Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Tool and the Block

We encounter difficult moments nearly every day. Sometimes, these moments string together into difficult days, difficult weeks, difficult months, and even difficult years. The difficult can easily slow, halt or even reverse progress. When trends persist, what we think and how we feel become buoys, anchors or of no consequence. We can guide the mind, affecting the direction of our thoughts. Affecting the mind is a challenging proposition. Affecting our emotions is even more challenging.

Emotions have a dualistic quality. Emotions can be a sense, giving us rich data on our lives and the world in which we live. Emotions can also be a mask, molded by memories of the past, shaped with fears and hopes of the future and hardened by our attachments and aversions.  This dualistic quality can make understanding and directing our feelings cumbersome at times and nearly impossible at others. We must begin to explore how emotions act both as a tool and as a block to our awareness.

Emotions can add context to situations. Emotions can be the set design, the costumes, the orchestra or even the actors on the stage that is our life. Feelings are key to enjoying life, and simultaneously allow us to experience pain and suffering. Both of these attributes of feeling can assist or undermine our struggle. The enjoyable sensations can act as nourishment during the difficult.

Beyond simple enjoyment and nourishment, emotions can also yield amazingly rich information about our life. That gut instinct we’ve felt is a way we can experience this rich source of information. It is the sum total of our feelings about something. Sometimes, gut instincts are absolutely accurate. Other times, these instincts are based in fear, attachment and aversion. Determination of which is presently at work is a skill that takes continued patience and understanding. There is no switch where the emotionally blind suddenly become absolutely aware. The only path is through continued, thorough exploration of our emotions.

All of our emotions are based as a reaction to our life. This reaction is not just based from past history. Our beliefs can also play a major role. These beliefs can be about any aspect of life, including people, places and things. Our beliefs can be expansive, including others, our communities, our country, the planet or even the entire universe. These beliefs are the lens of the mind. Being mindful of the lens we look through can assist us in our exploration.

We must begin to use our emotions as the toolset that they are. Otherwise, our emotions are simply blocks to our progress. And, we cannot block out our emotions. This is similar to not wanting to hear something so we severely damage our eardrums to stop hearing altogether. It makes no sense.

Our mind can be overwhelmed by sensory information as well as emotion. We can also learn to train our mind to work differently. When overwhelm occurs, we can de-escalate through a variety of methods. We can return our mind to the present moment through focus on something outside of our mental control, like breathing. Another focus we could have would be the noise that we wish not to hear, as this is another aspect we cannot control. These both can aid in diminishing the overwhelm we experience. This is how we remove emotional blocks to awareness. Sometimes, we have to repeat the process. We must do so with a light touch, being careful not to reprimand when patience, understanding and compassion are more advisable. The goal is to not create more emotional blocks but to eliminate them.

As we begin to remove the blocks and expose the tools, we can find ourselves in a wholly new world, one of possibility and potential. We can transform our life; we need only attempt to do so to find the tools for progress have been with us from the beginning. We can begin right here and right now.  

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