By Ambica Gulati
What do you do with feelings is a question each of us has asked ourselves when we drown in anger, grief or hate. The human journey is all about coming to terms with these feelings, and eventually transforming them into love, says Ambica Gulati
Chanchalam hi manah Krishna pramathi balavaddriham, tasyaham nigraham manye vayoriv sudushkaram
(The Bhagavad Gita, 6/34)
( “O Krishna! The mind is unsteady, tumultuous, obstinate and powerful, therefore I think it is as arduous to subdue as to control the wind.”)
As I read this familiar stanza from the Gita, I recognised that the struggle to control the mind’s turbulent waves and reach calmer shores was not mine alone. It has been mankind’s eternal quest to find peace in this turbulent world with all its trials and tribulations. Steering the journey to this peace is like a boat caught in stormy seas. And yet it is this very storm that takes one from the material to the spiritual, and then teaches us to discover our True Self. This long and seemingly endless journey has one reliable barometer, and that is our feelings. The work of uncovering our feelings, coming to terms with them, and transforming them from the negative to the positive can, in many ways, be seen as the apex of the Self-realisation process. Which is why, no matter what the path, what is common to all is the journey of coming to terms with feelings.
Career problems, relationship breakdowns, all were leading me to look for the deeper meaning of suffering, as Buddha called it. Past-life regression, reiki, angel therapy, crystals, gems, astrology, numerology, anger management, Vipassana, name any holistic therapy and I tried it, but my quest continued for 25 long years. Until I reached shamanism. Through the discipline and practice that this path imposed, I found myself finally taking faltering steps towards mastering the world of feelings.
The universe knows no boundaries
The beauty of feelings is that they travel free and are universal. And when they cease to trouble us, the result is the same – contentment. UK-based James Thomas McKenna’s emotional life saw violent fluctuations until he discovered his gift as a medium and became a spiritual counsellor and tarot reader. Today, he runs a tarot group on Facebook – Tarot James. “With parental divorce, sexuality issues and bullying, I had the full load. At 18, I battled alcoholism; between 19 to 21, I strove to overcome my impulsive tendencies, which drove me to attempt suicide at every given chance. It was in the latter part of my 20th year that I was introduced to mediumship, and told that I had the gift. So I focussed on that entirely. I sought psychiatric guidance from a counsellor who taught me crystal healing, and told me that I should pursue the gifts that made me happy instead of settling for mediocrity. Through counselling, I got my daily affirmation: Be positive, stay strong and keep smiling.”
Relatively free of his own emotional turbulence, he has been helping others on the path. His advice, “As humans, we suppress our memories, rather than ‘forget’ them. But the technique is to meditate. If you have a negative thought, take that thought and meditate on it. Focussing on your breathing, let this thought simply float away. My credo: Never control happiness, let happiness control you. Do the things that make you happy; give as much love and support to family and friends; show compassion for fellow brethren, and meditate.”
The placid life of Austria-based artist, Luise Kloos, was overturned when her 18-year-old son decided to come to India to live in Mata Amritanandmayi’s ashram a few years back. What was initially a shocking experience became her own initiation into spirituality. She too came to Amma’s ashram, and the insights and perspective that she discovered there changed her approach to art, through the introduction of scriptural prayers in her works. Once on the path, she has not looked back. She learnt thangka art in Dharamshala. She has done Vipassana seven times and keeps coming for more to India. Says Kloos,
“All feelings create sensations in the body which is why it is possible to observe feelings through our body sensations. To observe a sensation brings the truth in our mind: everything in our life is a process of arising and passing away which includes our feelings. It makes no difference if the feelings are good or bad.”
Change of gear
Feelings are not easy to pinpoint or experience. The challenge is in understanding, accepting and creating a balance of feelings. Spiritual counsellor, oracle, tarot card reader, and yoga instructor Durgesh Singh says, “It took me lots of guts to face certain facts that I had brushed under the carpet in my personal life. Reiki helped me release blocked emotions.” So when friends and family started coming for readings, she coached them with the techniques she had tried and succeeded with – reiki, past-life regression, and reading the scriptures. “I always tell people that it is not easy to change one’s thought process and behavioural patterns, but to be a new person you have to shed the old. As I moved through yoga, tarot and oracle cards, I realised that the only way to live with ease, is to live in accordance with the Almighty’s ways.”
Delhi-based Sonia Arora, who has been walking the spiritual path for a few years, says that this journey has helped her cope with her storm of feelings when her six-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer. “Sharing my feelings with nature has always been therapeutic such as talking to plants, meditating in nature or writing my feelings on a piece of paper, and then neutralising the energies by burning the paper. If my feelings concern a person, I have always used the technique of recapitulation which is re-living that particular event or emotion fully and letting go of that feeling. Cutting cords with a particular problem or person has been very helpful too. Giving your feeling a size, shape and colour, and imagining them dissolve and intuitively inviting positive attributes like joy, peace, and love, to fill the void, helps keep destructive feelings at bay.”
Sherri Carter, Supervising Editor, AllThingsHealing.com, says, “If I am overwhelmed, I first recognise it within myself, take a breath, then move forward from a space of being aligned with what I ultimately want to create or do, instead of acting from a place of fear. Learning how to ‘check in’ has been a huge lesson, and one that I am still learning and working on. I would recommend recognising feelings, and acknowledging them rather than ignoring them. The more you practise creating awareness, the sooner you will recognise those feelings as you have them. Honour what comes up, take a deep breath and then make the conscious decision to create what you do want, living what is possible, rather than living within the limitations of fear and being overwhelmed.”
Reaching the goal
The importance of being in charge of one’s mind cannot be underestimated. Long ago, Lord Krishna had stated in the Bhagavad Gita: Bandhuratmatmanastaya yenatmaivatmana jitah, anatmanastu shatrutve vartetatmaiva shatruvat (Chapter 6/6)
(He who is able to exercise full control over his mind, body and senses, is his greatest friend, whereas he who is unable to do so is his own enemy.)
Graduate in psychology, counsellor and tarot reader Charyl Lynn says meditation is her key. “The most difficult part of being human is learning when and how to release yourself from negative emotions which block your ability to enjoy this earth plane and connect to other planes. It is helpful to experience as many emotions as possible before releasing the ones you do not wish to have. This way you are prepared for any new experiences that come with each plane of existence. I believe what has helped me the most in my attempts to master my emotions has been my objective study of religious practices.”
And so, one way or another, we work our way through the jungle of feelings until we come to where we belong – the beautiful plateau of joy, peace and love which is our true domain, attributes of our true Self.