22 - Dealing with Difficult Emotions

In life, difficulties arise. This is a universal aspect of the human experience. Knowing this, how do we deal with difficult emotions? We don’t like feeling angry, sad, or afraid, but these are normal and natural emotions just like happiness or joy. Emotions, like everything else, are impermanent and interdependent. In this episode, I will discuss the topic of dealing with difficult emotions.

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Transcript of the podcast episode:

Hello. You are listening to the Secular Buddhism podcast. And this is episode number 22. I am your host, Noah Rasheta. And today I’m talking about understanding difficult emotions.

Welcome back to the Secular Buddhism podcast. A weekly podcast that focuses on Buddhist concepts, topics and teachings. Presented for a secular minded audience. The Dalai Lama has said, “Do not try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist. Use it to be a better whatever you already are.” Please keep that in mind as you listen to this episode.

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Now let’s jump into this week’s topic. A few weeks ago, I was attending a workshop in Phoenix, Arizona. And I was one of the presenters. And we were discussing several different topics. Including the topic of going through transitions or changes in life. And one of the individuals, a gentleman who was there in the audience, throughout the presentation, was visibly aggravated. Or angry by the circumstances he was going through in his life. And he was attending this workshop looking for some solace. Or some peace with reconciling with the changes and the transition he was going through in his life.

But what I found interesting, is that at one point in the conversation, towards the end, he brought up the idea that he was angry. And he said something to the effect of, “Look, I know that the point is that I need to get over being angry. And that I need to be more mindful and have more peace in my life.” That’s kind of what secular Buddhism promotes. Is this idea of living a more peaceful or compassionate life. And he said, “But I’m just angry. And I’m upset. And I want to be angry. And I don’t want to not be angry right now.”

And I thought it was an interesting segway in the discussion. Because one of the things that I had been talking about in my presentation was the nature of learning to accept things. And I felt like he was misunderstanding the whole premise of what Buddhism teaches. Which isn’t that you need to be peaceful and avoid being angry. It’s that you need to be with what is. And it was a neat opportunity to kind of pause. And say, “Well wait a second. We’re not talking about getting rid of your anger.” I said, “The problem isn’t that you’re angry. The problem is that you think you’re not supposed to be angry. So you’re angry about being angry.”

And it was interesting to see, just giving the freedom to allow this person to be exactly as he was. If you’re experiencing anger, just experience anger. Be with the anger. We’re not trying to eliminate it. We’re trying to be with it. And after explaining this concept, I noticed in him, almost instant reduction in the anger. Just because now, he was free to be angry. That alone was enough to start to minimize the anger he was experiencing. And this is kind of what I wanted to talk about in this podcast episode.

Is how do we deal with difficult emotions? ‘Cause we all go through difficult emotions. And we add to the complexity of the emotion when we try to get rid of the emotion. And this is applicable with any emotion. The standard emotions we go through are emotions like: anger, disgust, happiness, sadness. These are all emotions. And there’s a wonderful film that came out last year called, ‘Inside Out’. It’s an animated cartoon. But it does a wonderful job of presenting how emotions are working in the mind.

And the emotions that we go through are all natural. Happiness is a natural emotion when the causes and conditions are right, happiness is there. Happiness or joy, it’s there. And when the conditions are right for anger to appear, anger is there. They’re just natural emotions. And one of the mistakes that we make, I think, is that we have the tendency to think there are certain emotions we need to avoid or eliminate. And there are certain emotions that are more enjoyable, like happiness or joy. That we want to experience more of, so we become trapped.

This is called, “the happiness trap”. And we become trapped by the idea that there are certain things that we can do that will guarantee that we’re always happy. And there are certain things that we can avoid. That will guarantee we’ll never have to experience anger or sadness. And it’s just not true. The reality is, these are emotions that we experience. They’re completely natural. And they appear and then they disappear like all impermanent things. It’s a natural state of being. And when the causes and conditions are right, they appear. And when the causes and conditions are not right, they are not there.

And we’re always experiencing one or another of these emotions or multiples of these emotions. So think about times that you have experienced happiness. If you were able to pause, you would be able to look at what are the causes or conditions that are allowing this happiness to exist. And it can be several factors. These are really complex emotions. It’s hard to just pin it on one thing. Although we can make the mistake of pinning it on one thing, thinking, “That is the reason I’m happy.”

And you’ll notice this just in the overall happiness trap. We’re always chasing after things like: money or power or fame. Things that we think are the source of happiness. When in reality, they’re not. But it’s the same with difficult emotions, like anger. Think about the last time that you were angry. Were you able to pause and really pinpoint exactly what it was that was causing your anger? Because I think we make the mistake of, usually, pinning it on one thing.

You know, Viktor Frankl talks about stimulus and reaction. And when there’s the stimulus, that leads to the reaction. Well, when we think about it this way, I think we make the mistake of thinking … Stimulus, for example, somebody cuts me off on the road. Reaction, now I’m angry. And it seems that simple. Somebody cut me off and now I’m angry. But the reality is, it’s never that simple. If you could pause in that very moment of being cut off, and really look at it. What is it that you’re really mad at?

And if you were to dig deep there, you’ll find, for most of us, it gets really complex, really quick. And it has to do with, “Ultimately I’m mad ’cause I feel like someone’s taking advantage of me.” Or somebody is overstepping their bounds and imposing what they want on everyone else. Or it could be that you just think this person is a jerk. And jerks shouldn’t be able to get away with doing stuff. You know, it becomes, the anger is attached to something, generally, one step removed from whatever the actual action was.

The action was just that you got cut off. And because there’s a story attached to it, then the emotion can arise. And there can be anger. You know, it would be funny if you’re cut off by a person in a car. That causes you to experience something very different than if a tree were to fall in the road. And you had to swerve to not hit it. It could be the exact same time delay. Or the exact amount of swerving on both of those instances.

And yet one of them, doesn’t leave you angry. And the other scenario does. Because there’s so much more attached to the scenario of the person driving. Than there is just the tree falling. But if you think about just the reality of what happened. The reality is really no different. And I think that’s kind of interesting. Just to be able to observe that. And to notice that.

So where I’m trying to go with this topic, in dealing with difficult emotions, this is a topic that I was interested in this week. Because I’m experiencing and going through my own difficult emotions this week. On Thursday of this week, I went camping with my family. And where we live, if you just go up into the mountains, about thirty minutes, you’re quite removed from civilization. And there’s no cell phone service or signal. And it becomes very remote very quickly up there.

So we were up there on Thursday. We decided to drive up and go camping. We packed all the things up into my truck. And loaded the three kids and my wife and I. And we headed up the mountain. And we found a nice little camping spot, that was next to the river. And I really enjoy the sound of the river. I’ve always, since I started studying Buddhism, I’ve really come to appreciate rivers. And the sound of the river. And how the river is symbolic to life. It’s just constantly flowing.

And so I’m sitting at the river. And just starting to contemplate the sound of the river. And thinking, “Is there a river? There is no river. There’s just the continual flowing of water.” And I’m starting to think really deep and just enjoying the moment. And meanwhile, my kids are running around and playing and laughing. And just enjoying the whole moment up there.

And I thought, “How interesting to be up here, completely disconnected from my normal world. My hyper-connected world, to the internet and Facebook and so many things. And I thought, “It’s interesting that whatever is happening in the world, I’m completely oblivious to it. I’m only here, enjoying this specific moment. Enjoying the sound of the river. Enjoying the sound of my kids laughing and playing.”

And I held that thought in my mind, that whatever is happening out there, I just don’t know. And it’s not that I don’t care. I just don’t know. I have no way of knowing. And that was Thursday night. So Friday morning I wake up. And I had to go down and pick up my camera. ‘Cause I was filming a project up in the mountains. That’s why we went camping in the first place. And I went down to get my camera. And as soon as I was back down in the valley, and I had cellphone service, my phone was able to connect. And all of the sudden I get the news flash of what had happened Thursday night. With the police shootings in Dallas.

And it was incredible to come back from a disconnected world. The very next morning, into a world where suddenly I was flooded with emotion again. And dealing with difficult emotions. Because I was upset. I’m from Dallas. I have a twin brother who’s a police officer. And it hits close to home when you hear a story like that. So I was sad, mostly. Thinking, “That’s so unfortunate, the things that are happening in the world.” And how only if a matter of hours prior to all this, I was completely oblivious. I had no idea what was going on.

And then I started to think, “What about all the things that I’m still oblivious too?” There may have been other instances similar to this. Where there were injustices or murders or any form of injustice taking place in the world. And I’m oblivious to them. You know, whatever’s happening in a certain town in India. Or what happened on the road in this town in China. And whatever it is that happened there, I’m oblivious to it. And I have no idea what’s happening. So I don’t feel any difficult emotions around it. Yet the things that I am aware of, I feel emotions.

And to add to the complexity in my story, I had checked my email Friday morning. And I had a pretty large and significant business deal in the works, to sell off my company. And I had the email that the whole deal has just collapsed and fallen through. And after months and months of negotiations, my partners, who were going to buy my part of the company, have backed out of the whole deal.

And beyond that, their not interested in continuing with the original financing agreement for the structure of the company. And it’s just, one email, within moments, puts me in a very critical financial position with the survival of my own company. And it was very stressful to suddenly be experiencing the difficult emotions of wondering whether or not my company is going to survive.

And in the middle of all this, I had picked up the camera. And back up at the campsite. And as soon as I got out of my truck, and I have all these thoughts about all the things that I had just found out that morning. And then there’s the sound of the river. And it’s just there flowing. And once again, I’m disconnected from everything. But this time I know what’s happened. And I’m dealing with the difficult emotions.

And from my studies and my understanding of the nature of how emotions are impermanent, it was fascinating to up there. And to think, I’m observing myself going through the emotion of feeling stressed. Or feeling anxiety. Now, suddenly I’m thinking, “I don’t know if my company is going to survive. I don’t know if I’m going to have a job in the next few weeks. I don’t know …” All these unknowns. And all this uncertainty coupled with this horrible news of the tragedy, that was already building on the back of the news of the prior tragedies the week before.

And suddenly you’re just immersed in emotion. And I was thinking, “What is the training of how we deal with difficult emotions?” Well the first, is understanding that ‘I am not my emotions’. And this is the concept that I like to describe as ‘the thinking mind versus the observing mind’. Because it’s one thing to think, “I am angry.” And another thing to observe, “I am experiencing anger.” And in the acceptance and commitment therapy this concept is called diffusion.

So the idea is this. And I’ve told this story before. But there’s this story of a man who’s standing in a field. And he sees another man on a horse, galloping at full speed toward him. And as he gets closer, he yells out. And says, “Hey, where are you going?” And the guy on the horse just says, “I don’t know. Ask the horse,” as the horse sprints by and keeps on going. And I love this visual. Because I can imagine what that would be like. To be on the horse and have no control of what the horse is doing. You’re just, it’s running and you’re on it. And you don’t know where it’s going.

And yet, this is exactly how many of us spend significant portions of our life, on the emotional horse. The horse of emotions, that just takes us. And no matter how analytical or capable we think we are. When we’re on that horse. And that horse is galloping. There’s not much we can do. And that’s the difference of being.

The thinking mind is one with the horse and it’s just going. And then the observing mind can recognize, “Oh, I’m separate from this horse. This horse, I mean, I’m on the horse. So I can’t separate from it. But we’re not the same thing. The emotions or the horse, is not the same thing as me, the rider.”And you create this gap. So ‘the thinking mind versus the observing mind’.

My twin bother, who I was talking about earlier, one day mentioned, we had been talking about this idea. And he mentioned how he was in traffic and somebody cut him off. And he noticed he was experiencing anger. And for that moment, he paused and he said, “When I was able to think about the observing part of me, observing the fact that I’m angry. I had to ask, is the part of me that can observe that I’m angry, is that part of me also angry?” And he said, “It wasn’t. Because that part of me is neutral.” That’s like the rider on the horse looking at the horse saying, “Wow, this horse is going crazy.” And then suddenly realizing, “Oh, and I’m not the horse. That’s the horse that’s angry.”

That’s the difference between the thinking mind and the observing mind. And the problem with emotions like anger isn’t the emotion. It’s never the emotion. Because, like I’ve mentioned before, the emotion is completely natural. So being angry isn’t the problem. I like a quote from Captain Jack Sparrow. He says, “The problem isn’t the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.” And this is exactly what I’m referring to, in how we deal with our difficult emotions.

The problem isn’t the emotion. The problem is how we deal with the emotion. So imagine this concept of diffusion from acceptance and commitment therapy. Is really what we call non-attachment in Buddhism. And the idea is this. When you take two things and fuse them together. Imagine something that’s been fused together. Usually through a tremendous amount of heat or something can take two objects and fuse it. And once those objects are fused, they seem like they’re one. And that’s what happens with ourselves. The sense of self that I have in relation to the things that make me who I am, including my emotions. I fuse with my emotions and then I think I am my emotion.

And what’s interesting with this, in English, for example, we say, “I am angry.” And that’s no different than saying, “I am Noah.” You know, my name. Or, “I am …” whatever I am. In the language itself, it’s already fused. In other languages, like Spanish, you can’t say, “I am angry.” Because that wouldn’t make sense. You know, we have, in Spanish, we have two verbs. The verb ‘to be’ and the verb that is ‘how I am’. So ‘ser’ and ‘estar’ are two different verbs. And when you’re talking about something like your emotions, you use the verb that describes the state in which you are. Not who you are or what you are.

So in English, it doesn’t make sense. Because we only have one way to say that. And that’s, “I am angry.” But if you were speaking in Spanish, and I don’t know if this is applicable in other languages. But in at least Spanish and perhaps the other romantic languages, you would have to say, I guess the close translation would be something like, “Anger is how I am.” Or “Anger is what I’m experiencing.”

And that’s the idea of diffusion. It’s understanding, “There’s anger. And that’s what I’m experiencing. But it’s not me. I’m not angry. Because it’s not something I can be. But it is something I can experience.” And just understanding that difference in the language, may be enough. So that when I’m experiencing the emotion, I can pause. And understand, I am experiencing an emotion. Instead of getting fused with the emotion and saying, “I am this emotion.” You know, happiness is what I am. Rather than it is what I am experiencing.

Because understanding that it’s not what you are, is non-attachment. You’re not attaching to the emotion you’re experiencing. You’re understanding that it’s just a separate thing. And furthermore, if you understand interdependence, then you really understand, “I’m experiencing this. And there are reasons why. There are causes and conditions. And as long as those causes and conditions remain, I will experience this emotion. But the moment those causes and conditions change, then I no longer experience that emotion.”

And that allows you to diffuse from the emotion. Because now you’re not so attached to it. Because you understand that the emotion is not you. You never were the emotion. The emotion was never you. It’s something that you experience. Very much in the same way as saying, “I’m hungry.” You know, you experience hunger ’cause the causes and conditions arise that allow you to experience hunger. And as soon as you satisfy the causes and conditions change, you’re no longer experiencing hunger.

And emotions are no different. They’re impermanent. And they’re interdependent. They’re interdependent with the causes and conditions that allow those emotions to exist. So when we’re dealing with difficult emotions, it’s important to understand, anger for example. You’re not trying to get rid of anger. We can’t get rid of anger. And that’s okay. In fact, I think it’s really powerful to understand, you can’t get rid of your emotions. Your emotions are impermanent.

And the point isn’t to get rid of them. It’s to observe them. And maybe pause and say, “Hm, why am I experiencing this emotion?” Because if you can pinpoint the causes and conditions of the emotion, then you can work around solving the causes and conditions. Or changing them so that you no longer experience it.

But I think our tendency is to get stuck on that first level. Where there’s the whatever happens. And there’s the emotion that corresponds to it. And I get stuck at that level. And now I’m just angry. And then I’m angry ’cause I don’t want to be angry. So I’m angry that I’m angry. And it becomes this vicious cycle. And we become fused with the emotion. We become one with the emotion.

And this idea of non-attachment, is that we’re not attaching ourselves to our emotions. We’re understanding that this is, we’re observing the emotion and thinking, “Huh, okay, I’m experiencing anger. Why am I experiencing anger?” And then you can just be with it. Think about that for a minute.

And just ask yourself, “What would it be like, if I could just be with my emotions? And when I am experiencing an emotion, especially a difficult emotion, what if I could just accept it and be with it? And say okay, I’m experiencing anger or I’m experiencing sadness.” And then be with it.

Instead of thinking, “Uh oh, I’m experiencing sadness. I need to get rid of this. I need to be happy again.” That’s not the point. Because that’s a way of fusing with it. Thinking that there’s how you are and then there’s how you’re supposed to be. That’s dualistic thinking. Because there is no, how you’re supposed to be. There’s just how you are. So when you experience how you are, during a difficult emotion, you can just be with it. And say, “This is what I’m experiencing right now.” And be with it.

And what’s really crazy, is you can have compassion for the emotions that you’re experiencing, as you’re experiencing them. When I was at the campsite and I was starting to feel anxious. I was starting to get caught up in the difficult emotion of anger and sadness. At what I was perceiving as the impending doom of my company. And I was able to pause and suddenly there was room for compassion in that experience. Thinking, “Wow, I’m observing that I’m starting to get really stressed. And I have compassion for the emotion that I’m feeling. I have compassion that I’m feeling so stressed and anxious now.”

And because I allowed there to be room there, I was able to diffuse quickly from the emotion. Never with the intent of, “I don’t want to feel this. I need to get rid of it.” That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, I allowed it to be what it was. And in that space of mindfulness, it took me back to a memory of my own parents.

And when we moved to Mexico, when I was a teenager, my dad was going through a very difficult financial crisis with his company. And that’s part of the reason why we ended up moving out of the country. And suddenly I was able to relate to what he must have been experiencing during those stressful periods of his life. That up until this moment, quite honestly, I’d never thought about.

I never thought about, “What kind of stress was dad going through when we moved? Why did we move?” And suddenly I was able to think for a minute, “I’m feeling, and to some degree what my dad was probably feeling during a stressful period of his life.” And it made me feel more closely bonded to him. Just through a moment of mindfulness.

And I felt just gratitude and appreciation for growing up and never knowing really, exactly what he was going through. Because it wasn’t communicated to me. That stress wasn’t necessarily carried on to us. And it did manifest in certain things at times. That looking back I can say, “Oh, okay, no wonder he lost his temper that day when this or that happened.” I can look back and see all that now. But I was oblivious to it at the time.

But this moment of mindfulness up at the campsite with dealing with my own difficult emotions and stress, was a very powerful experience. There’s a form of meditation that you can do in dealing with difficult emotions. And I want to talk about that a little bit.

So the meditation practice is a way to have a little bit of insight into your emotion and to your difficult emotion. Whether it be anger or sadness or any difficult emotion you’re experiencing. The first thing you can do is, try to bring your mind to understanding the specific event as it’s unfolding. So look at what it is that you find that’s irritating you. Or what is it that’s unpleasant about the experience that you’re having.

In my case, I was thinking about the email I got. And how it was making me feel now, to understand that there was a very real possibility that my company might not survive this. And as you think about it, just think about how you feel about the emotion that you’re experiencing. Typically this would be things like: this isn’t fair, why am I experiencing this? Or something along those lines. And then be with it.

And instead of getting caught up in the story that we create in our minds, about what’s going to happen now. Just hold the image in your mind that conveys the nature of what you’re experiencing. So if it’s anger, just picture anger. Picture an angry troll or something that you would say this is the picture of anger. Try to picture that in your mind. Or of sadness. And just hold it there for a moment in your mind.

And try to notice how you’re feeling while you’re thinking about that emotion. So notice, are your arms tense? Are your legs tense? My jaw usually gets tensed up and my cheeks start to hurt. Pay attention to your various muscles. And try to stay completely relaxed while you think about the difficult emotion. And once you become aware of how you’re feeling, physically, while you’re being with this. Then try to feel what’s going on in your mind, in terms of the thoughts that are coming and entering your mind.

And as thoughts enter your mind, create space for them. Don’t try to resist anything. Don’t try to fight anything. Allow whatever you’re experiencing or feeling to just be there. To be what it is. Remember, resisting only aggravates the problem. Because if I’m angry and I don’t want to be angry, now I’ve added to the complexity of anger. Because now I’m angry about being angry. So if you’re angry, just be angry. If you’re sad, just be sad. Just be with it. And allow any thoughts associated to that, to just linger in your mind. Without trying to resist them.

Just try to switch from the thinking mind to the observing mind. So imagine, you’re the horse on the, you’re the rider on the horse that’s running at a full gallop. Because you’re experiencing the emotion. And now take a minute and try to switch. To where you’re not the horse, you’re the rider. You’re just the rider, observing that you’re on the horse. That’s kind of the mental exercise you’re going to do. As you just sit there with the difficult emotions that you’re experiencing.

And then anytime your mind starts to jump into the story behind the emotion. You know, “This happened because so and so is a whatever.” As soon as you start going there, with whatever the story is, pause for a minute. And just think back to “How am I feeling in my body at this very moment?”

And try to re-scan and analyze how from top to bottom or bottom to top. How are your legs? Are they relaxed? How are my arms? Am I feeling tension in my chest? Does it seem like my heartbeat is elevated? Pay attention to the sensations that you’re experiencing, physically. While you’re allowing the thoughts to just race. Because thoughts come and go. They’re not there, then they’re there. They linger and then they’re gone. They’re completely impermanent. Very much like the clouds in the sky.

So allow the thoughts to just come and go. Don’t resist them. And pay close attention to how you’re feeling in your body. And you can talk to yourself in this process. And say, “Okay, it’s okay to experience what I am experiencing. It’s okay to feel what I’m feeling.” You can think, “Well I’m really angry. And this is stupid that I’m even doing this meditation thing.” And it’s okay.

It’s okay to think, “This is dumb. And I should be doing something else.” Just be with it. Just be with it and experience. Let it be what it is. Connect with your anger the way you would talk to a little kid whose angry. And just say, “Be with your anger. Allow it to be what it is.” And that calming awareness of how you’re feeling will allow the emotion to start to dissipate.

Because emotions, as I’ve mentioned before, are impermanent. They don’t last forever. The only way they’ll last forever is if you let them linger and you try to get rid of them. Then you can hang on to them for quite a bit longer. But allow it to be what it is. Just observe it. And try, really try to get into that observing state of mind. Where you can just see it for what it is. And allow it to be what it is.

And remember that ultimately there is no goal with this meditation. The meditation technique isn’t, “Okay, I’m going to do that meditation technique so I can quit being angry.” No, that’s not going to work. In fact, that’s going to make it worse. So start it with saying, “I’m going to just be with my emotion. There’s no goal here. I’m not trying to get rid of it. I’m not trying to tame it.” You’re not trying anything. “I’m just trying to observe my emotions.”

So do that in your meditation. Just be with your difficult emotions and see what happens if you’re just with them. And you’re not trying to do anything. So that’s a good meditation technique that you can try.

Something else I like to think about as a form of meditation, when I’m experiencing difficult emotions, is the first noble truth. The understanding that in life, there is suffering. The universality of suffering is very powerful. Not because I can compare my suffering to someone else’s and say, “Oh, well you’re way worse than me.” It’s not that.

It’s being able to understand that I’m not alone in my suffering. Others are experiencing suffering or have experienced or will experience suffering. And just knowing that it’s universal. Can do a lot for how attached I feel to my own difficult emotions when they arise.

For example, this week when I was experiencing my difficult emotions. And trying to decide what to do. It was helpful to pause and say, “Okay, this is universal. Everyone has experienced something difficult. What are some other difficulties that others experience?” And while I was sitting there thinking, I was thinking about a close friend of mine who lost her husband to cancer. And another friend of mine who lost his wife to cancer. And I was thinking about my business partner who recently lost his son in an automobile accident.

And as I started to think about the other difficulties that other people encounter. What I found in my own difficulty, it doesn’t minimize it. Because like I said, the point isn’t to compare. And then say, “Well I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself.” That can happen, but that’s not the point. The point is, there’s a moment of mindful compassion. As I was able to remind myself, “How I’m feeling now, others are feeling that somewhere in the world now. Some more than me. Some less than me.”

And it’s not a competition, so it’s not about the comparison. It’s just about understanding the universality of suffering. And that allows there to be a lot of space for compassion. Because I was able to quickly realize, “Wow, it’s not fun to feel difficult emotions. And when others are feeling these emotions I would want to be a supportive and compassionate ear that can listen and just be with them.” Not to fix it.

You know, when I approach someone who’s experiencing something difficult, the point isn’t to say, “Well here’s what you need to do. Let me fix this for you.” It’s just to say, “I’m here with you. I’m not here for you. Because that implies that I can take this away from you. And we can’t we all experience our difficulties. But I can be here with you. Experiencing, while you’re going through this, I am with you. I’m here with you.”

And we can do that with ourselves. And understand what the observing mind can say, “Okay, I see what’s going on here. I see what I’m experiencing. And hey, I’m here with you. I’m here ’til however long this emotion lasts. And then it will go away.” So in dealing with difficult emotions, remember the object isn’t to change our emotions. It’s much more powerful to just be with our emotions. To allow them to be what they are.

And naturally, they’ll go away. When causes and conditions are right, emotions are there. And when they’re not, they’re not. And because all things are impermanent, things are continually changing, nothing is going to last forever. So you can be with something. And then allow it to pass. And the quickest way to allow it to pass, is to be with it.

So I hope that topic makes sense. Again, I share that mostly because it’s what I’m going through this week. And it was very interesting to observe my own difficult emotions. And to put into practice the observation of just being with the emotions. And allowing them to be. And by not resisting them or thinking that it’s wrong to feel the stress or the anxiety that I’m feeling in my own circumstances, was enough to alleviate the power of the emotion I was experiencing.

Very much like my friend, that I was telling you about at the beginning of the podcast. When he realized, “Hey the point isn’t that you’re not supposed to be angry.” We just don’t want you to be angry about being angry. It’s okay to be angry. Just be angry. That’s just how you are. That’s what you’re experiencing right now. Thinking that you have to get rid of it, is only going to make it worse.

That simple understanding, ironically or paradoxically, was the catalyst to start letting go of the anger. Because now there’s a diffusion. There’s non-attachment to it, “I’m not attached to the idea that I shouldn’t be angry. I’m just allowing anger to be the emotion that is with me.” And this is what I saw in this person, was already a significant amount of letting go of the anger. Because now it was okay to be angry. And just being okay with being angry was enough to start to minimize that.

So that’s all I have for the topic this week. Again, just reminder of some news items. We still have some open spots if you’re interested in joining my friend Suzy and I, on a humanitarian expedition. We’re going to Uganda in January of next year. And we’re going to be doing mindfulness retreat plus humanitarian work. So you’ll be able to change your life, while changing the lives of others. You can visit MindfulHumanitarian.org for more information on that.

And workshops. I’m doing a workshop in Salt Lake City on August 20th. And a weekend workshop in Seattle, Washington, on September 3rd. And another Sunday workshop, an all day workshop, in London, in the UK, on September 18th. And all of these workshops are going to be listed on the SecularBuddhism.com website. For now, you can go to SecularBuddhism.com/events if you want to fill out your email with a notification for which city you’re interested in. Then I could send you the actual link to the registration, to attend the workshop.

The workshops are really cool. And the topic of the workshop is developing mindfulness. So in the workshop, we take one whole day to explore the concept of how to develop mindfulness as a day to day practice.

So thank you for listening. I’ve mentioned this before. But I truly believe that if we want to contribute to making society or the world, a more peaceful place. We must start by making our own lives more peaceful. And we do that through developing mindfulness. And this is why I do this podcast. I’m determined to produce content and tools that will help us to be more mindful. And mindful individuals are the key to creating mindful families and mindful societies. And my work with the Foundation for Mindful Living, is what allows me to produce the weekly content for the Secular Buddhism podcast. The content for the workshops and retreats and seminars.

So if you’re interested and you’re in a position to be able to help. Please visit SecularBuddhism.com to make a one time donation or to sign up as a monthly supporter. I have six monthly supporters at this point, episode 22. And that makes a difference. Right now that’s just barely enough to cover the cost of hosting for the website.

But with more monthly contributors, I’ll be able to put an entire program online that’s going to be the developing mindfulness workshop that I’m doing. I want to turn that into an online course that will be available. And then of course, continuing with the weekly podcast episodes. Discussing different topics based around Secular Buddhism and mindfulness. So I hope this podcast episode was worthwhile to listen to, how to deal with difficult emotions.

Remember the big takeaway with this is that in dealing with our difficult emotions we don’t want to get rid of them. You can’t get rid of anger. That’s okay. You can’t get rid of sadness. You can’t get rid of the difficult emotions you experience in life. They’re just a part of how we experience life. So when we’re experiencing these difficult emotions, like I am this week, just be with them. Allow the difficult emotion to be what it is. And have room to be mindful and have compassion in the midst of dealing with difficult emotions. And that’s all I have this week. So thank you for listening. Thank you for your continued support. And until next time.



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Written by

Noah Rasheta

Noah Rasheta

Kamas, UT
Having fun living life. Podcast Host | Author | Paramotor Flight Instructor