Feelings or Emotions?

During our Sunday sittings this month, I have been sharing my knowledge about what many people report to be the effects that Mindfulness Meditation has on them. It certainly cultivates our ability to see with a deeper sense of clarity, in the present moment, with nonjudgmental awareness…but there is other, more scientific information available to share.

Last week, we talked about the most recent medical findings pertaining to people who meditate, which elicited important conversation pertaining to emotions, mainly how stress occurs within us, the neurobiological reasons why, and what effect(s) this has on our bodies and our minds. Within that discussion, someone wanted to know if the assumption was that meditation naturally led to the end of us having emotions, (being emotion-less) which gave me the impetus to develop the most recent talk entitled, “Awareness of Feelings”. As a result, our sitting group had a wonderful exchange of personal insights into the experience of emotions.

In the practice of meditation, our emotions are not to be discounted, meaning that we don’t throw them away or push them under the rug. Rather, we become more and more aware of them but not attached to them. I commonly use the term: “hijacked” by their power over us. Thoughts and emotions, which normally follow so regularly and are habitually linked, go like this: if the feeling is unpleasant, a negative reaction occurs; if it is pleasant, grasping arises. Thus, the mind is mostly just reacting: liking and/or disliking. The result is that you are being caught in the conditioned cycle of distress at the linkage of feelings and grasping. Nevertheless, there is no need to be. By intercepting the primary feeling at the “sense-door,” without the following emotion, the feeling will go no further, therefore no attachments, no liking or disliking, end of story, and end of suffering.

We were somewhat perplexed as to whether feelings preceded emotions, or emotions preceded feelings. I thought of this quote: “The way to transcend hope and fear is not to block it, cut it off, or try to prevent it from arising. Rather, the way to transcend hope and fear is to meditate on hope and fear’s true nature.” With the practice of “open awareness” (sometimes referred to as “choiceless awareness”) in our meditation experience, we ultimately discover the true nature of all experience, and by doing so, we become unlatched to our hopes and unshackled by our fears.