The bodily being of Man is constantly sustained by
the Eternal, All-Pervading Force of Life. In our infantile
recoil, reaction, and psycho-physical contraction toward
self, we separate from the Eternal Reality and
become self-possessed. Thus, we begin to starve and
suffer. . . . If only the body-mind will open into the
Current of Radiant Life, with full feeling and without
thought, it will be liberated from the self-possessed
games of tension and release of tension. Then there
is only Fullness of Life.
--ADI DA SAMRAJ, THE EATING GORILLA COMES IN PEACE
What a muddle we make of our emotions. From an early age we struggle to hold back tears, to rein in temper, to stifle fear. We worry about the future and regret the past. We ache from loneliness but recoil from intimacy. We want and we want, and so much of our wanting goes unfulfilled, leaving us frustrated, ashamed, envious. Our lives reveal a myriad of ways to feel bad; we feel bad much of the time.
Yet even feeling good brings difficulties. Pleasure leads easily into lust, as success leads into pride and appreciation, into greed. Love hurts as surely as it heals. Over-enthusiasm causes various problems, as do laughing too loudly and playing too hard. Faith begets betrayal, joy begets disappointment, and sex begets major complications. The good feelings never seem to last, and the more urgently we enjoy them, the more their passing wounds us.
Over time, most people develop strategies for feeling less. Since emotion vexes and torments us so, we find ways to suppress our emotional experience. We learn to deaden our feelings, to turn off sensation, to numb out. Like rocks in the midst of rushing water--unmoved and unmovable--we cultivate stoicism. We strive to prevail, unaffected by life's changes. Those who never show their feelings reap the highest praise.
We rationalize. Emotional expression belongs to the world of children, we say, while maturity means getting one's emotions under control. The overly emotional seem weak under fire; we favor those who remain firm and clearheaded during the worst of times. We especially spurn the messiness of emotional display, its bad form and awkward timing. Spiritual advancement, we assume, requires the taming of one's feelings. We distrust decisions and actions that have too much emotional influence. We try to do things rationally and logically, to act without feeling.
Ultimately, each of us finds our own way with emotion. Some people--the granite faced and stone hearted--manage to completely suppress their feelings. Most only partially succeed: one never cries, for instance, but melancholy persists. Other people utterly fail despite all efforts, therapies, and medications; they spend their lives in a psychiatric soup of mutinous emotion. Still others ignore all of society's warnings and anti-emotional dictates and remain unabashedly romantic, zealous, fiery, gushy, sentimental: they become artists, musicians, eccentrics, or clowns and migrate to the margins of social respectability.
Being socially acceptable demands that we get our feelings under firm control and keep emotional energy mostly unexpressed. That so many people do so well at suppressing their emotions constitutes a singular failing in human development and, I believe, a root cause of many problems in
Since the mid-1970s, I have been meeting with individuals and groups as a therapist, counselor, teacher, and bodyworker. I have listened to thousands of life stories and have worked with a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms and complaints. I have learned that emotion plays an essential role in our lives, for better and for worse; that emotional energy subsists as a vital force within the human organism and as the functional link between body, mind, spirit, and environment; and that flowing with one's feelings opens the way to physical health, mental clarity, greater success in relationships, and more effective creativity.
I define emotion as energy-in-motion. Like ocean waves undulating along a shoreline, emotional energy exists as a constant flowing presence in our lives. Human feelings--these subtle currents, part liquid, part electric--arise as vital energy moving within, around, and between us, forever animating spirits, coloring thoughts, influencing dreams, heartening relationships, and providing the raw material for our bodies and creative efforts.
This book describes a radical path to Homo emotus: the feeling human. You will learn first to actively accept your emotions; second, to keep your emotional energies in perpetual motion; and finally, to direct all emotions to good, creative use. You will learn four basic tools that will profoundly transform your emotional experience. With time, you can effectively marshal the creative force that dwells in every feeling.
At the end of each chapter I have included simple breathing practices that help you to experience and develop your energy-in-motion. I recommend that you do each practice at least once (the more the better), that you do them as you read, and that you do them in the order they appear in the book. In this way, you will step-by-step develop an awareness of your breathing as an ever present and always flowing transformational process. By the end of The Power of Emotion, if you have practiced, you will possess powerful tools for improving your physical and mental health, your relationships, and your creative efforts. Moreover, you will have formed a lasting appreciation for the beauty and power of human emotion.