What is involved in meeting inward emotional states?

This will be my last post for a while, as I feel I have written and posted enough over the last few months, and have been reminded by others that this has perhaps become a habit, a distraction from my own living. But I wanted to at least put this question because it has been occupying my mind for some time now, and I feel it is a natural question to ask:

What does it mean to observe inwardly?

I tried to ask this question on another thread, but for some reason it created a lot of resistance, even argument - though this was maybe due primarily to issues in communication.

When I look inwardly for myself the first thing I notice is my mood, my emotional atmosphere, or whatever it is that I am feeling. These feeling states change from day to day, or hour to hour, but this is what seem to be the focus of my inward looking.

Other people I have talked to say that when they look inwards they notice their thoughts, the movement of mental associations cascading continuously in their minds.

But although I can be aware of thoughts and the movement of mental associations, what grabs my attention most conspicuously is my feeling states or emotions (presumably created by my thinking). And it is these emotional states that I find it difficult to observe holistically.

K calls these emotional states (e.g. fear, hurt, sorrow, jealousy, loneliness, conflict, etc) contents of consciousness, reactions in consciousness. And he has asked whether it is possible for there to be a holistic observation of these contents?

One of the things he suggested which has stuck with me is that by remaining with these emotional states choicelesly, nonjudgmentally, without any motive to resolve them or dissipate them - observing them without any thought, without words, without moving away from them, etc - that these states can flower and dissipate, be emptied. Simply by staying with them (in observation).

Some people say they have done this with certain emotions (like anger and fear), while other emotions seem to be more difficult to remain with in the way K has suggested (for instance, sorrow).

I cannot say I have had much success in this business of staying with/remaining with emotional states (choicelessly, without judgement, without motive, etc). And I wonder if it is because I am missing some vital ingredient in my observation?

One thing that K has talked about in relation to this remaining with an emotional state, is that there must be a quality of affection, love, as though the observed emotional state was something precious (like a son or a daughter, or like a precious jewel): something to look at and listen to with great affection. So is it this quality of tenderness that is missing?

He also said that one must see, or intuitively experience, that the emotional state is not separate from oneself - i.e. that the feeling itself is part of oneself (the observer is the observed). That the fact of one’s sorrow or hurt (or whatever it is) is something inseparable from who one is, so there is no sense of separation between the feeling and oneself who is feeling. So this intuition or perception also seems to be critical.

Part of our resistance to observing ourselves inwardly is that we fear pain and discomfort, we do not want to be aware of difficult or disturbing emotional states. We would rather escape into some kind of entertainment or pleasure. This seems to be a natural response to inward disharmony.

And also, we project a fear of what might happen if the feeling state dissipates: we fear our projected image of being empty, being nothing. We do not believe that the harmonious state that follows the flowering and dissolving of emotion will be positive.

And yet, unless we are willing to remain with our inwardly disharmonious states, how will we ever find out whether they can in fact be dissipated through observation, let alone be transformed into a positive and harmonious feeling-state?

So, it seems to me, we can only take the first step of observation without knowing the actual outcome.

We may simply fail, again and again! (which has been my general experience up til now). But we may discover that the emotional state can flower, show itself wholly to the mind: that its content can be exposed through a holistic observation, and be emptied in that observation.

Perhaps there is nothing to be discussed about this matter verbally. Perhaps the only thing to be done is to experiment through one’s own direct nonverbal awareness and observation. But I thought it worth sharing here in case it is of interest or benefit to others.

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Does remaining with an emotional state just as it is, without storifying/analyzing it, end that state? Trustworthy hearsay says it does: Krishnamurti, Tolle, Pema Chodron, and others. But they may all be wrong or rare ‘spiritual’ exceptions. Seems like with so many things in the Quest every person needs to find out for themself. When I feel bored or yearny I usually escape into whatever will allay my discomfort. But there are times I stay with the pure feeling of yuck. And the dark mood usually lets up. Others will have different personal experiences.

There is a phrase I’ve heard a few times: the cure for pain (psychological pain that is) is in the pain (that is, in the psycho-physical sensation itself).

One has to be in contact with the feeling of a feeling directly in one’s body/mind.

This implies that one has to really feel one’s feelings (i.e. with full awareness) in order for the feeling state to undergo a change in its quality.

With superficial feelings and emotions this is easy. With more intense feelings this is hard. And with really deep rooted emotions - which have been living unobserved in the basement of one’s mind for years - this is really quite arduous.

Perhaps this is why there seem to be so many different outcomes for people (us) when we experiment with this.

There is another type of inward observing: Observe the observer and see what happens to the emotions. But I don’t think that’s what you are interested in exploring here?

By observing the observer I presume you mean becoming aware of your own awareness, of awareness itself?

If you do (and you may not) the implication of this, from what people seem to say about it, is that one is aware of suffering (for example) as something separate from oneself.

The suffering is observed at a distance, as it were (with detachment) - and this distance is created by the fact that one’s primary attention is focussed on the attention or awareness itself (with which one is identified), instead of on the pain of suffering (with which one does not feel identified).

Is this what you mean?

I don’t know if it helps, but I asked Chat GPT about it.

Me: There seem to be two different ways of approaching suffering. 1. One is the idea that I am awareness, the observer is awareness, and this observer (who is awareness) observes suffering with detachment, from a distance (the distance of awareness). 2. The other is the idea that I am suffering, the observer is the suffering itself, and so the observer observes suffering without separating himself from the suffering (the observer is the observed). The former view seems to be the Advaita view, while the second view is Krishnamurti’s view. What do you think? Do you agree?

Chat GPT: Yes, you’ve captured a key distinction in approaches to suffering. The first perspective aligns with Advaita Vedanta, emphasizing the observer being awareness and maintaining a sense of detachment from suffering. In contrast, the second perspective, as seen in Jiddu Krishnamurti’s teachings, suggests that the observer and the observed (suffering) are not separate; they are one and the same.

It is so easy to get confused, isn"t it.
One thinks that he has put some order in one’s life and boem… gone.
Why are we so susceptible to our own thoughts? What causes this seemingly perpetual disturbance?
I have to find out for myself and I still do not know where to begin.

That’s the general idea. But it’s tricky, being aware of being aware is the same paradox as the eye seeing itself!

I understand what you are saying. But the paradox is likely something we are projecting from a space of unawareness, isn’t it? At least, this is my feeling. In total attention - according to K - there is a sense of borderless space, or attention itself as it were. There is no separate observer or ‘attender’ in total attention, but just the state of attention and whatever occurs in that attention (possibly an infinite movement of energetic unfolding?).

However, why must we make such speculative efforts that twist the mind thinking them into pretzels - when the fact is that we suffer, we feel fear, we hurt, etc? Surely, when there is no more suffering (or fear or hurt, etc) we can find out what that state of total attention is. We can find out if God or brahman or the immeasurable exists. But to speculate about it from the space of a person who is in psychological pain or disharmony seems inadequate, doesn’t it?

This is why, for me at least, I want to find out what is involved in meeting suffering, hurt, fear, psychological reactions. Because if I can meet them properly, maybe they can be transformed, maybe they can be dissolved - leaving the mind free to discover what the nature of attention is, etc.

So first I must find out if I can meet my psychological states, my daily ‘what is’. And I am discovering that if I separate myself from these states, then I am subtly perpetuating them. So long as I keep them at arms length I am not really meeting them.

So I am wondering whether actually the only way to meet these states properly is to take the leap and actually face them, feel them, with no anchor, no support, no security in feeling identified with awareness, an outside observer looking in, etc - but only feeling directly the fact of suffering, the sensation of hurt, jealousy, boredom, or whatever it is. Having the sense of ‘I am that’ (suffering, hurt, boredom, etc).

Maybe you could call this an attitude of total surrender, surrendering to ‘what is’?

When and if the psychological ‘what is’ (of suffering, hurt, etc) can be transformed, then I can find out what total attention is. But not before. This is my approach.

Perhaps I should have titled the thread, “What is involved in meeting inward emotional states?”, to make the intention of the thread more obvious. That way it would limit the discussion to questions such as what is involved in meeting psychological pain as pain (without the story we create mentally around the sensation of pain itself).

Probably this is more along the lines of the approach taken by the fold you mentioned previously:

(I’m attempting to limit my comments here, as I had said my original post would be my last for a while! But naturally, if there is something I feel genuinely worth responding to, then I will :pray:)

I understand better what you are getting at here after your explanation. If I postponed my quest to grok the ultimate nature of reality until my suffering was gone I would probably never begin. Ideally, sure, being free of suffering is a great starting point for inquiry, but you do the best with what you have/are.

That is helpful.

I changed the topic heading!

Off the top of me noggin, you need to be able to:

  • Find the ‘pure’ emotional state (not always easy!)
  • Stay with it rather than escaping from it or trying to control it (can be subtle)
  • Simply experience it rather than storifying or analyzing or judging it
  • Bear the pain/discomfort with equanimity
  • Have the energy and passion needed for the task
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