Sometimes our emotions can be like a tidal wave—flooding us with intensity and feeling that simply cannot be contained.
If you’re a human being—and not an android or part of an alien species—then you’ll probably know what I’m talking about.
We feel things. That’s what makes us human. That’s what makes us alive. Without the capacity to feel the full spectrum of human emotion, the thinking mind loses its vitality. There would be no point to thinking if we could not feel.
I’ve been kind of a “hot and cold” person for most of my life. When we feel cold, shut off, and detached—we increase the likelihood that we will explode with fiery rage when a moment presents itself (generally an inappropriate one). Think of emotion like a balance board, in that the closer we are to the center the more likely we’ll be to stabilize ourselves—when we gravitate toward the extreme, it’s hard to control our emotions, particularly in stressful situations.
I know this both from when I was training full-time in mixed martial arts, when I was climbing up on roofs as a stonemason, and having worked jobs and been in overwhelming situations while dealing with symptoms of my severe chronic illness (this has been the most challenging by far). I’ve found myself in a fair share of difficult circumstances, and it’s been a process to learn how to keep my emotions in check when under pressure.
Part of why this is such an uphill battle is because it’s not really that obvious what our emotions actually are. How can we control our emotions when we don’t even know what we’re feeling? And also, who is trying to control them? Just our thoughts—the thinking mind—can’t manage our feelings: it can only repress them.
What I’ve come to understand lately, through my meditation practice, is that the more in touch we are with what we’re feeling—the better. The more we try to stuff down and suppress our deepest emotions, the closer we get to becoming one of those people who scream at other cars in traffic or lose their sh*t when the barista gets their coffee order wrong. It’s serious business, people.
I have been cultivating the quality of warm-coolness, instead of hot-coldness. I make an active effort to stay in the middle of my emotional balance board—to keep things either warm or cool by staying in touch with how I’m feeling on a moment-to-moment basis.
When we are feeling warm, there is kindness, openness, and maybe even a hint of sadness. We feel almost like liquid, melting into the present moment. Maybe we are a bit more vulnerable in times like these, but that vulnerability is necessary to remaining in contact with our heart’s desire. It is a necessary vulnerability—as we feel what we need to feel. You know those late-night conversations with friends when you profess your love for them? That’s the warmth that I’m talking about.
When we are feeling cool, there is calmness—a stoic quality, as we keep a healthy distance from the chaos of life. We feel relaxed, but on guard—like a bow hunter waiting for their target to come into sight. We’re like Ryan Gosling in the movie “Drive,” or any of his movies for that matter. This is a healthy detachment—or, in Buddhist tradition, “non-attachment.” It feels like a cool breeze sweeping through us, delicate yet powerfully invigorating. This is Conor McGregor staring across the UFC cage at his opponent—in tune with how we’re feeling, but in a way that exudes a competent grace.
If I’m feeling too intensely hot or stone cold, I breathe my way back into my emotional field—calm breathing, as I move back into the awareness of the body. When my emotions are imbalanced, it’s usually a sign that I’ve been thinking too much (or thinking wrongly), so I try to connect with my body and the immediate experience of the present moment, rather than with the mind.
Remember: we can’t think our way out of feeling. I center myself, tracking back to a place I go in my meditation practice or when I am creating something. Relax. Maybe I’ll even close my eyes for a few moments.
The more aware I make myself of my emotions—where I reside on this balance board in my daily life—the better I am at noticing when I am out of alignment. This might be scary at first, but it is really a sign of progress. It means we know how disconnected we are from our emotions, instead of not knowing. The more we bring into the field of our awareness—the better. Consciousness is healing.
Emotions can be like a tidal wave. That won’t change. What can change is how goddamn good we are at surfing—and I sharpen those skills through meditation, self-inquiry, and artistic expression. I let myself feel things, instead of cutting myself off—and then, I don’t overreact when things go wrong.
I am inviting everyone to stay connected with their heart chakra, our emotional center, instead of being torn apart by the wild stream of our deepest feelings. Stay warm. Stay cool. Stay beautiful, soul brothers and sisters. Breathe deep and seek peace.