September 20, 2013

Emotional Storms & How to Respond.

Photo: Marianna Armata on Pixoto.

Imagine this: you’re sitting with us on the porch of our Canandaigua Lake cottage, watching the weather roll in.

The kids are swimming, basking in sunlight.

But, from your vantage point on the porch you can see the heavy, dark, clouds that are moving across the hills on the other side of the Lake. You can hear the rumbling and see the flashes of lightening.

The thunder and lightening will arrive in fifteen minutes.

So, there’s time to get the kids out of the water, towel them dry, and make some sandwiches—before the weather drama begins. You don’t panic.

You respond mindfully—because you can see the whole situation, from the vantage point of the porch. The same principle can be applied to your emotional patterns.

You can be swimming along in your life , and not be aware that storm clouds are gathering.

That conditions are changing. Before you know it, the thunder is closing in, the lightning is flashing, and your life is drenched in an emotional downpour.

You didn’t see the emotional storm coming.

Your consciousness wasn’t situated on the porch-of-meditative awareness, the vantage point from which you can sense, see, recognize emotional storms before they are in full swing.

When your consciousness is seated on the meditation porch, you meet what happens around you and what arises within you with loving awareness—not reactivity.

There’s a relationship between awareness and reactivity.

The more awareness, the less reactivity; and vice versa. As loving awareness infuses your mind and body your own patterns of reactivity soften, the knots of emotionality untangle, and your capacity to embody and express wisdom deepens. This doesn’t mean that outer conditions—the world–suddenly conforms to your ideas of how it should be. Not at all. As lovely as the sun-shiny days are—they won’t last.

And by sunshine, I mean the conditions of your life that make you feel emotionally at ease. These conditions are going to change. Which is a bummer for the reactive mind.

The reactive mind is , um, reactive.

When conditions change—which they always will—the conditioned mind reacts. Changing conditions trigger patterns of reactivity: emotions, thoughts, and behaviors; these patterns are how the reactive mind tries to control the conditions of life.

The outer changes are one thing—your response is another.

Because the conditions around you—the people, situations, interactions—are always changing. Sometimes the sun shines and people are smiling, cooperative. Sometimes storm clouds gather and life is tough. These changes are inevitable.

Trying to control conditions is a formula for suffering.

The spiritual path isn’t about controlling the conditions people around you. Yes, the key conditions that the reactive mind seeks to control are people. Have you noticed this tendency—to try and control people? Have you seen it in others when they are reactive? How about when your mind is storming in reactivity?

The reactive mind needs people to be a certain way—in order to feel happy in control.

But the pursuit of control never lead to happiness. It’s a formula for endless frustration. Seeing this—really, really seeing this—is the first step towards true happiness. This insight is essential. Not just as an idea, but as a bone deep recognition that to continue living in the thrall of reactivity is to commit yourself to suffering.

You can free yourself from the tyranny of the reactive mind and its inevitable emotional sturm und drang.


By developing your capacity to observe inner reactive weather—before you’re drenched by a total downpour; by taking your seat on the porch of meditative awareness.

Take your seat on the porch of meditative awareness.

Really, sit down, breathe, be still. From the porch of meditative awareness you can observe the storm clouds of fear, doubt, anger, confusion, overwhelm, without reacting to them.

You see the patterns as they are beginning to arise.

You recognize the patterns of reactivity while they are still subtle, barely formed, and just beginning to arise. With this mindful, meditative awareness you are able to breathe and let go. As you let go—wonderfully—the patterns don’t overwhelm you. You’re not drenched in a downpour of reactivity.

Rather than trying to control what arises—emotions, sensations, and thoughts—you allow them to move through freely. And they do move through, when you let them go.

Letting go and allowing emotions, sensations and thoughts to move through the sky of awareness is a practice; a meditation practice.

As you practice, you discover how reactive emotions are transformed through awareness not control. You learn to let this happen with more consistency and ease.

Through meditation practice, you develop your capacity to allow this transformation to unfold more and more immediately.

This meditative capacity isn’t an idea. It’s not a belief. It’s a direct experience. And it is a skill that becomes a natural habit through practice.

This meditation habit will free you from the drama of emotional reactivity and enrich your life.


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Ed: Catherine Monkman

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