The master was going around feeding pigeons in the courtyard when a woman approached him. ”I affirm your being” smile rose to Masters lips. She bowed and started to cry.
Presently gathering herself she asked the master “ Sir, I have a very chaotic life. I am forever on a roller coaster. Sometimes I feel anxious for no reason, sometimes sad and sometimes upset. My mood swings are not letting me stay with any thing in life. What do I do?”.
Master given to talking in metaphors was compassionate to her. He replied: “Know the difference between feelings and emotions and how they connect with your actions. That knowledge will set you free”
She said “I do know, I think. When feelings become strong they turn into emotions”.
Master smiled and explained: “Emotions are a physical state and are a body’s reaction to external inputs. They are primal, instinctual and common to all life. Even animals experience emotions because that is what sustains life. Emotions can be noticed by body symptoms as increased heart beat, blood flow, sweating, eyes dilation, facial expressions etc.
Feelings though are mental events which play out in theater of your mind. They are the minds individualistic attempt to give meaning to emotions arising in your body. Hence feelings vary from person to person as they are colored by your particular life experiences, temperament, beliefs and memories. Thus same emotion can trigger different feelings in different people.
The women was all ears because this was the first time someone had explained this distinction to her. However she could not see where the Master was going with this.
Master threw some more food for the pigeons before continuing “Now both of them are automatically related to the reactions of: going towards or withdrawal from, the stimuli that causes them. If it is external life threatening, body will act and if it is internal peace threatening, mind will take action.
In other words, we react on an auto mode whether we are threatened by an attacking tiger or thought of an attacking tiger. In first case our body moves and in second our mind”.
Master paused for a while to pick up a hobbling pigeon to feed him, before sharing the last bit of his wisdom: “Most people make the mistake of trying to control this process directly. To find calm, your task is not to control this automatic emotion, feelings and re-action chain, but to create gaps in it.
The gaps get created by observing and by raising your awareness of how this whole process happens. When you become conscious of how your body reacts in emotions and you mind in feelings, you will also start to notice gaps in this process. In these gaps then you can plant conscious thoughts and deliberate actions.
With practice, when you are able to do that, you can be experiencing any emotion or feeling but your actions become measured and deliberate. It is then that you become captain of your own ship and start to respond to life, instead of reacting to it.”