“Self-arising wisdom is the base. The five negative emotions are manifested energy. Seeing emotions as mistaken is an error. Letting them be in their nature is the method to find the non-dual state of Liberation. Overcoming hope and fear is the result.”

~Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

Emotions are downloaded “software” programs that enable us to more fully enjoy the richness and complexity of the human incarnational experience. There is nothing wrong with them, and they certainly do not need to be eliminated. Far from representing some kind of enlightenment, a human life without emotional energy would be an impoverished one. The only problem (entanglement) with emotions comes when we cling to some and avoid others. That alternating cycle of craving and aversion establishes the sense of a separate and enduring self — a “me” — who wants this but shuns that.

Identification with this imaginary creation, complete with a narrative storyline about surviving and thriving in challenging world of other selves, invariably turns out to be a major source of suffering, which is why some spiritual teachers traditionally describe emotions in negative terms. For example, a respected Tibetan Buddhist, Dzongsar Khyentse, is quoted as saying: “All emotions are painful. This is something that only Buddhists would talk about. Many religions worship things like love with celebration and songs. Buddhists think, ‘This is all suffering.’”

In any case, emotions themselves are not the problem. We are not victims of emotions. When they arise as they will, we do not need to grant them any enduring reality, but simply recognize them for what they are — temporary modifications of consciousness, with no inherent substantiality. They are part of the play of life, to which they add spice and interest, but emotions are not us, they are not who we are, and they do not constitute a justification for establishing any solid and unassailable personal identity based on their arrival and elaboration. Nor do they require any measure of reactivity, which invariably serves to merely complicate and confuse. Rather, emotions can simply be acknowledged as fundamental aspects of the human experience, without the addition of subjective praise or blame.

The same goes for thought, perception, sensation, and even consciousness. We can see them for what they are, watch them rise and dissolve like waves on the ocean, and let them be just that, without trying to manipulate, add to, or subtract anything from them. In that way, they can be appreciated as gifts that life presents to us. They need not be clung to or avoided, but simply experienced. We are curious by nature, and so seek out the infinite variety of experiences the cosmos has to offer, for the purposes of self-discovery and enjoyment. Grasping at nothing and yet turning nothing away is ancient wisdom, but ever-fresh and potent.

One of the reasons that we as immortal spirit are attracted to this momentary human circumstance is to experience the richness and innocent rawness of emotions. Those who proclaim that our task is to suppress, renounce, or flee from them have got it backwards. Rather than promoting and prolonging an internal conflict — a war with ourselves that cannot be won — we can instead allow them to reveal their self-liberating potential.

For example, if we are to embark upon the conscious process of transmuting fear into love in our life and relations, we must really get to know ourselves by paying careful attention to our present condition. We can’t release impediments that we are unaware of, so we need to first get intimately familiar with our emotional fluctuations, see how they arise, how they change in response to conditions, and how they tend to rule us, without our conscious intent. This is what real spiritual practice entails, as opposed to sitting around trying to be peaceful and blissful while by-passing the emotional aspect of one’s being (as some might imagine).

As Nisargadatta Maharaj wisely suggests: “Think clearly and deeply, go into the entire structure of your desires and their ramifications. They are a most important part of your mental and emotional make-up and powerfully affect your actions. Remember, you cannot abandon what you do not know. To go beyond yourself, you must know yourself.”

Just so, emotions themselves can be transmuted into living wisdom if recognized as transitory and non-binding energetic movements inherent in the human experience. In such recognition, our attention can be restored to the unchanging background against which the fleeting movement of thoughts, emotions, and personal stories appear and disappear – our prior, natural state, Awareness itself.

Alternately, emotions can become sources of trauma and suffering, if clung to and used as plot devices for the “me-story”, or not fully experienced and released, but instead ignored and repressed. In that regard, Don Juan Matus (in Carlos Castaneda’s “The Teachings of Don Juan) shared a telling observation when he noted: “The remnants of pain left behind by every strong emotion that is not fully faced, accepted, and then let go of join together to form an energy field that lives in the very cells of your body.”

When we become emotionally invested in our self-images, the whole world can seem to represent a potential threat of emotional harm. Based on this dualistic view, we perceive the need to defend ourselves from possible danger by forging a kind of armor which we then wear into “battle”. Ironically, the more we fortify this armor in reaction to assumed emotional threats, the further we stray from our own inherent happiness. Rather than relaxing and resting in the care-free enjoyment of life and relationships, we must busy ourselves with strategies of ceaseless emotional warfare, marked by the struggle to protect and preserve the fictional person we have assembled out of bits of thoughts, emotions, and memories. What a nightmare, and yet it happens to be the usual conflicted condition with which most of us go through life.

One of the most powerful generators of emotional dysfunction is our habitual failure to maturely adapt to the sexual impulse. Sexual impulses arise naturally as part of a healthy human animal’s biological program. In other words, the impulse itself is what it is, but invariably we add something extra to it, superimposing emotionally reactive qualities on to that which is merely an innocent part of the human functioning. Indeed, upon inspection, we can see that a form of chronic emotional-sexual contraction is at the root of much of our personal and collective dis-ease, and as such is a big contributor to the presumption that we are the body.

Based on the mere presence of a sexual impulse, we mistakenly construe the sense of a concrete (and demanding) self through a process of ensuing identification with and consequent attachment to the body, thereby initiating and perpetuating the mechanics of suffering. In other words, by imagining that we are the body, we commit ourselves to the body’s fate – impermanence.

Now, whether or not one actually follows through on the sexual impulse from this point matters little, since a fictional but very realistic sense of self has already been assembled around the impulse. An internal division has been set in motion, a vicious cycle of desire and frustration that comes with the self-sense package, which then ripples on, even to the point of infecting the totality of our emotional life.

A powerful antidote to the contracting entanglement of that cycle is the practice of non-dwelling within the context of true meditation, which involves neither embracing the impulse nor turning it away. In fact, it entails doing exactly nothing about it — just letting it arise and dissolve as it naturally will, without using it as a platform to identify with the body and therefore establish a self-matrix, a “me-story”. It can be inspected, seen through, and released without creating the dramatic conditions which lead to the assumption of an independent and enduring self. Attention is simply returned again and again to the prior spaciousness of awake awareness itself.

Since what is not used or fueled becomes obsolete, so too do the afflictive poisons that characterize the usual human being’s emotional state, through the power of non-dwelling. Once freed up from the deluding influences of greed, envy, hatred, pride, and ignorance of one’s true nature and condition, the energy and attention that constitute the emotional and mental processes are naturally transmuted, becoming more and more characterized by spontaneity, wisdom, clarity, and above all, compassion.

Having recognized the ephemeral nature of all experience — whether it be in the form of emotion, thought, perception, sensation, or consciousness — we can relax. When we relax, we are freed of all associated binding emotional reactivity, such as fear, stress, annoyance, and moodiness. Having been thus liberated, we can say, “Released!”, and move on to enjoy the next scene in the panoramic movie entitled “The Play of Consciousness”.

“The method is directing attention upon attention or awareness. When any arising is experienced, especially thoughts, moods, emotions, or feeling of personal self identity, one simply notices one’s present naked awareness. By directing the attention back to awareness, the arising dissolves back into its origin and its essential nature, awareness. In doing this, the arising releases its formative energy in its dissolution as a surge of further clarity of Clear Light, the power and potency of awareness that energized the arising in the first place. Hence one’s Rigpa presence (Knowing Awareness) is enhanced in the collapse of the formative arising. Hence the Dzogchen comment that “The stronger the afflictive emotion upon dissolution, the stronger the enhancement to the clarity of presence.”

~ Longchenpa

see also:




About Bob OHearn

My name is Bob O'Hearn, and I live with my Beloved Mate, Mazie, in the foothills of the Northern California Sierra Nevada Mountains. I have a number of blog sites you may enjoy: Photo Gallery: http://www.pbase.com/1heart Essays on the Conscious Process: https://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/ Compiled Poetry and Prosetry: http://feelingtoinfinity.wordpress.com/ Verses and ramblings on life as it is: https://writingonwater934500566.wordpress.com/ Verses and Variations on the Investigation of Mind Nature: https://themindthatneverwas.wordpress.com/ Verses on the Play of Consciousness: https://onlydreaming187718380.wordpress.com/ Poetic Fiction, Fable, Fantabulation: https://themysteriousexpanse.wordpress.com/ Poems of the Mountain Hermit: https://snowypathtonowhere.wordpress.com/ Love Poems from The Book of Yes: https://lovesight.wordpress.com/ Autobiographical Fragments, Memories, Stories, and Tall Tales: https://travelsindreamland.wordpress.com/ Ancient and modern spiritual texts, creatively refreshed: https://freetransliterations.wordpress.com/ Writings from selected Western Mystics, Classic and Modern: https://westernmystics.wordpress.com/ Wisdom of a Spirit Guide: https://spiritguidesparrow.wordpress.com/ Thank You!
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11 Responses to Emotions

  1. JS says:

    Too good.

    Deep bows,

    Infinite thanks.

  2. Bob OHearn says:

    Thank you for your very clear eyes, Brother! You describe the chain of reactivity very well, and I certainly share your view on spiritual teachings.


  3. Bob OHearn says:

    A team of scientists in Finland has used a topographical self-reported method to reveal the effects that different emotional states have on bodily sensations. After five experiments and over 700 participants from Finland, Sweden and Taiwan, who reported where on their bodies they felt different emotions, the scientists discovered surprising consistencies.


  4. Bob OHearn says:

    “Feelings are the language of your soul and the celebration of your spirit. Feelings are that part of you which tell you the perfect truth of how it IS. Thoughts on the other hand seek to tell you your personal truth of how it is and all the ways in which it is NOT. There is no such thing as a good or a bad feeling, but through a thought which convinces you so. Human beings have been conditioned to drive their lives through personal truth, and this is why their eyes are closed to the perfect truth of who they truly are.

    In learning to let go of your ownership of thought you learn to let go of the boundaries and barriers to perfect truth. When you are not held within a thought, when you are not captured by an attitude, you can become one with your feelings, you can become one with perfect truth. When you stop using the mind to tell you how you are feeling, your true feelings can be understood with consistent clarity as to become your greatest guide.

    Your human persona is also a personal truth, for it is constructed from adopted thoughts and attitudes. To see beyond your human persona you must feel your way to the perfect pure truth. Feel beyond the edges of your physical skin where you think and define where you begin and where you end. There is no beginning and there is no end but in your mind. Every cell you have can be in more than one place at any time, and be at any state and at any place it is granted outside the box of attitude. You are everything you allow yourself to feel.

    These things you experience and define as emotion, derivatives of love and fear, these are by-products of the human condition, and the human species. Should you have joined with the genetic cells of a completely different species, on another planet, you would not experience these exact sensations, feelings, and emotional states which you are so quick to disown as some sort of disease. In truth, the unpleasant sensations you call negative emotion are only so because you do not understand them, and thus you alienate them and battle against them, allowing yourself to alter your vibration. It is not the emotion itself which lowers your vibration, but your thought and judgement upon it, you see. That, my dear friend, is why it matters not what emotions you created in life, but how you have come to value them and understand them which determines your transition in the afterlife.

    Emotional wisdom is your inherent ability as a being to relate and connect with other aspects of the universe, aspects of experience, and aspects of your Self through means beyond the physical. It is a form of language which allows you to connect and communicate with other states of being, and other beings of other states. So in a sense, getting in touch with your feelings, rather than alienating them, is indeed a bridge to greater consciousness maturity, as well as sensitivity to other forms of inherent energy and language in the universe.

    The emotions you currently take for granted, which you often encounter on a daily basis are actually, in truth, a rare occurrence within this particular universe. Many other species in the universe do not have this capacity and broad array of emotion humanity is gifted with. Despite this rare gift which exists on this tiny planet, so many human beings choose to disregard them and put them down, and themselves down for having experienced them. If you knew what I knew about human emotion you would never again see yourself as anything less than divine and magnificently blessed within this incredible opportunity of now. There are so many potentials for humanity to develop this gift of emotion in ways that will propel the race dramatically forward in evolution, I cannot emphasise enough.” ~Sparrow


  5. Bob OHearn says:

    Emotions have the potential for manifesting wisdom, strength, sensitivity and connectedness. A gift commonly bypassed as our energy is caged by personal storylines, avoidance and self-centeredness. In simple openness and a loving embrace, self-centered emotions and suffering are unveiled as living grace. It’s a sharp edge’s balance, demanding one’s willingness to let go and embrace existence, as it is; raw and ruthless.

    see more: http://levekunst.com/emotion-unveiled/

  6. Bob OHearn says:

    “When we stop taking responsibility for how we feel, we project how we feel onto others. One of the fundamental insights about emotional maturity is that we are responsible for our own emotional lives. No one makes us feel any particular way. If ten people are subjected to the same emotional environment, they will all feel different about what was said to them. What happens is mostly on automatic pilot because we are not conscious of it.”

    ~ Adyashanti

  7. Bob OHearn says:

    Tsoknyi Rinpoche

    “The Vajrayana says we’re to take emotions as the path. This view is about not rejecting negative afflictions. But when anger (or another strong emotion arises), we experience it as something solid and quickly have a reaction based on it. Vajrayana and Dzogchen, however, teach that emotions are no more solid than any other phenomena. With anger, for example, we’re instructed to simply see its empty nature without rejecting, avoiding or transforming it. The spacious quality of mind dissolves anger and completely dissipates it. It ceases to be experienced as solid. Easier said then done! And then there’s an even more difficult approach to working with emotion that invites us to go along with the anger, bringing it to an extreme, to its peak. When the anger has reached its peak, emptiness, which lies behind it, is realized. But without proper training we can easily miss the mark, exploding into anger before it is purified by this method. What to do?”


  8. Bob OHearn says:


    “Spiritual bypassing, a term first coined by psychologist John Welwood in 1984, is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs. It is much more common than we might think and, in fact, is so pervasive as to go largely unnoticed, except in its more obvious extremes.”

  9. Bob OHearn says:

    This Life Here Is Really Exciting From The Other Side
    NDEr Natalie Sudman

    “We can be over there anytime and infinitely, forever; forever and forever, for a long time and it’s so easy and it’s so beautiful, but this life here is really exciting from the other side. And it’s pretty quick. So dig in and enjoy it… A lot of the spiritual messages seem to be deny the body and deny the — these emotions are bad emotions — and these things are not holy and I don’t think that’s true. From my experience, everything is holy. Here is there. We didn’t come here just to experience all the happy things. We also came here to experience the difficult emotions because we learn from those and they enrich us in ways that really we can’t get when we are out of body, when we are in our whole selves. If we could get those out there, we wouldn’t be here. From that perspective it’s very exciting to participate in any kind of emotions, and any kind of situation. It’s an adventure. It’s amazing. It’s beautiful…. It’s a miracle.”

  10. Bob OHearn says:

    We have two kinds of emotion, those that are destructive, like anger and jealousy, which ruin our peace of mind and damage our health. But we also have constructive emotions, like compassion, that bring us inner strength. We get rid of negative emotions by analysing them and coming to a better understanding of how things really are, the role of mental projection and the need for secular ethics.

    ~Dalai Lama

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