Feelings and Emotions
Are feelings and emotions the same? What do they have to do with healing and Taoism? Feelings might be described as a passing state; like a cloud floating by or a train going through the station. However, if bad feelings can fester, they can turn into a negative emotional state—like jumping on the train at the station or running after a cloud instead of letting it pass. Feelings are easier to control, they’re less powerful. A negative emotional outburst can’t be controlled and happens at an inconvenient time.
The skill is to catch a negative feeling before it turns into a negative emotional state. Likewise, one can nurture positive feelings into longer-lasting positive emotional states. Feelings and emotions are part of life and the ups and downs make our experience richer. People fear that a spiritual path or becoming “too Zen” will make them numb to the flavors of life. But, in contrast, I’ve found that a spiritual path can make us feel the ups and downs more deeply.
Taoists feel that energy is powerful, whether positive or negative. Through meditation and spiritual cultivation, we can take the charge from the energy of feelings and emotions and use it in our body to nourish vitality. An unconscious emotional outburst, compulsive thinking, or wasteful habits (shopping, TV watching, gambling) sends our energy out of our body and it can’t be recycled for vitality.
The Taoist practice of Fusion of the Five Elements, also known as Emotional Alchemy, specializes in the transformation of emotions into vitality. We learn how to identify feelings, feel the emotions, and change them into their positive counterpart (cruelty into love, frustration into decision making, worry into trust, etc.)
Another aspect of the Emotional Alchemy practice is to bring our energies into the center of our being, where they can be recognized and integrated into the big picture. Sometimes feelings are ignored because they are too painful, but as the title of a great book says, “feelings buried alive never die.” Ignored feelings grow bigger to get attention. Then, they burst forth to the surface like a geyser or a floatation device that’s been held under water. If we invite neglected feelings to the party, they don’t stagger in to crash the family reunion halfway through.
The Alchemist’s Tao Te Ching:
Transforming Your Lead Into Gold