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Why Invite Negative Emotion?
Carl: Dear James, I noticed some “gurus” out there, although very much in touch with silence and inner stillness, use the term “stop the mind.” Language can be very misleading if one interprets the meaning to be something different than the author’s intent. The reason I don’t much like this saying is because it gives one the impression that peace comes from stopping the momentum and stream of thinking, when it doesn’t. As many would say, it comes from the dis-identification with those thoughts. The thoughts themselves, along with feelings and emotions are harmless if one isn’t attached to them. In some cases the momentum and volume of thoughts actually increase as one touches upon silence. The duality seems to exist there. The more silence, the more thoughts, and the more thoughts, the more silence. Without identification, they pass through like the weather, and can be great gifts of insight or understanding. Wouldn’t a clearer way of stating this be something like, “Pay attention to your inattention,” “Notice the arisings,” or “What are you avoiding in this moment?” I think “stop the mind” is a great way to sell it, but it is quite misleading if interpreted incorrectly.
My second question is about fear. Some gurus who talk about the process or path to enlightenment say that terror can be apart of the path. For me, the terror arises only when I let or invite the fear to my mind and completely identify with it (brought upon by stress, worry and other debilitating modes of thought). Another way I sense terror is when I become overly conscious of my nostril-breathing for long periods of time. Eventually I get sucked into a place where suddenly I can directly see all the anxiety (like we were talking about last time) arise in my mind with no way out. My question is, is it more prudent to invite this sort of terror or fear in hopes that the more familiar one is with it the more likely a release will happen or would be it better to simply keep noticing the arisings of mind? The reason I ask is because I only experience this sort of raw primal fear when I invite it, not when I simply notice the mind and bodily sensations. The former seems like an exhausting attempt to release the ego, which doesn’t seem possible (only to certain gurus), and the second way is the way I tap into or touch upon the stillness more fully. Will I continue to be limiting myself if I never face that raw, primal, fear-based ego? I hope this makes sense. I’m just trying to figure out what the best approach is. Thanks!
James: Dear Carl, “stop the mind” is a very misleading and unskillful idea. The mind does not obscure the self. Additionally, there is no doer to stop it, because it is the result of karma. Non-identification with mental/emotional objects is the way to go. Knowing that all mental events are objects and that awareness is the subject is all that is required to dis- identify. So Vedanta agrees with you one hundred percent.
Concerning your second question, why invite negative emotion? It does not make sense. Even if you are trying to fix the mind in some way to make it more enjoyable, life will present enough situations that will cause negative emotions anyway. So there is no reason to ask for it. However, if I misunderstand the meaning of the word “invite” and you mean that when it does come, it is intelligent to recognize the incorrect values that generated it, then yes, by all means take it as a gift. But if you are at an advanced level of self-inquiry, there is little value in communicating with the mind at all. It is best to view it as not-self. See the fear as an object when it arises and turn your attention to the awareness in which it appears, and it will dissipate or shrink to manageable proportions.
~ Love, James