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By Renée Tillotson

Get curious about your emotions!

The Dalai Lama considers understanding our emotions to be so important he commissioned some psychologists to track and identify the full spectrum of human emotions.*

Why is it so important to learn about our emotions? 

According to Buddhist philosophy, we are often held in the thrall of our uncontrolled, negative emotions, such as anger, hatred, or fear. Whenever our emotions cloud our minds, we lose our inner peace, our calm mind. The Dalai Lama says the true nature of our mind is pure light. He suggests that understanding our emotional nature actually enhances our progress towards Enlightenment.

The first step to freeing ourselves from our afflictive emotions is to OBSERVE them. Sometimes we can recognize emotions by the BODY REACTIONS they bring with them. The next step is to IDENTIFY those emotions for what they are. Once we do that, we can SEE the IMPACT they have on our lives, ASK QUESTIONS, and take CORRECTIVE MEASURES. When we manage to SCATTER the DARK CLOUDS of EMOTION, the crystal light of our PURE MIND SHINES through, our HEART CALMS, and we find a DEEP PEACE within.

So get curious! Let’s OBSERVE: Oh! I got a squirrely little feeling when somebody else got my best friend’s attention. I heard myself make a snitty remark. Let’s check the BODY REACTIONS: How did THAT make me feel? Pretty awful, like a tight knot in my stomach and grey curtain over my eyes. IDENTIFICATION: What was that emotion? Was it jealousy? Envy? Hurt? Hmmm….  SEE the IMPACT on my life: I feel farther away from my friend now, even though my friend had no intention of hurting me. I can see a pattern along these lines with other friends.

ASK QUESTIONS: What thought habits allowed in that emotion? Do I think I own my friend? That if my friend talks with someone else it means they don’t care about me? Or can my friend enjoy and care about lots of people, just as I can enjoy and care about each of my children, each of my friends, each of my pets. Take CORRECTIVE MEASURES: Let’s try noticing and appreciating what a warm person my friend is.  Let’s just breathe deeply. SCATTER the DARK CLOUDS of EMOTION: I’m letting go of that jealousy with my next few out-breaths… The PURE MIND SHINES through: My eyesight seems brighter. I can think clearly again! The HEART CALMS: That feels better, and I feel closer to my dear friend. DEEP PEACE: I’m feeling more settled in my true self again.

According to the Dalai Lama, as we tend to our emotional gardens, we weed out more and more of the afflictive emotions that stand in the way of cultivating Wisdom Compassion in the Mind and Heart. We advance on the path to Enlightenment for the sake of all.


*In fact, the group consisted of the same folks behind Pixar’s animated film “Inside Out”. The result of their work was published as The Atlas of Emotions: http://atlasofemotions.org”. For a good summary, please see:  https://www.fearlessculture.design/blog-posts/dalai-lama-has-the-antidote-to-destructive-emotions.  Kindly see a related Dalai Lama video on the Calm Mind:  https://player.vimeo.com/video/110383723?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0.


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This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)