Feeling and Emotion

FeelingEmo2Transcendent Joy Lifts Us
Beyond The Suffering Of Afflictive Emotion

Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
Shakespeare—King Lear

Without a clear understanding of the distinction between feeling and emotion (as we define them) it is doubtful if humanity can learn to live on the planet in a sustainable way. Simple Reality defines feeling as our inner wisdom, our intuition; it transcends the intellect and our emotional reactions. Feeling is also what connects us to the implicate order, the source of the intelligence behind all of Creation. Feeling is what you know to be true whether you believe it or not. And as the poet Wallace Stevens reminds us, “The world about us would be desolate except for the world within us.”

Emotion, on the other hand, is a source of human suffering and has its origin in the illusion of P-B. We often call emotions “afflictive emotions” and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche indicates why we might do this. “Being dragged around by emotions destabilizes our mind, our day, our life, and ultimately, the welfare of our planet.”  “Our actual enemy, you see,” says another Buddhist, Tenzin Gyatso, “is within ourselves.  The afflicted emotions (pride, anger, jealousy) are our real enemies.”  Even those emotions that we mischaracterize as “pleasurable” are correctly understood by many Buddhists as suffering.  “All emotions are painful. This is something that only Buddhists would talk about. Many religions worship things like love with celebration and songs, Buddhists think, ‘This is all suffering.’”   I think that Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche is also correct in his understanding of the illusion of pleasure and the emotions associated with pleasure in P-B.

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning of life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive…so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.
Joseph Campbell  (emphasis added)

What Joseph Campbell is referring to is that life can only be “experienced” in the present moment. We will see in this chapter that many other very wise people have said the same thing. We find the same realization from both the Hindu perspective stated by Clive Johnson and the Buddhist articulated by Kay Mieno Kato. “Liberation does not come by merely saying the word ‘Brahman.’ Brahman must be actually experienced.”  “To the Buddhist, the Truth is said to be inconceivable by the ordinary mind unless it could be experienced. Therefore, the possible best that could be done or presented by mere words could be such words as ‘feeling Oneness.’”

Speaking of Oneness as Kato has just done reminds us of our ability to respond to all of creation when we are in the present moment.  Andrew Harvey urges us to keep that realization of Oneness in the forefront of our consciousness. “Let us go back to the source, and it indicates at once the Principle that bestows beauty on material things … Our interpretation is that the Soul [true-self]—by the very truth of its nature, by its affiliation to the noblest Existents is the hierarchy of Being—when it sees anything of that kin, or any trace of that kinship, thrills with an immediate delight, takes its own to itself, and thus stirs anew to the sense of its nature and of all its affinity.”   Harvey, of course, is speaking of what it “feels” like to be present in P-A. That affinity is our connection to all that is, our connection to the implicate order.

To experience “feeling” we must be in the present moment. To engage in the creative process is also a present moment experience. The word “inspiration” means “spirit within” and creativity is therefore an “inspirited process.” It’s easy to forget that the true-self is present throughout the human experience.  Yes, even in the sometimes mundane institution of politics.  Most of us are unaware of it most of the time. Sir Lewis Namier’s Doctrine tells us that: “What matters most about political ideas are the underlying emotions [what we call feelings], the music to which ideas are a mere libretto, often of very inferior quality.”

If our political leaders would listen more to the melody of their feelings and less to the blaring cadence of power, they could learn to distinguish symptoms from problems. For example, they would not wage a “war on drugs” when the real problem is a people without a healthy identity, trying to anesthetize the emotions associated with the fear of being lost in a terrifying narrative with no effective coping skills, and alienated from the source of their power and strength, cut off from the ground of their being.

Afflictive energy flows from the energy centers of the false-self. It is important to remember that this energy shows up in the body, mind and emotions. Fear is the source of all afflictive emotions and drives the need for security, sensation and power. Fear energy is dark, ponderous and heavy. The energy of the present moment is light, buoyant and filled with joy.

Seth describes feelings eloquently: “Sometimes they rise to the surface, but in great long rhythms. You cannot call these negative or positive. They are instead tones of your being. They represent the most inner portion of your experience. This does not mean that they are hidden from you, or are meant to be. It simply means that they represent the core from which you form your experience.

“If you have become afraid of emotion or the expression of feeling, or if you have been taught that the inner self is no more than a repository of uncivilized impulses, then you may have the habit of denying this deep rhythm. You may try to operate as if it did not exist, or even try to refute it. But it represents your deepest, most creative impulses; to fight against it is like trying to swim upstream against a strong current … Once you learn to get the feeling of your own inner tone, then you are aware of its power, strength and durability, and you can to some extent ride with it into deeper realities of experience. It is the essence of yourself. Its sweeps are broad in range, however. It does not determine, for example, specific events. It paints the colors in the large ‘landscape’ of your experience. It is the feeling of yourself, inexhaustible.”   (Italics added.)

Let’s look at the relationship between the intellect or rational mind and feeling. “It [feeling] cannot be understood rationally,” says Wayne Teasdale. “It is best approached through an apophatic method—a Greek term for a suprarational way of reflecting on the ultimate reality. It is a way of knowing God by not knowing.”   It is a way of having the experience of P-A without letting the process of thinking become an obstacle. The British mystic Thomas Troward uses Christian mythology to support the importance of intuition, another word for feeling, over the intellect. “… the Creative Power is a process of feeling and not of reasoning … this is what is symbolically represented in the statement that God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s … When a mere cold ratiocination is substituted for hearty warmth of volition, then Abel is symbolically slain by Cain.” 

The irony in the following paragraph is that “thinking” strategies are being used to verify “feeling” wisdom. Feeling is beyond and superior to thinking and certainly beyond concepts, theories, models and indeed words themselves. “People studying neurocardiology, a new field,” says Marc Barasch, “are discovering that the heart has a mind of its own. It has a brain-like grouping of neurons, and secretes oxytocin, the bonding chemical. Very often it seems there are certain perceptions that are first processed by the heart, not by the brain. So the knowledge that older cultures had—that the heart was at the center of the human being and not necessarily the brain—has some validity in science.”   Mark Matousek, in his article in a highly unlikely source, the AARP Journal, also indicates that feeling and emotion have specific brain locations. “When you’re really paying attention to the richness of the present moment, that’s right-minded awareness. The left hemisphere is preoccupied with past and future.”

Continuing in this vein we have research cited in the annual report of the Institute of Noetic Sciences. “Turning our attention away from the brain, we focus on the heart. One of the quintessential scientific discoveries about the heart is that it plays a significant role in consciousness. At the Institute of HeartMath, scientists have established that the heart communicates with the brain and the body by way of both an extensive neural network and an electromagnetic field interaction. The electrical component of the heart’s field, which permeates every cell in the body, is about 60 times greater in amplitude than the brain’s. The heart’s magnetic field is about 5,000 times stronger than the brain’s and can be detected several feet away from the body with magnetometers. That gives the heart quite an edge on electromagnetic power.

“The heart’s rhythmic field also has a powerful influence on processes throughout the body, and it appears to transmit physiological, psychological, and social information between individuals. In addition, research shows that the nervous system within the heart functions as its own “brain,” enabling it to learn, remember, and make functional decisions independently of the brain’s cerebral cortex. Experiments at HeartMath have demonstrated that the signals the heart continuously sends to the brain influence the higher brain centers involved in perception, cognition, and emotional processing.”   Here we have the intellect supporting intuition which is the natural and healthier relationship between the two.

Psychology, of course, has something to say about feeling and emotion. The Greeks in their search for Simple Reality often spoke of the “good, the true and the beautiful.”  C. G. Jung thought deeply and also suffered excruciating pain in his search for an experience of reality. “A man cannot always think and feel the good, the true, and the beautiful, and in trying to keep up an ideal attitude everything that does not fit in with it is automatically repressed. If, as is nearly always the case in a differentiated person, one function, for instance thinking, is especially developed and dominates consciousness, then feeling is thrust into the background and largely falls into the unconscious.”   Jung continues: “This interpretation emphasizes the belief that a patient must go beyond intellectual understanding and develop a feeling relationship with the contents of the unconscious.”

When we are not in the Now and are experiencing afflictive emotions, we are not psychologically healthy.  “Depression and inflation are other names for mood,”   says Robert Johnson, “both give one a sense of being overwhelmed by something other than one’s true self. This is weakness and incompetence in a man. Moods turn one to outer things or people for one’s sense of value and meaning.”   In other words, living one’s life in P-B is a sure way to become and remain neurotic. A definition of neurosis: “Any of various functional disorders of the mind or emotions without obvious organic lesion or change and involving anxiety, phobias, or other abnormal behavior symptoms.” Notice the key work “emotions” in this definition from The American Heritage Dictionary. Unfortunately, in the global village today neurotic behaviors are anything but abnormal.

In P-B we have two things upside-down. The intellect overrules intuition, and we have failed to understand that feeling, not emotion, links us to the profound guidance system of the implicate order in the context of P-A.  “As a matter of psychological fact,” Thomas Davis says, “mystical states of a well-pronounced and emphatic sort are usually authoritative over those who have them. They have been “there,” and know. It is vain for rationalism to grumble about this….Our senses, namely, have assured us of certain states of fact; but mystical experiences [feelings] are as direct perceptions of fact for those who have them as any sensations ever were for us …”

As we can now see, there is a direct relationship between truth and feeling.  “Things are not true simply because someone somewhere first said them,” writes Tom Harpur, “or because they are collected in books such as the Bible. They are true because they ring with full authenticity on the anvil of our souls.”

We must use P-B terms such as “soul” and “heart” judiciously, holding them “loosely” as it were, and then they can be useful. For example in the words of Sri Ramana Maharshi we can see that he uses the word “heart” as a synonym for our use of the word “feeling.”   “The seat of Realization is within and the seeker cannot find it as an object outside him. That seat is bliss and is the core [the ultimate depth] of all beings. Hence it is called the Heart … Entering the Heart means remaining without distractions. The Heart is the only Reality. The mind is only a transient phase. To remain as one’s Self is to enter the Heart.”

One last distinction needs to be made and that is the one between compassion and sentimentality.  Sentimentality and emotionality are closely related. Being sentimental means being colored by emotion rather than reason or realism. Sentimentality means being excessively or affectedly sentimental. Sentimentality is then, an afflictive emotion, it is a reaction driven by a false-self identity and as such is a source of human suffering. Any admiration of sentimentality is misplaced and reveals a lack of understanding of its true nature. Life in P-B, at times, all too sadly resembles a melodrama inhabited by whining victims who have chosen to deny their true identity and powerful ability to attain self-reliance.

In summary, speaking of power, we turn again to Thomas Troward who reminds us of our relationship to the source of all Creation. “… but as the individual’s power of recognition expands, he finds a reciprocal expansion on the part of this intelligent power which gradually develops into the consciousness of intimate companionship between the individualized mind and the un-individualized source of it.”   In the present moment, both the intellect and emotions are excluded as unnecessary remnants of the old story and all our questions simply fall away. “This is not the answer to our question [about feelings],” says Steven Harrison, “it is the question fallen silent … We are not the experiencers or explorers of this energy. We are this energy: expressing, exploring, manifesting, and disintegrating.” 

In Simple Reality, we are neither seekers after truth, or manifestations of divine energy, we are the energy itself, perfect, inseparable and indestructible.


References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry:
Who Am I? The Second Great Question Concerning the Nature of Reality
Where Am I?  The First Great Question Concerning the Nature of Reality
Simple Reality: The Key to Serenity and Survival

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