There is an on-going dialogue within the yoga, Buddhist, and mindfulness communities, promoting yoga and mindfulness practices as a means of achieving greater emotional balance. By emotional balance, we are essentially referring to the development of emotional regulation skills: an ability to create a state of peace in the mind as various emotional states arise and pass within the body – moment-by-moment-by-moment. There is indeed constant change occurring. And when we can observe the emotions as exactly what they are – impermanent – without attaching any story to the experience, the emotions do subside, change, evolve. Overtime, default patterns of the way in which we react to our emotions start to shift.
There is no linear process, however, in learning how to apply mindfulness to our own ability of creating emotional balance. In order to observe the moment-to-moment changes, one does have to be in state of being where the internal dialogue of the mind is quiet enough to observe the physiological existence of our emotions. Emotions exist on a physiological basis. There are thoughts associated with and that may trigger certain emotional states, but what we label as anger, sadness, joy, are nothing more than sensations in the body. Little subatomic particles and biochemical reactions occurring within the body and affecting the nervous system’s ability to respond to reality as it is happening. With a peaceful, quiet and observing mind, emotional sensations don’t last for more than 5 minutes. When the mind craves or has an aversion to the sensations, however, and attaches a whole story to the emotion, the sensations persist, grow, and become more engrained in the physiology of the body. One gets stuck in the belief that the emotion is permanent.
I can only teach and provide counselling for people from what I know in my own life experiences. And what I know from my own experience is that mindfulness is a skill that is developed through practice. What I am sharing is that it takes a certain level of emotional balance to engage in the practice and the practice does in fact assist us in learning to balance the ebbs and flows of our emotions.
So, what comes first: Mindfulness skills or emotional balance? Not one nor the other. If one wishes to apply the skills of mindfulness and yoga in their lives off the mat or the meditation cushion, the practice must occur when the mind is calm. With a daily practice and in times when the mind is balanced, we slowly develop that skill of observation and the skill then becomes something we can learn to carry into those moments when we feel out of balance. I have witnessed in my self and others an expectation that if mindfulness is understood intellectually, you can call on your knowledge when the emotions are running the show. When, in fact, our intellect serves us nothing.
Practice quieting the internal dialogue and paying attention to what is happening in a moment-to-moment experience of your being in times when the experience of your being is at peace. Practice regularly, through each of your daily activities. As your experiential understanding of the sensations associated with each emotion deepens, your ability to regulate your reactions to those experiences will become easier and easier over time.
If it usually takes you 3 days to work through a state of anger, the practice may help you reduce that to 2 days, then 1 day, then 4 hours, than 2 hours. Eventually, as you learn to understand that the emotional experience is in fact always impermanent in its very nature, the practice may just take you to a place where the suffering of the mind disappears.
My love for the practice comes from a deep place of care for the happiness and harmony of all.