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Spirituality Without Religion – But What About The Sacred?

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There is a current trend toward “Religion without God” –churches are cropping up without God as the center of attention and simply building community. This is not entirely new, Ernest Holmes’ Science of Mind has been in this area, along with questionable movements like Scientology for some time.

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But with the growth of technology, atheism has also become more active. Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking and other popular atheists ridicule literal interpretations of scripture and denial of evolution, but this is the low hanging fruit.

This, Sam Harris does very eloquently, and he is a proponent of Spirituality without Religion, which is a very popular movement.

Harris says in the trailer for the video based on his best seller ‘Waking Up,’

“If you are thinking without knowing that you’re thinking you are confused about who and what you are.”

I could not agree more. I have now experienced this space and also written about it, but unlike Harris and his cohorts it has opened me up to a sense of much higher intelligence that must be deemed, for lack of a better term, “Sacred.” But what truly happens when you notice your thoughts?

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Harris and many others seem to imply that the only conclusion is a secular deconstruction that results in a thoroughly Eastern emptiness –one of his most thought provoking ideas that echoes much of modern neuroscience is that there is no “self” and no free will.

But is there no “Meaning” possible without or beyond thought? Is all Meaning purely “conceptual”? Does Sam Harris’ revision of Religion –without an angry anthropomorphic “Personal” God also necessitate the end of the Sacred? Is the Sacred a “concept” or an intrinsic byproduct and ineffable component of Awareness and Being?

Is Sacredness Relative To Our Level Of Being?

Perhaps we can begin to acknowledge that Sacred IS an undeniable aspect of being beyond our own “scale” – beyond what we “know” as mind and linked to our being as “organic life.” Eckhart Tolle certainly seems to think so. He says that the intelligence that runs your body, for example, is infinitely intelligent and of a magnitude of perfection beyond thought and seems to imply that Being is the Sacred. He equates it to “God” as those he is writing for commonly conceive of a deity.

But I suspect that even Eckhart would say that this Sacredness is by virtue of its dimensional scale relative to our level of being -that Infinite is beyond what we can ever know or comprehend –or is such a sense of the Infinite yet again another concept?

Eckhart and other modern thinkers take the notion of Being beyond the material –he calls it “no thing.” And even the science that has spawned the new Atheism has discovered ethereal existence as energy –just look at the phenomenon of wireless transmission of data. Is it purely delusional conditioning to believe that the force behind organic life MUST be intelligent and Sacred? Or could artificial intelligence via technology ever become truly conscious so that nothing “more” is required?

My deepest instinct is NO but some very bright people seem to disagree.

What Exactly Is Consciousness?

First let us recognize that Consciousness is NOT merely more complex or calculated THOUGHT.  The Consciousness that is US is organic Life and our neural function of thinking is only a small fraction of its scope. Again as Eckhart Tolle points out, the Consciousness that runs our organic system harmoniously—circulation, breath, elimination and so on, is infinitely greater than our thinking mind.

Our deeply felt recognition of this changes our Being, and perhaps begins to open to a profound comprehension of the “level of Scale” on which Consciousness actually operates. If you consider it deeply, unlike what the artificial intelligence folks would have you believe –Consciousness or the non-conceptual REALITY of Infinity does not equal greater complexity.

Infinity is not what the thinking mind thinks is “just one more” or plus one. Infinite is INFINITE.

For example the calculations of supercomputers have “discovered” larger and number Prime Numbers. With additional calculation, there will always be “just one more”. But none of the just one more Prime Numbers will ever be Infinite.

INFINITE is of a scale BEYOND MIND.

Proof Of Infinity Is Right Before Our Eyes

To “see” this for yourself, on a clear and star filled night, just go outside and look out there. Your mind will tell you that Infinite is just the next star, solar system, galaxy, universe, cluster or whatever. But out there, IN REALITY, is INFINITY and your mind cannot comprehend “the next” beyond what it sees.

And yet THERE IT IS, staring back at you. INFINITY. Not the next anything. Just WHAT IS. Can the scale of something so far outside or normal comprehension be anything but Sacred?

Now the question becomes, is the Sacred or Infinite a potential subject for scientific inquiry? Or does it need to remain outside the scope of scientific inquiry –are “facts” sacred? Sam Harris is an interesting author on this subject because he is an eminent scientist who both denies the existence of free will, and at the same time holds “reverence” for the ordinary. He is a proponent of mindfulness and presence.

So How Do We Scientifically “Investigate” The Nature of Consciousness & Mind?

Sam Harris: “We know we are downstream of causes of which we are not conscious and of which we cannot be conscious.” And yet our beliefs and thoughts convince us that we are the initiators of all our actions.

Eckhart Tolle’s identification of all reactive and conditioned thought as the “voice in the head” (and not the self) is enormously helpful as far as it goes, but with our own evolution and presence I think we will eventually go deeper and discover layers and frequencies that can be differentiated and serve us better in the future–perhaps as “evolved communities of thought.”

spectrumI suspect that when biophysicists and neuroscientists like Sam Harris get better instruments they will discover that like the Eskimos, who have many words for “snow” we will need to develop a more thorough understanding of “thought” –probably along the lines of our current understanding of electromagnetic frequencies.

The following image is from Dr. Jay Kumar’s presentation at last year’s Science and Nonduality Conference, where he eloquently compared findings in neuroscience and physics to Eastern thought.

 

As Dr. Kumar said, we currently “see” or even measure only a slight fraction of frequencies of the electronic spectrum. Perhaps we may eventually discover an equally widely disparate source and frequency range within our thoughts. None of this may lead to the discovery of a permanent “I” (with “free will”) but rather a much more complex interrelationship with our environment.

Epigenetics is a current field that is investigating our “nature” as part of a much larger dynamic in which the individual is a part of a larger community just as one’s cells form a “unit” to create organs, and organs do so to comprise an “organism”—which we take our “selves” to be.

The Internet, as a “planetary nervous system,” or as I like to call it, an Awareness System takes us as individuals to the next level, potentially as a much higher “Organism” on a global scale—perhaps as a community of evolved thought. Perhaps it is from this “platform” of comprehension that a Science of Consciousness might emerge that combines the factual data of “science” with an understanding of its limitations due to our own minds and organic being.

One teacher who anticipated this development was Gurdjieff in the early 20th century who like Eckhart Tolle saw most men and women as “asleep” and conditioned by the habitual thoughts that they took them “selves” to be. What Gurdjieff also sought to do was “merge the science of the west with the philosophy of the east” and reintroduce a sense of the “Sacred” into modern life.

The Sacred, after all, is just the recognition of a dimension of Being higher than oneself, or perhaps what one can conceptually understand.

While Sam Harris ridicules the ideas of Gurdjieff for (probably figuratively) suggesting that the Moon is alive (page 155 of “Waking Up”). However, from a perfectly pragmatic point of view, can there be any doubt from the standpoint of organic life on Earth THAT THE SUN IS SACRED?

Existence would not “be happening” for us without the Sun. Every scientific system we have underscores that knowledge and as Carl Sagan said, “We are the stuff that stars are made of.”

All Life in this solar system depends upon the existence of the Sun as a physical and (perhaps?) organic entity. To call it “alive” in the truest sense of the word is not much of a stretch. Indeed if the Artificial Intelligence proponents want to consider an “Information System” of nearly infinite complexity and a network of combustible energy within our purview they need no further than the thermonuclear reality that “rises and sets” every day at the horizon of what we know as our planet.

By any truly visceral sense of scale, our science has discovered that a star exists in size and power on an order of magnitude that shrinks any human being or ego to the level of total insignificance. Perhaps the Sun IS conscious on a scale we simply cannot currently comprehend, and of which we may become aware only in our newly evolved role as a Global Consciousness reconnected to the Sacred.

Interestingly I found the following passage in Transcripts of Gurdjieff’s Meetings 1941-1946:

Gurdiieff: Then one must change the way of working. Instead of accumulating during one hour one must try to keep constantly the organic sensation of the body. Sense one’s body again, continually without interrupting one’s ordinary occupations-to keep a little energy, to take the habit, I thought the exercises would allow you to keep the energy a long time.  But I see it is not so. Wet a handkerchief, wring it out, put it on your skin. The contact will remind you. When it is dry, begin again. The key to everything—remain apart. Our aim is to have constantly a sensation of oneself.  Of one’s individuality. This sensation cannot be expressed intellectually, because it is organic. lt is something which makes you independent when you are with other people.”

From the perspective of Eckhart Tolle‘s work, what resonates for me is the pointer beyond the self-talk of the Mind. Knowing now that you are not your thoughts, connecting organically and without thinking–physically, emotionally and with all of “You” with what you truly are as Being, moment to moment…

Three Great Minds, One Ultimate Definition

And it takes us back to the work of Sam Harris, and the focus of his inquiry. I was blown away at the conclusion of Sam Harris’ best seller “Waking Up.” He comes very close to actually defining spirituality along the same lines as Eckhart Tolle and even Gurdjieff.

But he never actually defines it, he merely describes it eloquently and when he says “Something in you at this moment is pristine” the only difference from Eckhart Tolle is that Eckhart would probably use the term, “No-Thing” to take it entirely out of the realm of materiality.

Here is Harris’ conclusion:

“Spirituality begins with a reverence for the ordinary that can lead us to insights and experiences that are anything but ordinary.  And the conventional opposition between humility and hubris has no place here. Yes, the cosmos is vast and appears indifferent to our mortal schemes, but every present moment of consciousness is profound. In subjective terms, each of us is identical to the very principle that brings value to the universe. Experiencing this directly–directly—not merely thinking about it—is the true beginning of spiritual life…

This should grant profundity to the humble project of noticing what it is like to he you in the present. However numerous your faults. Something in you at this moment is pristine—-and only you can recognize it.

Open your eyes and sec.”

What I love about Harris’ concept is that the “sacred” is implied but not bludgeoned into us.  The word reverence is sufficient to make us aware of how unlikely it is that we are even here at all right now—that is reverence for the ordinary. Because the biggest miracle of all is that “I Am” writing this right now at all. But Harris nails it with some deft dancing between authoritarian Science and fundamental Religion.

For after all, the terms “religion,” “science,” “God” and even “human” are purely conceptual and therefore abstractions; but a sincere meaning into the reality that exists as “the ordinary” must include a study of consciousness itself, and inevitably point to something far higher and more intelligent, and ultimately, Sacred.

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Catholic Church Ignores Pedophilia, But Bishop Warns Reiki & Energy Healing Are Satanic

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Catholic Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan has said he is establishing a "delivery ministry" that will attempt to rid people of the devil and warned that using reiki or other new-age healing methods could open one up to demonic influence.

  • Reflect On:

    Can these types of fear-based attempts to retain power over people serve the greater awakening to our innate power and sovereignty?

It is wisely said that, ‘you should clean up your own backyard first before you come running over to fix mine.’ Obviously, this wisdom continues to be lost on the clergy of the Catholic Church.

According to this Irish News article, Catholic Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan has said he is establishing a “delivery ministry” of people who will attempt to rid others of the devil and warned that using reiki or other new-age healing methods could open one up to the possibility of encountering malevolent spirits. He said he had received “several requests” from people to help deal with evil forces.

On the strength of what spellbinding evidence and research does the bishop rest his indictment against reiki healing treatments on? He said he was told by the brother of a reiki master that the man was “working on somebody one day when he actually says he saw a vision of Satan” and was “scared out of his wits, dropped the reiki and went back to the Church”.

Gosh. Did Bishop Cullinan even go so far as to interview the reiki master himself, to verify the authenticity of the report, and perhaps inform himself just a touch more about the philosophy and practice of reiki, before giving it such firm identification with the dark side?

Heavens, no.

 

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“This is something that has to be done in secret because you don’t let these people’s names out, and they are going to houses where people maybe have been involved in some kind of new-age thing or some kind of séance or that kind of thing, and unfortunately, they’ve opened up a door to an evil force, Satan.” Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan

Absolving Personal Responsibility

Let’s be clear on what the good bishop is saying here: he is worried about people getting influenced by Satan while engaging in ‘new-age’ healing practices.  (In fact, he misidentifies reiki as a ‘new age’ practice when in fact it was developed in the early 1900’s in Japan by Mikao Usui, who realized that healing energy can be transmitted between human beings via the hands and directed intention and visualization.) Does he say what the consequences might be if people fall deeply enough under Satan’s spell under these conditions? Will they suddenly be tempted to steal an apple from the grocery store? Say a crossword to a neighbor? He doesn’t know. And doesn’t say. And probably hasn’t even thought that far.

No, what it really looks like is that the good bishop would like to stop people who are taking personal responsibility for their own healing, and play the devil card to encourage such people to run back to the Catholic Church where members don’t actually have to take responsibility for their own actions–they can simply believe the devil made them do it. This is a scenario in which the good bishop can feel useful in an advisory capacity because he has the God-given power to absolve participants of their sins with the recitation of a few ‘Hail Mary’s.

Why Not Address In-House Pedophilia?

You would think, if indeed you believe Cullinan is being sincere, that he would not be sticking his nose into something he knows little about, and instead bring his Satan-fighting attention to the actions of his Catholic brethren who are already known to be raping and torturing children. You would think it would be of the highest order to turn his exorcising powers to work on these contemporaries of his, if for nothing else than to try to resurrect the reputation of the Catholic Church which has fallen to unprecedented depths.

But you get the feeling that his attitude falls in line with the Church on the matter of pedophilia in the church. Their inaction seems to indicate that they feel not much can be done about it. It is not a question of personal responsibility, it is a question of demonic possession. In the article, Cullinan said he “absolutely” agreed with Pope Francis’s view that child abuse is caused by Satan. Which means offenders themselves are not to ‘blame’ for their actions. The church’s propensity to take offenders of these violent crimes and simply move them away from one outraged community to continue their criminal activity in another one is a clear sign of this.

The Takeaway

This bishop certainly has gall to act concerned about potential demonic influence coming from modern energy healing practices he knows nothing about. The good news is, the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church continues to reveal itself in these feeble attempts to retain power over people, and they could serve as a catalyst for more people who still give themselves over to these institutions to take their power back.

A Quick Important Notice:

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In order to stay truly independent, we need your help. We are not going to put up paywalls on this website, as we want to get our info out far and wide. For as little as $3 a month, you can help keep CE alive!

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Consciousness

The Remarkable Brainwaves Of High-Level Meditators

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Expert meditators are constantly producing high range brainwave frequencies, even when they're not meditating. A normal human being rarely hits these brainwave frequencies.

  • Reflect On:

    Meditation could help people of all ages, create more peace in their lives. As it becomes a global collective practice, it will make a big impact on world peace and overall quality of life.

Listen To This Article

Measuring brainwaves while in altered states of consciousness is a fascinating way to see what happens to the brain during these states. It makes me feel that factors associated with consciousness exist separate from the brain, and that the brain is simply a receiver of this non-material input from some unidentified part of ourselves.

When it comes to meditation, scientists have been able to measure the brainwaves of high-level meditators. They found that some meditators are consistently operating in the gamma brainwave range, approximately at 40Hz. I’ve written about the brainwaves of lucid dreamers before, and those studies also show that when someone is lucid dreaming, they are also operating within the gamma brainwave range. This brainwave range is associated with a conscious state of heightened self-awareness, an even more conscious state than when one is awake.

Human beings don’t operate anywhere near these frequencies when we are in our normal wakeful state, and we operate at an even lower frequency during sleep states.

There are delta brainwaves, which are most pronounced in premature babies, then there are theta brainwaves which are characterized by light sleep, REM sleep, dreams and hallucinations.  Alpha brainwaves are an even higher frequency, which are most prominent during relaxation, contemplation and a lack of visual stimuli. These occur when you are not distracted or focused on the external world too much, and their frequency is approximately 8-12 Hz, so you can see why the jump to Gamma brainwaves for meditators is quite significant, which range from 40 – 100 Hz.

These are the fastest brainwave frequencies known to man.

It’s been more than a decade since researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that Zen Buddhist monks show “an extraordinary synchronization of brainwaves known as gamma synchrony – a pattern increasingly associated with robust brain function and the synthesis of activity that we call the mind.”  (Scientific American)

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 Meditation has always been intertwined with “superhuman” abilities. During a visit to remote monasteries in the 1980s, Harvard Professor of Medicine Herbert Benson and his team of researchers studied monks living in the Himalayan Mountains who could, by g Tum-mo (a yoga technique), raise the temperatures of their fingers and toes by as much as 17 degrees. It is still unknown how the monks are able to generate such heat. (source). The researchers also studied advanced meditators in Sikkim, India, where they were astonished to find that these monks could lower their metabolism by 64%. (source)

It’s important to mention that meditation has also shown significant changes in the brain, with an increase in brain matter and in other ways. It’s also shown to be successful for the treatment of multiple ailments, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. You can read more about the scientific benefits of meditation in a recent article we published, here.

In the video below, psychologist and science writer Daniel Goleman discusses his work along with his colleague and research colleague, neuroscientist, Richard Davidson. Fascinating stuff.

Expert meditators, as described below in this case, were flown in from all over the world and put in a lab.

Their brainwave, shows gamma very strong all the time as a lasting trait, no matter what they’re doing…it’s not during meditation alone, it’s just their every-day state of mind. We actually have no idea what that means experientially, science has never seen it before. We also find that in these olympic level meditators, when we asked them to do a meditation on compassion, their level of gamma jumps 700/800 percent in seconds. This has also never been seen by science. There is a state of being which is not like ordinary states, sometimes it’s called liberation, or enlightenment. There’s really no vocabulary that captures what that might be.

How To Meditate, What is Meditation?

I’ve always thought that meditation can be multiple things, but at its core involves the non-judgement of the thoughts that arise during the practice. Just let them come, and let them go as is. It also involves multiple states of meditation, as mentioned above, these experts are constantly in that “state of mind.” Many high-level meditators express how this is exactly what meditation is. That being said, sitting down, and meditating with intention and a goal in mind could also be very beneficial.

There could be multiple depths to meditation, and you don’t always have to sit cross-legged and do it a specific way. You can meditate in the shower, while you are on a walk, one person doing laundry could perhaps be in the same state of mind as another who is in a deep meditation, therefore both accomplishing the same experience, at least from a brainwave perspective that is. Just like the video explains above, they’re always in gamma range.

You want to begin by getting in a comfortable position. Take deep breaths, slow them down, and allow whatever comes into your head, to simply exit. That’s the general way start out if you’re just beginning your journey into meditation. The intention behind the meditation can be anything, including to simply experience this other state of consciousness and get closer to “source.”

The Takeaway

Imagine what would happen if 7 billion people on the planet all meditated together for world peace, would it manifest? It’s amazing what we now know about mediation, and what it can do to our biological realty. Perhaps it can do a lot to physical reality as well. These types of findings go to show that our most natural inner state is one of peace. Why else would it be the state that’s most beneficial for our body, and that allows us to operate at a higher capacity?

A Quick Important Notice:

The demand for Collective Evolution's content is bigger than ever, except ad agencies and social media keep cutting our revenues. This is making it hard for us to continue.

In order to stay truly independent, we need your help. We are not going to put up paywalls on this website, as we want to get our info out far and wide. For as little as $3 a month, you can help keep CE alive!

SUPPORT CE HERE!

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Consciousness

Wild Wisdom: How To Navigate Difficult Emotions

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Day and night exist; so too do joy and sorrow, anger and sadness. Yin and Yang comprise our wholeness.

  • Reflect On:

    Consider that the night has as much to offer as daytime, and is just as necessary. What new version of wholeness can we be crafted into when we embrace and skillfully work through all of what we feel?

“Each of our feelings or attitudes, no matter how negative, can evoke compassion and lead to transformation. We then joyfully realize how every negative experience has positive, growth-fostering potential, how every liability is a resource, how every shadow trait has a kernel of value, how every disturbance or mistake can deepen our spiritual consciousness . . . there is an energy of light frozen in our confusion, a luminosity we can release, if only we do not give up our mining.”

—Dave Richo, Ph.D.

Positive emotions satisfy the immediate gratification style of modern culture. They pay dividends right away. We try to keep up with pleasure, joy, and bliss in their ever-more-enticing forms. Difficult emotions, however, take patience, and require delayed gratification. The result of this gratification is a deeper sense of fulfillment that can’t be gained by direct experience with positive emotion.

Through the lens of Chinese medicine, our positive emotions are considered Yang (positive and quick) and confer Yang power. Our negative, dark, or difficult emotions are Yin. They take longer to release their nectar, as we slow down to meet them. We might have to look like outcasts for a time to reap their hidden, subtler power. These Yin experiences deliver a quieter, inner power, gradually.

A balance of Yin and Yang power is crucial. If we over-feast on Yang emotions, we can burn out and fall into an exhausted or depressive state once we can’t keep up with all the excitement. This corresponds with the modern epidemic of adrenal exhaustion. If we over-feast on negative emotions and ignore the lighter side of life, we can also end up in the pits. Sojourns into grief don’t count because they often deliver great rewards.

When Yin and Yang are in balance and healthy they mutually support one another. When we find balance between Yin and Yang emotions, we can reap the benefits of both positive and negative states. It’s not difficult to see the benefit of happiness, joy, positivity, exuberance, and inspiration—all Yang experiences. More difficult is to glean the good reasons to embrace our dark and difficult states.

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When we understand, even if just intellectually at first, why and how difficult states are absolutely crucial to our well-being, this gives us incentive to stay present and open to them and override our knee-jerk tendency to shut down and go away when they surface. What’s more, when we attune to and are patient with what’s difficult, that darkness transforms us little by little into more light, a light we cannot attain from Yang states alone. Only by staying with what’s dark can we create more love and light from what seems rotten and miserable.

So, this writing is dedicated to understanding the unique benefits that come from our difficult feelings and why it’s a good idea to stay close to them, when they visit.

Looking Deeper

Just like beauty and the beast, beneath the ugly exterior of our difficult emotions is a tender core of inspiration, soulfulness, and renewal. They return us to what really matters by revealing and empowering what we care about. If we sit with these feelings long enough, which is to welcome and let them have their way with us (at least in good part), we can reap their hidden riches (note: this is often not the case for mental illness, such as anxiety and depression).

Paradoxically, this process of staying close to difficulty eventually fills us up, quenching us with fulfillment. I’m convinced that if we don’t milk and allow ourselves to be transformed by these emotions, we live fractured lives. And as a result, we fracture the lives of others, including the Earth.

In being with painful feelings and letting them change us, they recede. The more we allow ourselves to be changed by them, the more they dissolve. In fact, they recede in proportion to how much we allow them to change us, as if their purpose were to get us to pay attention, to surrender, and to transform. From being with and working through our anger, sadness, fear, remorse, and envy, we develop genuine compassion, courage, creativity, inspiration, meaning, purpose, empathy, and greater love—qualities I call our finer jewels of being human.

We dont transform difficult emotions as much as they transform us. For this we must surrender and become vulnerable; we must have the faith and courage, humility and strength, to be changed in ways not in our control, shaped by the wild ways of nature expressed through our emotions. This way we get to become more than what we can control, or even imagine. So, if you want to live a passionate life close to nature, give way to your heart and its storms of wild wisdom come to revolutionize you.

To be changed by difficulty, we have to be vulnerable, pliant, brave, and strong enough to weather the shape-shifting of our sense of self. This requires having a strong enough core sense of self, our functional ego, one that can handle the adjustments, or in some cases, the dismantling of our sense of self. For this reason, the support of loved ones, and a therapist, is virtually essential, or at least makes the journey more productive and smoother.

Our dark, uncomfortable, or downright terrifying emotions are the other side of love. They are love’s underbelly, the deeper regions of our heart. In fact, we can often sense when someone has not entered this sacred chamber inside themselves and met their life-renewing shadow because they are generally uncomfortable around the emotional struggles of others.

The Way Out is Through

While offering nuanced suggestions for precisely how to navigate our difficult emotions is beyond the scope of this article (I offer more of that here), I want to briefly speak to the popular adage, “Don’t wallow in negative emotions.” Ironically, this might be an outsider’s perspective, coined and perpetuated by folks who haven’t entered their shadow in a significant way. For, when we do, we learn that we don’t really have much say for how long we are beset by life’s downturns.

We in fact must endure periods of what seems like wallowing and obsessing because we don’t have control over these states, nor do we have to. Nor do we have to fit in to the horse and pony show of modern living, rife with sickness, dysfunction, and obsessed with productivity and positivity. Other times, however, we will be able to snap out of a funk. In these cases we have at least some say in mitigating difficult states, apart from how they might ultimately benefit us.

We experience emotion in two primary ways. The first is in response to troubling environmental factors, events, or circumstances. In these cases, it’s usually safe to heed emotional signals at face value. Another way is to experience difficult emotions due to an imbalanced physiology such as illness (including mental illness) or another stressor. In these instances, it’s better not to listen to the voice or message of emotion and its distorted reasoning, or at least not take their perceived impact and significance to heart. For example, if you’re in a spat with your partner and irritated because you need to eat, get to sleep, be alone, or just chill out, it’s often wiser to just focus on taking care of yourself and not get into it with someone else. We might also need to grab the reins of our mind and control our negative thinking, which is absolutely appropriate during rough times—especially, for example, when we are looping negative thoughts.

All these self-help actions help “skim the surface” of feeling bad, which is to clear the superficial and temporary stress that contributes to circumstantial emotional flareups. After we self-care this way, our troubles usually seem smaller and less painful. Whatever emotional charge or realization left after skimming this top layer of stress, we can embrace and more confidently take to heart. To not self-care to relieve everyday stress is to suffer unnecessarily.

 Exercise, appropriate diet, and how supported we feel. all significantly influence our physiological state and therefore the duration and intensity of difficult emotional states.

The idea is to try to stay close to, and be with, our core emotional responses to real life events and to manage and discharge the extra energy these emotions generate due to mental obsession and physiological imbalance. For example, I might feel sad that I lost my girlfriend. I might feel extra sad if I lie on the couch all day and don’t force myself to get up and take a walk, eat something, or talk to friend. We have control over the latter, and not the former. In fact, we might not want to control our grief too much (so it can work on and change us), unless it’s unnecessarily physiologically generated and/or exacerbated by too much inactivity and stagnation.

To get in touch with our core emotions, we can activate and express them (Yang), or slow down and gently embrace them (Yin). This is where the jewels are—if we dig, or better, let ourselves be unearthed! Taking a break from digging and feeling tough feelings, however, is also crucial. This is healthy denial, when we focus on other things to give ourselves a break and so we can return to the inner work refreshed and with clearer perspective.

Lying around feeling sad all day might be helped by taking a walk, venting and being heard by a friend, or getting out to get out of our own head. Feeling angry for hours might be appropriately curbed by going for a run, pounding on some pillows, or finding genuine cause for laughter. But longer stints of grief, for example, might stay with us for months or years. Often, we don’t have much say in this. We can therefore surrender and be changed into what we can’t imagine by this wild wisdom of our deeper hearts.

An unfortunate alternative to embracing our difficult feeling states is turning to drugs, addiction, and excess avoidance, which usually create more suffering. What’s more, we miss out on the nourishing qualities hidden in challenging emotions—our finer jewels of being human—which we harvest by embracing them. Handled skillfully and with support, difficult times can be immense opportunities for growth, finding meaning and purpose in life, and reckoning with our demons. How we approach and handle difficulty is just as important, if not more so, than how we deal with easy times.

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Jack Adam Weber, L.Ac., MA, is Chinese medicine physician, having graduated valedictorian of his class in 2000. He has authored hundreds of articles, thousands of poems, and several books. Weber is an activist for embodied spirituality and writes extensively on the subjects of holistic medicine, emotional depth work, and mind-body integration, all the while challenging his readers to think and act outside the box. Weber’s latest creation is the Nourish Practice, a deeply restorative, embodied meditation practice as well as an educational guide for healing the wounds of childhood. His work can be found at jackadamweber.com, on Facebook, or Twitter, where he can also be contacted for life-coaching and medical consultations.


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