Overcoming Our Reaction to Emotions

Emotions are not bad, or good, in themselves. They just are. They happen to us.

When we dwell in our emotions and let them dominate us, then it’s time to see a professional.

But that is hard. Very hard.

When I first started meditating regularly in the late 60s/early 70s, I was seeking an experience of God. In the East they talk of words such as nirvana or enlightenment. Sometimes in Christian history, the term used was ecstasy. (not the drug)

I’ve had  mystical experiences. Mostly I don’t talk about them. What I did learn was the truth of the old Zen phrase, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.”

You may have an intimate experience of God. But the next day, you must go back to work.

As I went deeper, I discovered the works of the Desert Fathers. They were a weird group overall. But there were many masters of faith among them. And they have much to teach a willing student.

Eventually I ran across John Climacus–St. John of the Ladder. He wrote “The Ladder of Divine Ascent.”

Bet you think that this would be a step-by-step guide to enlightenment. You’d be wrong–sort of.

John shows how one emotion leads to another one–worse usually than the preceding one. He was actually a psychologist. He studied and learned more about the human psyche than Freud.

What I learned more than how to meditate was how to recognize the emotions overtaking me. What their roots were. How to deal with them (admittedly not always successfully).

I probably started down this path of thought reading my facebook “news” feed. Lots of opinions. Almost no facts. Lots of emotional reaction. Almost no reason. Pretty much not what the Founding Fathers wanted to see in a new democracy–but what they were afraid of.

It reminds me of the utmost importance of observing ourselves. Recognizing our emotional reactions. Tracing them to the root. Dealing with our own problem first. Then maybe helping others fix theirs.

Sometimes we just have to chill out a bit.

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