How can we use our emotions positively on our spiritual path?
We can start by looking at the practice of what is called devotional yoga, or Bhakti Yoga, as it’s called in Hinduism. For example, if your relationship is to Christ, you could take a picture of Jesus and then think about all the qualities of his life, of his compassion, of his beauty of being, and the ways that he reminded people about God. You could look at that being and allow your own emotional responses to bubble up.
These emotional responses are relational; they are warm, human responses of love, of caring, of tenderness. Then if you stay with that picture of Jesus and keep being with Jesus, you will go beyond those emotions into a deeper way of being with him – of just being with him in the present sense.
And that presence includes more and more of the essence of love. But you go through that doorway by using your emotional heart as a vehicle to getting into that deeper way of being with God. That’s one way.
Then there are other kinds of emotions that are generated; emotions like anger, sadness, joy, that whole range of emotions. What one cultivates is spaciousness or awareness that allows you to acknowledge the feelings, and then come back to appreciate them again. Acknowledge the feelings and allow them and see them as part of the human condition. They are like subtle thought-forms. Emotions are really subtle thought-forms, and they all arise in response to something. They are reactions that arise.
If somebody goes like that, you have a certain emotional response. If they go like that, you have a different response. And you can feel how reactive your emotions are to situations. So you cultivate a quietness in yourself that just watches these things coming and going and arising and passing away. And you learn not to act out your emotions, but just to appreciate and allow them. That’s part of the way in which you use them spiritually.
Spiritually, you don’t act out your emotions. You just acknowledge them. You don’t deny them though. You don’t push them down. You acknowledge that I’m angry, but you don’t have to say, “Hey, I’m angry.” That’s different. But you acknowledge it, you don’t deny it. That’s the key.
So the way you would use emotions like love and caring is through devotional practices where you aim them towards God. And for the other kinds of emotional realms, you witness them and you sit with them and you watch them change and come and go but you don’t deny them. You allow them to be burnt in the light of awareness. Because that’s part of your human condition. When we talk about service, you will see how we deal with suffering. And you will see that it awakens intense emotions. And your heart is breaking. And you have to let your heart break.
But you’ve cultivated another plane of reality which is The One that notices and allows it and behind it all is the quality of equanimity. So, emotions work best when you also have another plane that is not emotional, running simultaneously alongside it. Because getting lost in your emotional reactivity just digs a deeper karmic hole. Allowing your humanity, that’s really a part of it. Simply allowing your humanity.