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Buddhadharma : Summer 2008
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summEr 20 0 8 52 but the root of your emotions is still there. With meditation, one can get to the root of all the emotions and see the true wisdom within them. JuDiTh SimmeR-bRown: Our tendency to act on emotions comes from the fact that we’re afraid to feel them. Mindfulness cultivates the ability to fully experience emotions. Like most of us, I’ve only ever learned things the hard way. I’ve learned that emotions are painful when I feel them, that kleshas are genuinely painful. But when we truly feel the intensity of the painful, obsessive, destructive emotions, we deepen our capac- ity to understand how painful habitual pat- terns work in our lives. We get to see how our acting out of anger has caused incred- ible pain for us and for many others. Being able to experience my anger fully, and feel the pain before I act, gives me the opportu- nity to let go, without repeating the habit of releasing the emotions in some kind of fit. The real relief is in letting go. When we act on our anger, we are actually practicing anger, training in anger. We are deepening and reinforcing the patterns and tendencies by impulsively acting. With mind- fulness, we can see the chain we’re caught in, and we can also see the purity at the root of the emotion. To see the alternative is a fantastic relief, not at all like the temporary relief of getting your emotion out. John TaRRanT: I don’t experience expressing emotion as relief. Paying attention is what leads to a transformation. Paying attention is actually the best form of love we have to bring to our lives. If we pay attention, we find freedom, rather than relief. Relief is erecting an alternative fantasy world to live in, until it breaks down too. PonloP RinPoche: And it will [laughs]. John TaRRanT: Freedom is freedom. Full stop. Freedom can be edgy and scary and surprising and wonderful and all that, but it’s freedom, which is ultimately a more lov- ing and interesting thing than just unload- ing an emotion. buDDhaDhaRma: But it’s still freedom from something, isn’t it? John TaRRanT: I completely disagree. Vajrayana people talk about spaciousness. Shunyata is on your side, you might say. PonloP RinPoche: Are you talking about what we call self-liberation? John TaRRanT: Yes, a little taste of it anyway. If you’re looking to release your emotion, you’re trying to make your universe and yourself small. You’re accepting a cheap prize, when something much larger might be available. buDDhaDhaRma: And the world is currently driven by... ShaRon SalzbeRg: Getting big prizes. John TaRRanT: You could have a genuine plastic toy! PonloP RinPoche: Freedom made in China. buDDhaDhaRma: We’ve talked about trying to find relief through releasing emotions. What about feeling bad and guilty about our emo- tions, and keeping them bottled up for fear of the negative consequences? Isn’t that just as problematic? ShaRon SalzbeRg: As we’ve been talking, I’ve been recalling myself at eighteen, going to India to learn meditation with S.N. Goenka. I did an intensive ten-day retreat, then another one, and then another one, and somewhere in there I was experiencing tre- mendous anger, which I was very uncom- fortable with. I was not very psychologically sophisticated. I knew I was very unhappy, but I really didn’t know the constituents of my internal world, so finding this anger shocked me. I marched up to Goenka at one point and, looking him in the eye, I said, “I never used to be an angry person before I Instead of falling into the old, conditioned habit of regarding anger or fear as bad, we see them as states of suffering. This allows us to respond with compassion rather than rejection or hatred. —Sharon Salzberg