be handled with a practice of relative awareness. In other words, how to use one’s spiritual training as a support.

It’s just about giving space, creating the space. Try to give space. Learn how to give space.

We have a saying in Tibetan about people who have lungta (Tibetan: lit. “windhorse,” indicating strong life energy) and those who don’t. People with a lot of lungta wake up and attend first to their hair and head. But people who have no lungta or a low level of lungta reach right away for their shoes.

Try not to reach for your shoes. Try to just sit up and feel yourself in the body and attend to the head on downwards.

This is simply an indication of who is speedy, caught in the anxiety of life’s demands, and who has more space in their life and tries to be present.

I go for the shoes all the time, so it’s not like I don’t do that too, but this is the saying. My mom used to bring this up to us all the time.

So, please try to do that. And study yourself using these methods that I’ve mentioned here, so you can know more. The diligent meditator is the one who returns with their own experience—to reveal more about the subject they have heard explained.

Taken from: Personal Link # 92

This selection is also included in Heart Advice:Selected Teachings from MSB Dharma Blog

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Practice, Self-Reflection