The focus of the material I write and the seminars and lectures I have given is to give people something they can use to develop themselves personally and spiritually, as the two are intrinsically connected. In this broad field there are certain topics that garnished the most attention, one of them is how to deal with emotional or life issues, both new ones and old ones that surface from time to time. There are certainly plenty of ways to approach this and no one way is going to provide a magic bullet to rid us of issues and our negative or lower emotional reactions. At the same time, those methods that are most successful share certainly fundamental aspects.
In considering this challenge we must start with the core aspect, the only one we have any measure of "control" over, that being ourselves. Our relationship with outside world has its foundation in our relationship with ourselves. If we have issues they will be reflected in our interactions with people and the experiences we have. We may not know what our issues are as they do not always come to the surface and even when they do we may be able to attribute them to something within us. To take back control, if you will, we look within for our answers and not without. To do this there are two areas we need to consider first, these being how we "see" and observe ourselves. By see I mean our concepts, beliefs and so forth about who and what we are, even how the Cosmos works and by observe I refer to the attention we pay to our thoughts and emotions moment by moment.
It is not possible for me to distill years of experience into one essay so I will be focusing on daily situations that can reduce the strain we take on and the negative vibrations we manifest and may interact with. If I were to give a name to what I will be looking at it would developing ones active awareness.
An active awareness is one that is not solely engaged in the process of reacting to situations. It is, in a sense, a state of mind one develops whereby they pay attention to what they are feeling and thinking as they go about their lives. This awareness is not one of thought, that is to say, where we are continuously thinking about what we are thinking or feeling. It is where we set aside a portion of our attention to observe or monitor our reactions to what we experience with the purpose of letting us know what they are. However, no matter how close attention we pay to our reactions we will not succeed unless we have some basic beliefs.
In terms of how we "see" ourselves, there are some key mental constructs one needs or must develop if they are serious about working on themselves. Three of these are:
- Accepting that we are responsible for our lives and not others
- Acknowledgment that we have issues and "flaws"
- A willingness to look at ourselves, even our flaws
Without these one has little chance to change anything for the better. Lack of these leads us to deflect, ignore or try to get around our issues, but we will not likely resolve them without these three elements. The first one means that we take responsibility for ourselves and do not blame others for what happens to us. We need this element for we cannot deal with what we do not own. If we believe our problems are the result of others then we have abdicated ownership to others and this means we cannot solve the problem ourselves. Guilt and blame are powerful blocking mechanisms and are a biproduct of our not accepting full responsibility for what happens in our lives.
The second one is necessary and somewhat a corollary to the first point, in that if we do not acknowledge that we have issues then, again, we have cannot solve the problem because others must be the cause of our misfortunes. The last one is perhaps the hardest in that we do not want to look at our flaws typically because we are judgmental and even more so in regards to ourselves. If we were to look at ourselves we may see or notice things that are not quite "right" and if we do something to change this it could affect other areas of our life so we do nothing.
Keep these three points in mind as we continue because they are the starting point. There are two other element that are absolutely critical to an active awareness. One is honesty and the other our degree of self-awareness.
In terms of honesty, we can do little to change our lot if we live in a fantasy world or under the illusion that we never make mistakes or justify our mistakes in various ways. Honesty is not a measure of our words against some absolute truth, it is simply a measure of our degree of personal honesty at that moment in time. Further, our honesty is directly related to our clarity of thought and sensitivity. We can be aware of when we are not honest or about the truth of a matter, we have chosen or allowed ourselves not to be. If we do not want to acknowledge something there is little we can do about it. It is quite simple really, if something is causing us problems we will not be able to resolve the problem without dealing with the truth about ourselves.
It can be a challenge to turn our attention on ourselves. One of the main reasons why is that we tend to live externally focused and when we do think of ourselves it is often at an oblique angle. We come to do this as an avoidance strategy when direct self viewing is discomforting. That many lack awareness of how they feel in the moment is a byproduct of this. If we are asked how we feel we rarely if ever give anything more than vague generalities. We do not dig into our feelings and identify them. We have a mass of feelings and tend to label it with a generic term such as "I feel fine" or "I'm doing well" or... but we do not look into it or own and examine our feelings. Most people have very little awareness of their emotional state at any given time. We often override and ignore our feelings and state they are not of concern or unimportant or we will deal with them later. These avoidance techniques do not help us, they keep us locked in. If we are to develop our ability to be actively awareness we must be willing to go deeper through self-examination or else their efforts will be for naught.
So, how does one go about becoming more actively aware? Well, if we are working or doing what I have spoken to above then what we want to be doing is paying attention to how we feel and what we think in the moment. A great many factors affect our state of mind and our awareness in the moment. I cannot address them all here, so perhaps some practical examples may help.
For instance, if I'm going about my life and something occurs that frustrates me I may not notice a shift in my emotional state because I am not paying attention as my mind is on other things or I choose to ignore it because I deem it irrelevant to what is more important. A little later something else or a couple experiences occur happens and I explode in anger or frustration. I could have avoided all of this, if I'd realized the original shift in my emotional state and had dealt with it when it occurred.
The questions should be "How can I notice this?" and "What can I do to deal with it?" Noticing it is not easy, we must want to notice, we must pay more attention and not allow our attention to be distracted. Why are we distracted? Typically it is because we are getting ahead of ourselves, our thoughts continue to go towards the future or back into the past diverting our attention from what is happening right now.
Our rational mind has all kinds of clever ways of distracting us. Think about times when you had a feeling about something but carried on ignoring it and proceed to do what you had previously intended to do. You ignored the "feeling". Well, each of justifies doing so in our own way, that does not change the fact what we are doing it. We must be willing to set aside our thinking about the future to notice what we experience in the moment. This means paying attention to how we feel right now, in the moment. In the example given, that would mean noticing that we reacted with a little frustration to the first experience
Now, say we do notice our first reaction of frustration. In that moment, our thoughts or reactions are manifesting an emotional reaction. We have two main choices, and then depending on which of these we took other options. By this I mean we can:
- Ignore it and carry on
- Do something about it
What we have been doing is ignoring these things and carrying on. Obviously the first choice leads us to the outcome mentioned, hence we will turn our attention to the second choice. If we choose to do something about it there are two aspects to deal with, one being our reaction and the second being the thought(s) that gave rise to our reaction. Which one we do and how far we take it depends on what we choose to do, which in turn is likely dependent on the situation.
Again, going back to the example, let us assume we choose to do something about our reaction. What we do first depends on our situation. Obviously if our reaction puts us at risk we need to deal with this first, we need to reduce or remove the energy (or the emotions) that puts us at risk. The energies we manifest will build, somewhat like filling a balloon with air. If we do not deflate the balloon it will eventually pop.
There are many techniques to reduce the build up of the energies we have manifest, I recommend breathing and grounding oneself even as one tells themselves, regardless of whether they feel their reaction is justified, that their reaction is creating a bigger problem. We need to be forceful in what we tell ourselves, we must give the thought we are using to override the triggering sufficient impetus so that it "stronger" than our reaction. In a manner of speaking, this changes the equation, as it must because the thoughts that are manifesting our emotional reaction will continue to do so unless the threat perceived by our minds is reduced or eliminated.
Feelings of righteousness about about our reaction does not help us, this is a justification that permits the thoughts that are manifesting the energies to continue unabated. This means that we will continue to manifest the emotions until we have dealt with the thoughts themselves. Being grounded and using a breathing technique do not affect this directly, though both can have a significant calming affect as they both provide an outlet for the energy. This can prevent us from being overwhelmed by the emotional energies we have manifested.
Assuming we are dealing with the energy in the moment we need to decide whether we are going to work on the source issue now or later. We typically choose later because we decide it is inconvenient or not the right time to resolve it. This is often an evasion based on concern about whether we have time, what others might think of us if we do so and so on. Nonetheless we can choose to do this, though I suggest you consider that this is how these problem thoughts were manifested in the first place. We didn't pay attention and allowed our reactions to go on unmanaged. Certainly we can do this, though more often than not later never comes and the issue remains to cause us more problems in the future.
If we choose to work on it later, we must make a firm mental note of the situation; we must put some attention to noting what happened, what we experienced and the energy of our reaction so that we can work through it later. To do this we must focus on these three aspects and make sure we remember so that we can go over it in contemplation or meditation.
If we choose to deal with it now we must stop what we are doing and focus on our emotional and mental state. The emotion energy of our reaction is a consequence of the thoughts we had as a result of the experience. As a result, our focus must be on the energy itself. My frustration has a source, that source is within me and can be located by using the energy of my frustration itself. This is where practice comes in for we are unlikely to be able to find the source thoughts the first few times we try this.
Say I am frustrated and a little ticked off when someone cut me off in traffic. I could wonder why they did it, but that is moot and irrelevant. I will ask myself "why did I feel frustrated" and not do so casually. I will "feel" my frustration and try to put words to it such as "they had no right to do that", or "they are making me late" or "they are #@$%'s". These words are not the issue, however, they are the first steps in finding it.
Take the first one, "they had no right to do that". This implies notions about what is right and wrong, what rights others have and what rights we have. If we believe that others should always act in the "right" way then we are assuming there is a "right" way and further that they are acting inappropriate. Regardless of what we may think, people really do have "the right" to be as ignorant as they choose, I have the right to ignore them. Why didn't I?
The shift from feeling the energies to exploring them will result in a reduction of the energies we are manifesting simply because doing so takes away our focus, hence the energy we put into it, from our reaction. This exploration process I mention can take a great deal of time, especially if it is a big issue with others related to it such as one of my beliefs is not "correct" or out of balance. In this case, we may need to work on it over a period and not try to solve it all in the moment. I will not get into how to work through individual issues in this piece, though I do hope you get the idea that I am trying to convey.
As a parting comment I will discuss briefly what to do when others are upset and it is affecting us. The primary reason why we are affected by their energy is that we have something in us that shares something with the energy they are sending. An example would be someone we don't like glaring at us. The dislike aside (though we need to deal with this at some point) we would not be bothered by it if we didn't have something in us that it could resonate with. To determining what this is we do the same thing mentioned above, we work with the energy of our reaction to find the thoughts that gave rise to it.
In the meantime, we may have to deal with the energy if we we cannot leave. I covered the topic of shielding in the December 31, 2010 TOD. Here is the link to this essay:
I realize I have not covered every aspect of this topic, though I do hope this gives you some idea of what I mean by active awareness. Remember, the past is gone, the future does not exist...there is only now. Everything is now, our past is part of us now as are our imaginings for the future. If we want to work on ourselves we must turn our attention towards NOW and away from the illusion of past and future.
© 2011 Allan Beveridge
Last updated February 1, 2020