Taken in my Paris flat.

Lighten Up: Emotions

Exploring your emotional body. What are emotions? Are they inevitable? Where do they come from? How important are they? Do they belong to you?

If you read my last post, you’ll know I’m skeptical when it comes to methods that will help people become enlightened. I think those of us who are awake and choose to speak publicly about that state of being—how (if one can even say how) that happened, the adjustment period, what we see and experience currently from that state—need to be as plain as possible when it comes to what caused the awakening. When we look at people and tell them what is plainly obvious to us (that they are looking in the wrong place, looking in the wrong way, that their spiritual practices are not the point) it can seem like we are implying we know how to become enlightened, or we know how another person can become enlightened.

If you’ve read enough of this site, you might tire of hearing this once again, but I’m going to say it anyway, and I would invite others who are fully and permanently awake to say it more often: I don’t know. There are a lot of things we just don’t know. Or, sometimes we know them, but not in a way that can be communicated. We know them directly and immediately, but the understanding is so far beyond language. Some things you have to know directly and for yourself. They cannot be communicated or put into a reference manual. They are beyond any hope of communication, and when we attempt it, well…just look at all the confusing stuff out there.

So, with this caveat in mind, I will write a series of posts about things that I discovered or experienced before awakening that may or may not be of any use. I know…I’m not a natural salesperson!

Today I’d like to begin to address emotions. One thing that happened when I awoke is that my heart emptied out. That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? As if my heart became hollow. It’s partly because the word “empty” brings up so many unpleasant feelings. And also because we’ve been led to believe that emotions are precious and what makes us human, and some people even believe that they are our prime guidance system, given to us by the Divine. We even get cute wordplay: emotion = energy in motion. Adorable! Only no one seems to know what the blast that even means. We’re told we are supposed to use our emotions to manifest stuff and charge our magic. We might try to transmute emotions through tantra or antidote them, Catholic style, through an opposite emotion.

Psychology tells us to name our feelings, know our feelings, express our feelings. We are told that some feelings are noble and others are “negative” or base. We are, in short, obsessed with our emotions.

When I woke up, I stopped experiencing emotions. My heart was empty.

That might not be what you were expecting to hear. We’ve been told that enlightenment is the pinnacle of self improvement, so that should mean that all the good and noble feelings are amplified while the base and negative feelings disappear. That sounds great! Only, that’s not what happened. All personal emotions disappeared, leaving me with an empty heart.

When the mind is silent, truly still…not for a moment but always, feelings, emotions, as such, don’t arise. There is raw energy that will rip through your body/energy field. It happens rarely, and happens in one flash, and is gone. If your mind gives no name at all to it, you don’t experience it as love or sorrow or anger. You just feel a surge of energy, which flows through you and is gone, sort of like a sneeze.

This happened when my cat was put to sleep, and it went very, very badly. She suffered in terror, and we had done all we could to ensure that would not be the case. Once the vet had left our home, and it was done, I felt a rush of energy blow through me and I cried. But I did not feel it as any kind of emotion, just energy moving powerfully through my body in a flash. The same happened when my husband died. It was a great, cold starburst. Over in a flash, and never christened. It is energy in motion. Only, when we start fondling it with our minds it turns into something else. And all kinds of industries and mythologies and beliefs are built around that.

I’m not in any way saying you should ignore how you feel. I’m not actually telling you what to do at all with your feelings. I’m telling you what my experience has been.

Before enlightenment

I had some unusual experiences prior to waking up. When I was 12 I realized that I was beginning to care about how people perceived me. It’s common for kids that age to become self conscious, and I did not want to lose my freedom and independence. So I conducted a series of experiments to demonstrate to myself that it did not matter at all what others thought of me.

Once a week, I would raid my mother’s closet to find the most hideous left overs from an unfortunate prior decade, and I would wear them in public. I was acutely aware of how people were looking at me. Then, I would come home and dress in something stylish and go out in public. I was the same person, on the same day. People reacted very differently to me. I demonstrated to myself that people were going to have all kinds of opinions about me, and that those opinions clearly had nothing to do with who I was.

The following year, I, an introvert, purposely signed up for “try outs” of every imaginable kind. I tried out for all kinds of school sports teams, chess and even, god help me, cheerleading squad. Junior high school is designed to be totally humiliating to introverts who really would rather sit under a tree and read. I knew I would fail, and quite publicly. I decided to try my very best, not just go through the motions, but really try, and fail. I wanted to show myself that I could fail in front of all my peers, and I’d still be the same person, still feel no differently about myself.

Cheerleading tryouts were rigorous and completely humiliating. It was great! I unexpectedly made the girl’s volleyball team, as well as tennis. In any case, it was another self induced demonstration: I could fail and not feel bad about it; I could look totally foolish and not feel in any way diminished. This is not to say I defended myself against feeling inadequate. It was more like showing myself that feeling bad or embarrassed was simply not relevant.

So, obviously I was a weird teenager, to say the least. But what I wanted to show myself is that feelings do not follow circumstances. Feeling a certain way in a given circumstance may be normal, but it isn’t necessary. Circumstances do not cause feelings, they set the stage for you to react in the common way, with anger, sadness or mortification. Or not.

Society, and by that, I am including the people close to you who love you, will feel very uneasy if you don’t feel the correct feelings at the designated times. If you don’t feel sad or angry or hurt when you experience the sanctioned triggers, you are labelled in all manner of unfavorable ways. You might be a sociopath, or more colloquially, perhaps you weren’t breast fed or maybe someone dropped you on your head as a baby. A very close friend sincerely suggested that my lack of appropriate emotions was surely due to being adopted as a baby. In other words, you’re broken.

So even before awakening, I had many experiences, too numerous to describe here, where it seemed very clear that emotions are not the obvious or mandatory outcome of certain events. After awakening, even the emotions we normally treasure, such as personal love and what we think is compassion, were gone. There was no one left to narrate and interpret my experiences, and emotions did not arise.

It might seem the world would become so flat and wretched without our colorful, bouncy emotions to punctuate our experiences. But life has taken on a vivid immediacy and richness. But it has nothing to do with me, it’s not personal. And we take our emotions so personally, so seriously and revere them with a kind of religiosity.

For a long time after awakening I could not listen to music, even classical music, which I always had loved. I couldn’t watch movies, except for action movies, I couldn’t look at art. It was all just these intense personal emotions, but instead of just being in motion, they were forced into something solid, dense, physical…unmovable. I couldn’t relate to it, and it looked sticky and unhealthy.

What would it be like if our emotional energy remained pure, moving through our emotional body in one swift burst, staying not even a moment, not even long enough to receive a name, a story, a legend?

image: taken at my flat in Paris


4 comments

  1. Maury Lee says:

    I like the definition of emotions as “automatic value judgments.” This ties in, I think, with much of what you are saying. When a judgment is made and given high value, we simply don’t question it any more. It becomes an automatic value and we respond accordingly. I submit that on awakening, one’s values shift and so much of what is so serious is no longer seen that way. Those automatic values are uprooted because there is no longer a person there to hold them.

    How do you think your article relates to Albert Camus’ “The Stranger.” Didn’t the main character get convicted because he didn’t have the emotional response expected? Love to hear your thoughts on that.

  2. Hello,

    You say that you are ‘skeptical when it comes to methods that will help people become enlightened’.

    However, in 2007, I found my reality falling apart, and in brief, it felt as if I was dying in a dark and lonely place. Considering the symptoms and the insights I have had since, it may be that I was dying ‘of the human form’. The mind and ego now feels like wanting to contribute to this writing.

    To get back on track, I somewhat demanded my life back from the universe, and the universe demonstrated that I could not have my life back, as it was that which had created the dark experiences, but that I could have life ‘back’.

    I came across a few teachings which I call spiritual teachings, that I feel have helped me take the journey of spirirtual awakening, and yes, we are not our thoughts, emotions, body sensations, nor the body itself, but we experience them from that place which I cannot give a comprehensible word to. Some call it our soul (who we are), some call it a facet of god or the zero point field, and some call it consciousness or awareness.

    And yes, it is the labels of that expansive self that get in the way, and also the labels, judgement and reactions to the movements of energy that happen within us.

    I’ve got back off track again… pulling myself back…

    The teachings I came across are the only things I can ‘use’ to help separate myself from the often hugely intense movements of energy that I would have previous labelled as being reality, and reacting to it, and somewhat perpetuating that reality.

    However, the symptom of using the teachings have created a realization, also after reading about the journeys of others, that I seem to be on a journey of spirirtual awakening, and especially due to the aha-moments, epiphanies, answers to how and why I have been the way I have, and also how and why some of the dark experiences were created. Yes, the law of attraction, manifesting from thoughts seem to work, but when they all the wants, desires and energies get mixed up, reality can get undesirably chaotic. Hence for me, the law of attraction and manifesting are not the main foundation knowings of living this physical reality as a human.

    Also from my experience, the journey seems to be never ending and that is why I tend to call it the journey of ‘spirirtual awakening’, and the epiphanies as ‘spiritual enlightenments’ (plural) which are continuous.

    When you use phrases like ‘before enlightenment’, and on reading your other words, enlightenment, which I would call awakening, from your perspective, seems like a destination.

    So, from my experience, I would say that one can find methods that may help them experience enlightenments along their journey of awakening.

    And, I would appreciate your input into your enlightenment, my awakening, being journeys and/or a destinations.

    On a related note, may I quote (copy and paste into a blog post on my site with a link to yours) from the red title ‘Before enlightenment’ to the sixth paragraph below ending in ‘In other words, you’re broken.’ What you describe about yourself when you were young is what I have been learning to do with the teachings that I ‘use’. They help me separate myself from the thoughts, emotions, body sensations, events in the outside world, as previously it is those and reacting to them that created the dark experiences.

    The undoing from perceptually negative experiences has been in the separation from what was being reacted to, which then creates the space for new, more expansive experiences to happen, and it seems that then true’ desires manifest, often without having to directly think or ‘work’ for them.

    And the reason I wanted to quote your above words is to demonstrate with a third party perspective and example that during the process of awakening, and using a version of the teachings that I use, yes, the outside universe in terms of life situations, relationships, etc, can react ‘against’ you. However, it is somewhat everything in and around you that created any negativity that you experience, and to truly ‘break free’, and experience ‘your’ happiness, matters can get seemingly get worse before they get better.

    Wow, I can keep writing here, but I have a few other things I feel I have to do today, but thank you, and your feedback would be appreciated.

    • 21st Century Bodhi says:

      Bharat,
      I appreciate your perspective, on the journey, on the aha moments, on the epiphanies. But that is not the same as waking up. Waking up has nothing to do with experiencing your happiness or revealing how your life circumstances are created or anything like that. Those are all very interesting topics, and worthy of exploration, but it’s not even categorically related to the experience of waking up, which is not so much a destination at all, but a threshold. When you wake up in the morning, is that moment of waking up your destination? Of course not. Whatever epiphanies or experiences you had when you were asleep, no matter how profound, revelatory or practically useful, it has nothing to do with being awake or asleep.

      I am no more awake today than the moment I woke up, over a decade ago.

      But, who cares? Who cares if one is awake or having a lovely journey in which they believe they are awakening? You seem to be appreciating your journey, so in that case, why wake up? Is being awake better than having a dream you are enjoying or finding worthy or somehow valuable? I have actually written quite a lot about the difference between these two, so I won’t elaborate here, as you can find this information in many other posts on the site. I do not advocate enlightenment. For some people, there is no other option but to wake up. People who are “on a journey” want that journey validated. I have never come across a person who had this paradigm of being on a spiritual journey who didn’t feel the urge to validate it, and seek validation for it.

      I don’t doubt that you have learned many valuable things along the way. I don’t refute your epiphanies. What I’m saying, only from personal experience, is that there is a state of awareness after which there is no more seeking. One is finished, done. It’s over. That will sound like a “destination” to you. It is not. But it’s also not a state which one who values their journey can easily comprehend.

      • Bharat says:

        Thank you for your reply. From my experience (or perspective), the only ‘solution’ to the undesirable place I reached was what can be called a spiritual practice or meditation that seems to be creating the journey that I described.

        It was not a choice as I did not know what spiritual awakening and related techniques and meditations were, or perhaps it was a requirement for others, but I simply wanted a way out of the perceived dark place and this ‘journey’ is what has been created.

        With respect to validation, I am not looking to see if where I am is correct or acceptable, as I know no way out of it, apart from destroying the body, or continuing to use the tools/ techniques that I refine or that come to me. I have however chosen the latter option to keep this body alive as long as possible.

        There is however a part of me that thinks the experience I have had, and am having, is worthwhile, beneficial, or some value for others. I first shared with purpose, know I try to just share perhaps so that purpose may come. A part of me feels that some sort of flow must happen, either in my psychically moving around, to the other extreme of flowing information.

        The awakened state that you describe yourself being as, or in, sounds similar to that of others who seem to have awakened in a moment but did not seem to know what had happened. Only after time thereafter of seeking and receiving answers, perhaps they reached the state of not requiring any more answers to their state, and perhaps have reached the threshold you describe.

        There is a part of me that thinks I may reach that threshold at ‘the end of this journey’ I seem to be on, but a part of me, but not as an intention or desire. That is as a part of me also does not wish to reach that threshold, unless as above, I can have purpose in this reality, as my mind currently seems not to want to reach a destination of ‘One is finished, done. It’s over.’ as the mind asks ‘Then what?’

        However, it seems that others who seem to be awakened continue to have knowings, and feel like sharing them, and which perhaps creates a function for them. You seem to be doing the same thing, and so are you not still somewhat experiencing questions and hence ‘one is not finished’, albeit from ‘your audience’?

        That question is the reason why I cannot understand the concept of ‘One is finished, done. It’s over.’

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