Archive for the ‘emotions’ Category

Equanimity

September 3, 2021

The community here in illinois where I now live has not one, but two, Facebook pages. That’s overkill. I grace at them every other day or so just in case there may be some interesting news–like the expansion of the local ice cream shop.

There are about five women posting daily recently feeding on each other’s complaining. One starts, another chimes in with something worse, and so it goes. Lately it’s all about the lawn care provided by the Home Owners Association.

I thought, how easily we get caught up in a cycle of complaining, negativity, anger. It builds into even actual hate.

Equanimity came up on today’s podcast. The ability to stay calm, even tempered.

Equanimity can be learned. Not intellectually, but deep within the soul. Usually it comes gradually. Best if inculcated intentionally. It took years of meditation and practice.

A new soccer referee wrote the other day. We are in the second week of the high school season. I’m the assignor. He had made one of those “controversial” calls. Tough call for a foul that the coach objected to loudly. That got the parents riled. Lots of yelling. He figured I’d be getting a call from the school. I told him not to worry. I have many years of experience defusing situations, but that mostly people forget after the game.

He will learn to develop equanimity, or else he will not last.

And those women on Facebook? I know that people exist who get joy from being negative. But a little equanimity might make life better for them and those around them.

And every day I must practice breathing intentionally. Maintaining equanimity is not “one and done.” It requires a lifetime of practice.

Frustration

September 1, 2021

Frustration grows within us when things just don’t conform to our will. Or people don’t conform to our will. The bottle cap doesn’t screw on right away. You flip a switch and nothing turns on. You tell your kid to do something and they don’t.

Or life just doesn’t work out. You want to go to the store like you did a couple of years ago. Without putting on a mask. But now you’ll either spread a virus or catch a virus. Whether you believe in the reality of the virus or not. It doesn’t care, because it is. Or whether you think you are invincible or not–you’re not.

Frustrations often play out at sporting events. Especially those involving our kids.

We are half-way through the second week of the high school soccer season in Ohio. We already have three incidents of ejecting groups of spectators from games for unruly behavior.

Frustration. Leads to anger. Leads to behavior we’ll live to regret.

It’s hard to take that deep breath. Pause. Remember that life does not bend to your will. You must respond to life.

It reminds me of the first paper on philosophy I wrote as a college sophomore. Henrik Ibsen’s concept of truth as described through Peer Gynt. He called it a creative response to life.

I think Jesus would be happy with that idea. He certainly responded to life creatively, with great stories and teachings, and with how he lived (and died, and lived…).

Perhaps we could learn the hard lesson. It definitely isn’t easy. But give it a try.

Anger

August 31, 2021

Shake a can of Coke or beer. Hand it to someone at a picnic. Watch and laugh as they pop it open and are sprayed as the contents spew forth. Adolescent practical joke usually perpetrated by 20-something men. Metaphor for anger.

Sometimes we hold anger inside. And it gurgles, and bubbles, and ferments, and builds pressure.

Until…

It must explode either in acts of verbal or physical violence or your body gives way with a stroke or heart attack.

Sometimes just a perceived slight from someone can build and build until inner peace is destroyed.

We must deal with this. There must be a safe outlet. But first we must recognize its presence. Then its cause. A good reason why Jesus told us to go make things right with the other person before offering a gift to God. John Climacus taught us anger is a disturbance of the heart that prevents the presence of the Spirit.

More than breathing exercises, which may help bring down the boiling point, we must also search for humility and then reconciliation in order to return to stability.

Running From and To

July 29, 2021

We often run toward solitude and away from people when our soul suffers provocation. Rather than confront and resolve, we run and hide. We wallow in self-pity fanning the flames of anger, jealousy.

When our soul is stirred by lust, rather than flee we run to groups of people. Perhaps we seek the solace of another body or encouragement in the pursuit of that which we lust for.

Famous people have observed that we are drawn to do that which we know we don’t want to do or don’t do that which we know we should.

How much better to run toward reconciliation to quell harsh emotions and to flee quickly that which draws us into doing what we know harms us.

[Thoughts upon reading from Evagrius Ponticus, The Praktikos.]

Speaking Your Mind

March 4, 2021

Saying whatever comes to mind without an interposing filter–describes every two-year-old everywhere.

Also most sixteen-year-olds who have learned much, but whose brains are not yet fully developed.

I knew a person who would often find trouble with the bosses by always “speaking the truth.” Unfortunately, that version of the truth was always negative, tearing down the reputation of companies and people.

Many people today wan to say whatever they want (true or not) whenever they wish without regard for consequences. If perpetuating lies forwards my perceived best interests, then fine.

These feelings are not modern.

The Apostle James wrote in the first Century about the dangers of speaking without thinking. The tongue, he said, is a tiny organ that can cause great trouble.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa said, “Divinity is purity, it is liberation from the passions and the removal of every evil: if all these things are in you, God is truly in you.”

He also said [pronouns changed to include us all], “You must always examine your own thoughts, your own words, and your own actions in the innermost depths to see whether they are oriented to Christ or are drifting away from him.”

I like those words “oriented” and “drifting away.” I could probably write an entire book just on the meaning of those.

More and More Useless Information

February 4, 2021

When I’m drivin’ in my car, and the man comes on the radio
He’s tellin’ me more and more about some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination.
I can’t get no, oh no no no, hey, hey, hey
That’s what I say
I can’t get no satisfaction, I can’t get no satisfaction.
–Rolling Stones

It was 1965. I was 17 sitting in a pub across the street from the University of Cincinnati campus. Upstairs was a big room with wooden picnic tables for the patrons. Bunch of nerdy guys. We sang out to “I can’t get no” and “Hey, you, get off of my cloud…two’s a crowd.”

We grew up. But some of us Boomers tried to overthrow the government. We’re still living the Stones of our youth. And we’ve become more and more gullible about the man on the radio (TV, Internet now) telling us more and more about some useless information.

Pick your poison, as they used to say in the movies. You can find your favorite flavor of poison without looking very hard.

It is so important to discern what to fill your mind with. It can feed my base emotions and desires for individual satisfaction. It can feed my mind with the kind of satisfaction that only comes from living in the spirit.

Writers for millennia have described the problem and the consequences. Take the story of Rehoboam in the Hebrew Bible, grandson of the famous King David. This happened almost 3,000 years ago. He was just about to be anointed King. He had two groups of advisors. He rejected the wise and listened to his young friends who filled his mind with more and more of some useless information.

On the day of what should have been his greatest satisfaction, he lost most of the Kingdom. What took his grandfather and father years to build, he destroyed in a day. He was seeking satisfaction.

Don’t Be A Slave To Emotions

December 8, 2020

Seven Things Mindful People Do:

  1. Practicebeingcurious
  2. Forgive themselves
  3. Hold their emotions lightly
  4. Practice compassion
  5. Make peace with imperfection
  6. Embrace vulnerability
  7. Understand all things come and go

That moment is seared in my memory. That last time I succumbed entirely to an emotion that I allowed to completely rule over me. No amount of analysis assuages the memory of the anger and words that just came out without thought or consideration. I was instantly humiliated by the action.

Developmental psychologists have long been able to trace how we humans can progress to completely inside ourselves to the level of maturity of considering ourselves and others together. However, our news sources would dry up to a trickle of good news without the number of people acting out emotions on public stages.

As a Jesus-follower, I constantly learn how he modeled handling emotions, yet honoring them. He knew sorrow and anger, and yet channeled them in a beneficial way.

Twice yesterday I was presented with a method for mindfully handling strong emotions that could have the power (if I let them) to take over lives with sometimes devastating results. It’s called RAIN.

R=recognize (the first step of every growth pattern is awareness)

A=allow (don’t try to bury it, let it sit, recognized, realize it is a part of me)

I=investigate (what triggered it, why am I reacting)

N=non-identification (“I have this emotion, but I am not this emotion”)

[I should have mentioned yesterday, as well, that sometimes we can’t handle these things ourselves. When that happens, we need to recognize the situation and seek help from a professional.]

The Heart Is Deceitful

November 10, 2020

Yesterday I looked at advice for you to set your heart in the right direction.

But we must beware and be aware–as the ancient Hebrew prophet Jeremiah noted, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.”

Prophecy in the scriptures does not equal telling the future. It does equal bringing a message from God that speaks to the times–and sometimes to all times. Perhaps here we first meet God the Cardiologist. Jeremiah quotes The Lord, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”

Sometimes we may look at ourselves and think how beautiful we look when indeed it is vanity talking.

Sometimes we consider ourselves and judge ourself as a “good Christian” when indeed God (and other people) look at our conduct and deeds and judge us as wanting.

We can overcome that deceitful heart. But only by working on the machine that is us and becoming brutally self-aware.

We realize at some point in our lives, hopefully sooner than later, that no matter what that inner voice tells us that when we mentally and spiritually take a step back and look at ourselves as God and others truly see us that we are lacking. We fall short of how smart we think we are, or how wise we think we are, or how much a servant we think we are.

It’s not pure theory or pure knowledge that God is searching us for. How did we treat the server at the restaurant or barista at the coffee shop? How did we treat the least of the people we met?

Will God search us and find us not worthy?

Beware Smoldering Resentment

March 3, 2020

I confess, I have an addiction—to British murder mysteries on TV. I am grateful for Amazon Prime and BritBox 😉

A well written murder mystery probes into some of the darkness of emotions. In an old episode of Midsomer Murders, the writers probed the shouldering (guess I should use British spelling) resentment that two women had for their mothers. Both of the mothers had a deviant sexual side that affected the daughters for different reasons—but with the same effect, namely murder.

As we meditate and work on our own self-awareness, these smoldering emotions perhaps lying below consciousness but very real nonetheless can erupt much like a volcano with smoldering lava deep inside. These forces that can, with a subtle shift of rock and pressure, spew out destruction.

Often people outside us can detect deep-seated resentment in us. There is a stare of intensity, quickness to anger, inability to relate to others.

Check on your own state. Quench the smoldering embers within. Work on gratitude, forgiveness (for yourself as well as others), accepting grace.

The Heart App

January 28, 2019

It’s not an obsession. No, really, it isn’t. But I do check my Health app several times a day to see how many miles/steps/flights I have moved.

The icon for the app on my iPhone is a white background with a red heart.

So, I was wondering. Wouldn’t it be great to have a heart app for my spiritual heart?

After all, Jesus was most interested in the state of the heart of people he encountered.

Maybe you’d get a haptic jolt if your heart was tending toward anger, hate, jealousy, bitterness, and the like.

Maybe you’d get a gentle approving buzz if your heart was empathetic, joyful, loving.

Instead of “FitBit” it could be “SoulBit”?

Instead of telling me to get up and walk (which is a good thing), it would tell me to think of someone and offer a prayer wishing them well. Or to take a deep breath, calm down, leave the hurtful emotions behind.

Maybe it’s time for me to learn Swift and rekindle my programming skills?

Or just learn Jesus words and rekindle my “heart” skills?

How about you?