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The ‘Practice’ of Letting Go Negative Emotion

Published on 09/05/15
by randy


An emotion can grow a thousand thoughts. A thought driven from a well watered negative emotion can lead to messy actions. The greatest spiritual wisdom advises us to water the seeds of positive emotion, and at least, do what we can to not water the seeds of negative emotion. This is extremely difficult work since it’s of human nature to carry a mind of ‘dis-satisfactoriness’. Our restless minds are continually moving from the gift of the present to wishing things to be as they were, as we hope they’ll be, or conversely, wishing things hadn’t happened in the past or fearful of what’s coming. Negative emotions like anger and anxiety, when attached to and grown, seldom lead to good result. We can’t deny them when they come up. We can just get better at identifying them and doing the work to let them go before they build momentum that causes harm.

Some people are presupposed to a more joyful nature. Or perhaps they were raised in an environment that promoted gratitude and stewardship. Others of us need to do a lot more work on identification and letting go. I think we all want to feel good or at least, to not feel bad. Yet, we do so many harmful things to our body/mind when negative emotion runs amuck. So we have to look at what motivates us to feel better. Do we really want to do the work to break the momentum of negative emotion? Our excusing mind has all kinds of reasons for not doing the work, just like we excuse ourselves from the need to ‘practice’ other skills. Yet, this is a lifelong skill development that comes from continuously working to identify and then release negative emotion. When things don’t go as we expected, what do we do? How do we react? If we’ve been practicing we can honestly give thanks for how everything is working out, no matter what. If we haven’t, it’s all too easy to develop a hurt, victim mentality.

This is all the more clear as we age. Things change. Physical skills diminish and we gradually start loosing our sensory/perceptual performance. Our work is to meet each moment new. Our practice is to better identify disappointment, let it go, and do what we can with gratitude practice. There’s no mandate to water the seeds of positive emotion, but it sure helps in the process of letting go negative emotion.

I don’t think I’ve met many, if any, people who don’t continually fight the battle of ‘not enough’. We’re grasping for the glamour of one day holding a sense of static peace. Some think they’ll get this when they die. Others think they can achieve it with extreme spiritual practice. Unfortunately, many still believe they’ll get this with massive material accumulation. Yet, the restless mind never lays down. We’re forever challenged to identify those negative emotions and thoughts as they arise. Our suffering from them is contingent upon our practice at identifying them and letting them go before they build too much attention. This is what real mindfulness practice is about. It doesn’t matter what your religious belief. If the emotion is negative it won’t serve you or us. With faith, we’re motivated to cultivate equanimity, kindness and love for one another. Are we truly following the mandate of, “Be still and know I’m God”? Our full faith and confidence in a Big Hope, with the felt emotion of gratitude for what ‘is’, leads to a noble life, here and now. This is touching real peace. This is touching the Ultimate. This is real practice, coming up moment by moment.

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