This quote appeared in my inbox.
In order to recognize our self-image, we can no longer identify with it. In other words, we have to learn how to objectify our own mental processes.
-Matthew Flickstein, Journey to the Center
When I first began studying Buddhism and meditation, the idea of separating from my emotions sounded ludicrous. Emotions are a natural part of life and necessary for our mental health. Without emotions, apathy would rule the day. Surely enough apathy already exists in the world; seeking more seemed destructive. You might wonder why I continued learning to meditate if I thought the goals were silly. It’s a little like sex. It only takes one good experience to know that good things can come from practice even if it’s not done perfectly every time. OK, meditating isn’t orgasmic, but it is chaos calming and peace producing. In my life, those feelings are almost as good as sex (and occasionally better though I don’t think my husband would agree). However, after several months of regular dedicated meditation, I think I am understanding and learning about objectifying my mental processes.
It’s hard to feel my emotions and then stand apart from them and look at them but it is possible. When I can stand apart from my emotions, I still feel their intensity but they don’t rule my actions. It makes it possible to consider a situation and act upon it instead of blindly reacting. And believe me when I send the kids outside to play and check on them 10 minutes later to find my little one jumping naked on the trampoline because she had to go potty and getting off the trampoline to use the bathroom seemed like too much work, objectivity is a very good thing!
At first, reading about Buddhism, I assumed separating from my emotions meant not having them. That was a stumper. How could I not have emotions and what a boring flat world that would be. Emotions are a vital form of communication with ourselves, offering clues to our deeper consciousness. God gave us emotions for a reason. Of course, He also gave us mosquitoes but that’s a different conversation. The more I meditate and practice just being and breathing, the more I learn that separating doesn’t mean ignoring or denying emotions; it means acknowledging in a far more honest way because they aren’t contained, denied or stuffed away.
On weekends, when my husband is home, he usually does the dishes. On Saturday he didn’t and I was annoyed. After all, I cooked a fine dinner, and the help would have been appreciated. I felt the annoyance. I felt it flow through me and acknowledged to myself that it wasn’t a comfortable emotion. Just taking that small step back allowed me the space to act instead of react. I decided that I really didn’t want to do the dishes either right then and if I had to, I’d get to them later when I felt like it. I could also see that my husband might be running on overload and just didn’t want to face dishes right at that moment either. There was no sulking (which I am ashamed to admit I may be guilty of resorting to occasionally in the past) only a decision on my part on how to handle the dishes and an acceptance that my husband might be dealing with his own feelings. The annoyance faded away. AND, my husband did the dishes later because he felt like it not because of any bad attitudes on my part.
I have a feeling that I have a long way to go before I can claim success at objectifying my mental processes. Just dealing with my emotions differently feels like a huge step forward onto an important path of discovery. Who knows, at this rate I might grow up before I die.