Emotional balance has been unfolding in my life for 40 years and I am not fully there yet. One of the biggest hurdles is letting go of the belief that my emotions define me; that I am what I am currently feeling. In yoga we see emotions from the standpoint of energy. We define emotion as: e-motion = energy in motion. As a result, when I am experiencing a specific emotion, I realize that it is an energy moving through my entire being that, through common experience, has been given a name such as happiness, sorrow, anger, etc. Seeing emotion as an energy that moves helps me release judgement about the nature of that energy. Energy is energy; it is neither good nor bad; it just is.
As practices for the body and mind (yoga, meditation, healthy eating, exercise, fresh air, loving friends, etc.) have become consistent in my life, my emotions have become more consistent as well. By consistent I mean that my emotions fit what I am experiencing in the moment. When each of my parents died, I was deeply sad and grieved. I was also profoundly grateful that I was with them in their transitions. I was proud to be their daughter. I was also grateful for everything they had given me over the years. So many emotions flowed during these times and I felt them all. These were two of the most intense experiences of my life.
In releasing judgement toward certain emotions that have been deemed “bad,” I view these experiences in terms of intensity. Seldom is overwhleming happiness described as bad, yet it is every bit as intense as sorrow and can be just as exhausting. My granddaughter’s birth this year was, and is, so intensely joyful that there are times I don’t sleep very well. There are times when I quietly cry for happy. Intense. On the other end of the spectrum, I choose not to take in news about things like child abuse because the depth of anger I feel on behalf of these innocents is almost frightening to me. But is anger always “bad?” Not in my opinion, because there are many people who have been inspired to acts of bravery because of the anger that arises within them. Anger and frustration with things I had allowed or created in my life have given me the courage to make very difficult changes. Intense.
Intensity is seldom comfortable, which is why these energies are judged as bad or unhealthy. The key, I believe, is – guess what? – balance! It makes more sense to realize that imbalance in the emotional body creates confusion and can be destructive than to set the goal of never feeling these things. When I feel angry, can I allow myself to be in it in a way that leads me to action or forgiveness or compassion? If so, I will quickly return to peace and tranquility. My actions will be appropriate to the situation and to my desire and intention to live lovingly and compassionately. It is when I avoid and stuff or hide my feelings that my behavior becomes inappropriate and possibly destructive.
I am of Spanish Basque descent. All but one of my granparents emigrated from northern Spain. The Basques are an earthy, passionate people. We are deeply spiritual, love life and tend to embrace it with passionate exuberance. Intense, right? Right. Choosing not to feel something at all goes against my innate personality. Add to my heritage the fact that I am a spiritual being currently having a human experience and the conclusion is that avoiding true emotion is counter-productve.
Balance is the key. More reasonable goals might be: To feel without being thrown against the wall by the intensity of some emotions. To be willing to sit with the discomfort in order to remember that this energy in motion does not define me; it is something I am experiencing in the moment. It will diminish, shift, transform because that is the nature of energy. To embrace the experience for what it is: a human experience that does not change or define my True Self, a spiritual being. To be patient and remember that it takes time and maturity to come into this awareness in every aspect of my being: physical, mental, emotional. I don’t have to change everything at once. I don’t have to fight myself and hold judgements against myself. I do not have to be perfect. I can be in this moment, experience it, and be all that I am. I can unfold into True Self as naturally as a healthy tree matures and produces its most perfect fruit.
One of my favorite responses to myself when I explode into emotional intensity and catch myself in the midst of it is: Well, Catherine Ann, welcome to the human race!