How can we use our emotions positively on our spiritual path? We can look 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 say Christ- you could take a picture of Jesus and then think about the qualities of his life; and the qualities of his compassion; and the qualities of his beauty of being; and the qualities of his reminding people about God. And you could look at that being and it would generate in you, if you allow it, emotional responses.
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 into a deeper way of being with him. Of just being with him in the presence sense. And that presence includes more and more of the essence of love. But you go through the emotional doorway. You use 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 an awareness that allows you to acknowledge the feelings, and it comes back to the word appreciating 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 come. 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 thing.
So the way you would use emotions like love and caring is in devotional practices, 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. I mean 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, going simultaneously with it actually. Because getting lost in your emotional reactivity just digs a deeper karmic hole. But allowing your humanity, that’s really part of it. Allowing your humanity.