We have done the meditations and we’ve started to learn: 1) the act of switching emotions; 2) the act of patience taken in order to decide if an emotion should be changed or experienced; and 3) we’ve gotten to know how our emotions impact our physical self so that we have clear indications of when we’re happy and when we’re otherwise.
We use our posture, a smile, our tone of voice, or a manner of walking–anything that is likely to incite activity in the parts of our brain where we’re better wired-up for easy happiness. This is like when we teach little kids to have a happy place.
As we’ve discussed, we can have some go-to thoughts that we like, but if we don’t manage to grab those better thoughts in the heat of a moment, we must make sure not to add to our negative narrative by scolding ourselves for having missed the opportunity to take those emotional reigns.
We have to learn several things: a general awareness of ourselves; an emerging understanding of how our psychological self emerges within our physical being; and the wisdom necessary to know when to change to how we feel, versus the wisdom of knowing when to accept things as they are.
It is perfectly useful to us to become aware of an emotion and still not do anything about it. If we’re initially upset that we didn’t escape a ‘technically unnecessary’ bad feeling, then that means we have fully accepted that we can change them. We just haven’t refined the skills associated with switching, or our acceptance in cases where we don’t switch.
Just our awareness alone is a bigger part of this than we realize at the start.
When we change emotional tones it does feel really nice pretty much immediately. But even when we succeed at that, we’ll still be on tilted ground and we’ll have to stay conscious to stay balanced. If we sense that an external source did anything that we felt exacerbated our issue, then our recovery might well slide backwards into ego emotions immediately.
But that’s fine too. We have to come to know this landscape in order to master it.
We don’t need to change or alter our emotions as much as we need to just slow them all down so we can see how they form more naturally. Our emotional state is effectively where we live so we should know our own currents and eddies.
As we study ourselves our knowledge grows and we will find ourselves intervening with ourselves and others –sometimes in surprising and seemingly unintentional ways. It’s as though wisdom is speaking or acting through us.
These aren’t pieces of wisdom we calculate using brain knowledge, these are more the things we know through a more immediate wisdom. These are those moments where we suddenly ‘get’ something, or the way we know we’ve fallen in love.
Even in less profound situations than finding love, by quieting our thought-based emotions, our wise self often knows what to do in a profound way. But it does need access to the steering wheel of our mind.
If our ego is busy trying to steer around pain then it can dominate the steering wheel for so long that the real us falls asleep –which is problematic, because in the end our ego won’t really avoid any pain, but all its useless swerving will create a lot of unnecessary suffering.
We can benefit by seeing the ’emotional us’ as someone who is very simply addicted to the chemistry for our Dominant Negative Emotion. It’s why people with an abusive parent will date abusive people, or even why people will go to horror films to intentionally frighten themselves, or date perpetually sad people.
Everyone’s hunger for each chemical varies, but our Dominant Negative Emotion is one worth knowing because we will subconsciously seek it whether it is good for us or not.
By changing or even muting that emotion some percentage of the time we will instill in ourselves this capability. Over time it will become so ordinary that someone else is likely to eventually describe our ability as our personality. We’ll be referred to as extremely patient, or extraordinarily compassionate or forgiving, and that will feel good.
But again, this isn’t about us looking good to others, it’s about us seeing the truth and being selfishly authentic. We act in accordance with feeling ‘right’ with ourselves. The byproduct happens to be that it leads us to generally be good others. But that part was up to the universe, not us.
If we’re truly free then we won’t be as willing to bow to counter-productive social norms. Others might see us as difficult or arrogant, but really what’s happening inside is that we’re focusing on the things that matter instead of pleasing others to no meaningful end.
Yes, the wrapping paper on anything says something. Politeness has value. But that’s messaging. The contents are what ultimately count. It’s fine to wrap something up beautifully, but only if it isn’t to disguise the fact that it’s not really what it purports to be. People’s wisdom will eventually spot the fakes.
We should see our ego as more distinct from us. We should see it as a literal other person. Enhance that distance. It will help us see that our ego is only our shadow. We can’t do things by changing the shape of our shadow, we must alter what is happening within us. When we see the world differently we behave in a different way and thereby we cast a different shadow.
Let’s all spend the next few days focused on body awareness and listening to our ego as a separate entity. If we can catch ourselves a few times doing each, then we’ll have done well. Even if we need some post-it notes to remind us of our objective, if we’re serious about doing these meditations then we will already have advanced our awareness considerably. We deserve to feel very good about that.
Let’s go have a great day.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.