Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Emotions Can Help Us Wake Up

white flower

“Before we can extend our compassion to others, we first have to extend it to ourselves.  How do we do this?  We have to look at our own mind and appreciate how our own neurotic expressions – our confused thoughts and disturbing emotions – are actually helping us wake up.  Our aggression can help us develop clarity and patience.  Our passion can help us let go of attachments and be more generous.  Basically, once we see that this mind of confusion is also our mind of awakening, we can appreciate it and have confidence in our ability to work with it.  It’s a good mind after all, the mind that will carry us to enlightenment.  When we understand this, we can let go of our previous attitude of revulsion toward our emotions.”

– Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche in Rebel Buddha, A Guide to a Revolution of Mind

(from Dharma Quote of the Week, Shambhala Publications)


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  1. jean sampson

    I like this post! I write from my emotions and emotional memories, and paint with emotions, expressing energy in color. I also know that my emotions can interfere with my clear thinking and can make me unable to listen to someone else. I respect my emotions because they are giving me clues as to how I am interacting with the environment and people around me and they get me to pay attention to things I might not have noticed otherwise. However, I do know that I have unhealed places (and so do others!) which are like open wounds and they can be very painful if I am not aware of them and do not heal them. I think we are sort of like planets that have atmospheres surrounding them (our emotions). There is a great deal of interaction between planet and atmosphere, but they are two separate (but very inter-related) things. Does that make any sense at all?

    • Yes, I think you have a really great feel for the different facets of emotion. It’s essential to see how emotions can interfere with clear thinking and that we all have many unhealed wounds. I love your analogy of being like planets with atmospheres around them! The key in Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche’s message in my mind is to welcome emotions as opportunities for transformation rather than having aversion for them. Not to suppress them but not to indulge in them either.

  2. This is very true! I’m a thinker personality and not that comfortable with unpleasant emotions, but I tend to use my thoughts to help me come up with strategies to feel better.

    Painful emotions are like any other painful sensation – they’re just letting you know that something is out of balance somewhere, which gives you the opportunity to correct it. I usually take them up on that opportunity! 🙂

    • That’s so interesting Jennifer that you are aware of yourself as a “thinker” personality. We can definitely use thoughts to undue unpleasant emotional states. Sounds like you have a good strategy and I think see difficult emotions as an opportunity is the intelligent way to go.

      • Yes, I’m a Myers-Briggs INTJ, which is about as thinky as it gets, so how it is that I manage to do deeply empathic intuitive work is a little beyond me. But it’s not that thinker types don’t have deep emotions, we just filter them through our thoughts initially, whereas feeling types do the opposite. Neither approach is right or wrong, just different. I like different. Life would be pretty boring if everyone was the same. 🙂

        Do you know your own type? I wouldn’t be surprised to find that you’re an INFP or INFJ – they’re surprisingly common in spiritual circles, although not as common elsewhere. It’s a natural attraction.

        • It is intriguing to see that you are so thought-based yet able to do deeply empathic intuitive work. I recently took a version of the test and came out as an INFJ, as you predict! However, as a young adult I was an INTP and I would still characterize myself as a strong thinker. Guess, we can change or integrate other elements as we progress. I can see why there would be a resonance with the spiritual. Thanks for bringing this angle to the conversation.

          • Yes, I typically test as an INFJ these days, because I’ve deliberately developed my feeling side (ironically, because I THINK it’s a good idea to do that). But stress me out, and I still have the weaknesses of the INTJ, because that’s who I really am. We can only change our spots so much in one lifetime. Good thing we have more than one. 🙂

  3. Thank you for this great reminder. At times, on my spiritual path, I seem to expect to be equanimous all the time. I know this is part of the perfectionist tendency. Emotions are wonderful opportunities for me to witness where I am still clinging, where I shut down and get triggered. They are a beautiful way to wake us up. I love this!

  4. Hi Sandra,

    Lovely short but powerful post.

    I have spent the last 12 months getting to know my emotions a bit better and the key I feel is to see them as something separate to ourselves rather than being ‘who we are’. It is easy to identify with them thus making us a slave to our emotions and putting us into a constant reactive state. When we can see them as separate we can ask questions of them, like ‘what does this mean?’, giving the opportunity to use them as triggers for further reflection and actions. It is a relationship really, and one we need to cultivate 🙂

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