Sometimes negative emotions or adverse situations can upset and shake you real bad, almost causing an inner ruckus, driving you insane, they can make you say things you wish you had not, they can overpower you making you do things you would rather not. This is further aggravated by a feeling of guilt, a sense of helplessness, after you have calmed down. A while ago I wrote on overcoming negative thoughts and emotions. Allow me to expand on it for you.
A surge of rush, of anxiety, a tide in your inner world prompts you to take actions in the external world. Contrary to the popular belief, your inner world is not entirely independent of the external one, not till you reach the transcendental state anyway. However, you can control the response you choose in any situation. For example, you are on the road and a rash driver overtakes you dangerously. Your adrenal glands start secreting and you are tempted to give it back to the driver. Your emotional and mental state will be affected lot more by your reaction than just his action. You have practically no choice when it comes to his actions but you have complete freedom over your own.
A controlled physical response is the easy bit. It requires awareness and fortitude. If someone yells at you, with your own mindfulness you can remind yourself not to shout back, for instance. Easy. Well, almost. What to do though when it is not about some action but emotion? How to get over the mental doom and gloom that engulfs you especially if you held back in the aforesaid situation? What to do when someone’s negative opinion about you bothers you, their thoughtless statement causes you grief, their misconduct makes you feel bad? Read on.
Your inner world is made up of thoughts and it is affected by your emotional state and your state of consciousness. If you let the thoughts settle, emotions settle too. It is like cutting the gas supply to the engine, it will shut down automatically. If you can channelize and harmonize your thoughts, undesirable emotions will disappear like bubbles in a fizzy drink. Let me share one of the most powerful methods with you; with the help of a story:
“I try very hard to control myself, my anger and my negative emotions but they always win over me,” a disciple once said to Buddha, “O Venerable One! how do I overcome this weakness of mine?”
Buddha ignored his question and kept moving. After a while, he sat down in lotus posture under a banyan tree and spoke, “I’m thirsty, can you get me water from the river?”
Eager to serve his master, the disciple moved towards the river at once. Before he could lower the bowl and fill it, a man with a bullock cart started crossing the shallow river. The water became turbid. Dismayed, the disciple went back empty handed. “The water is muddy and unfit for drinking as a bullock cart just crossed the river.”
Buddha nodded. After a little while, he asked the disciple to try again. The water was still murky and he came back empty handed again. “It was less muddy,” he said, “but still unsuitable for drinking.”
Buddha maintained quietude for half an hour before instructing him again. The disciple was pleased to find clear water this time, the mud and other particles had settled down. He filled the bowl with water and went back to the master.
With utmost mindfulness, Buddha took a few sips. He put the bowl down and said, “You see, when the water got muddy, the easiest method to clean it was to let it be. Had you made any attempt to clear it at the time, it would have ended up worse. You just let it be, you simply waited and the mud settled down on its own. Other than patience, there was no effort. Similarly, when your mind is greatly disturbed just let it be. It’ll calm down, it’ll settle in due course, give it a little time, be patient.”
So, when you are bogged down by a disturbing or undesirable streak of thoughts, first be aware that it is muddy and secondly, let it be. Give it time to settle down. Do not act on it right away. Have a bit of self-dialog, tell your mind that you are aware it is upset, it is unsettled. It will change the drift of your thoughts. That said, it will greatly help your cause if you get rid of the mud altogether eventually. Water will stay pristine thereafter, your mind will be clear and free of contamination.
With practice, you can strengthen and insulate your inner world to such a level that it remains unmoved, unfazed, unsullied, no matter what. Meditation, serving the mankind, good karma, gratitude, being positive are some of the methods that help you get rid of the impurities; you can add praying to the list if you wish.
Be aware when it is muddy and then let it be for a little while. Those are the moments of non-action. Let the hurricane of emotions pass. For your own peace of mind, do not act when you are feeling negative. A Step taken in a state of emotional turmoil is like snorkeling without your mask, in salty water at that. All things when left alone return to their natural state.