A Mind-Heart Connection

Buddhist author and speaker Valerie Mason-John found meditation to be integral to her recovery from addiction. She writes:

People say we can’t help how we feel. It’s true we can’t help unpleasant, pleasant, or neutral feelings arising when one or more of the six senses have made contact with an object. We multiply the intensity of feeling every time we move away from something pleasant or unpleasant; we create a vicious cycle of craving and aversion.

Often when people say we can’t help how we feel, they are talking about their emotions. We can help how we experience our emotions. They are created by our unconscious and conscious thinking and conditioning. When we emote our thoughts we are habitually responding and reacting out of our emotions. We are forcibly changing our emotions all the time, by reaching out for external stimuli, or by blaming others when we feel vulnerable or upset. Before we know it, we are angry, resentful, self-righteous, and begin to inhabit a storehouse of toxic thoughts, which suppress our uncomfortable feelings of vulnerability.

By observing our thoughts and emotions, we can witness how they build on each other through our attachment to repetitive inner stories. Such witnessing begins the process of healthy nonattachment: 

If we are patient, our feelings will change of their own accord—some quicker than others. Our emotions will begin to deplete; they won’t dominate us, or dictate our behavior. Eventually toxic emotions will disappear and nontoxic thinking will start to arise in our hearts, and one day there will be just thoughts without a thinker. There will be sounds without a hearer, tastes without a taster, smells without a smeller, sights without a seer, and touch without a toucher. What I mean by all of this is that things will arise and we will not identify with them as me, mine, or I. There will be no judgments, interpretations, or stories about what we have just perceived. We will see the bigger picture, and not be caught by the clash of the senses, not react to whatever we have made contact with. We will feel the unpleasantness, pleasantness, neutralness, or even the mixture of all three feelings, and will turn toward it without an agitated mind. The heart and mind will accept all of it without protesting. When we protest, toxic emotions begin to emerge. . . .

Our hearts well up with toxins because we push away our painful feelings. Many of us will do our utmost to push them down. We won’t allow ourselves to stop. Our busy lives don’t seem to give us time to feel our feelings. When we turn toward our experience, we will often find feeling tones or sensations in the body. We turn away from the experience in the body with thoughts and thinking. If we have the courage to face the feeling tone, we will discover there is nothing there, no I or me, just a flow of sensations that may be painful, pleasurable, or neutral.

Valerie Mason-John, Detox Your Heart: Meditations for Healing Emotional Trauma, rev. ed. (Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2017), 26–27.

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