Negative emotions are a fact of life: all of us are going to feel frightened, sad, angry, anxious, or a myriad of other painful feelings from time to time. There are many ways we can choose to deal with these emotions, some more helpful than others.
Acting out the emotion, or repressing it through distraction may bring some temporary relief, but before long the pain will return. In the West we often turn to therapists and counsellors to help us deal with difficult emotions: this can bring relief but from the point of view of the spiritual path, this is not enough; we want to go right to the root of the problem and stop it from returning.
Various spiritual practices advocate bringing awareness to our emotions: taking a step back and viewing them without judgement or the need to act. This article demonstrates one such technique for dealing with these feelings.
This method was developed by the psychologist Stephen Wolinsky in the 1970s, drawing on the ancient Indian practice of Tantra. While in the West, we mostly associate Tantra with sexuality, but in reality sexuality constitutes a tiny fraction of the enormous body of Tantric literature. Tantra involves harnessing energy in our body and using it for spiritual growth. In Tantra, even negative emotions such as anger and fear are seen as potentially useful energies. This is the basis for this powerful, yet simple practice which is as follows:
When you are faced with a strong negative emotion, simply feel it as energy in your body. Separate it from the stories your mind is telling you and simply focus on the bodily sensation. Even resist labelling the emotion as “anger” or “fear” etc. Simply bring your attention to the feeling it creates in your body. This can be a challenging practice, but you will find that after a while the emotion will go away.
Many people feel anger in their chest, or sadness in their stomach, but it can be different for everybody. Many bodily aches and pains result from repressed emotions. By using the above technique you allow the emotion to be released, transforming “emotion into motion”. All that is required is to stay with the sensation until it fades away.
In many Eastern philosophies we are encouraged not to identify with the mind and body – this way we understand that we are much more than these things. By refusing to engage in labelling our emotions or creating explanations for them, we reduce the power they hold over us. By viewing the emotion simply as energy, we see it for what it really is: a temporary bodily sensation that will soon disappear.
The next time you are feeling a negative emotion, try out this technique and let us know how you get on!
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