March 1, 2022


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"Our feelings play a very important part in directing all of our thoughts and actions. In us, there is a river of feelings, in which every drop of water is a different feeling, and each feeling relies on all the others for its existence. To observe it, we just sit on the bank of the river and identify each feeling as it surfaces, flows by, and disappears.

There are three sorts of feelings -- pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral. When we have an unpleasant feeling, we may want to chase it away. But it is more effective to return to our conscious breathing and just observe it, identifying it silently to our ourselves: "Breathing in, I know there is an unpleasant feeling in me. Breathing out, I know there is an unpleasant feeling in me." Calling a feeling by its name, such as "anger," "sorrow," "joy" or "happiness," can help us identify it clearly and recognize it more deeply.

We can use our breathing to be in contact with our feelings and accept them. If our breathing is light and calm -- a natural result of conscious breathing -- our mind and body will slowly become light, calm, and clear, and our feelings also. Mindful observation is based on the principle of "non-duality": our feeling is not separate from us or caused merely by something outside us; our feeling is us, and for the moment we are that feeling. We are neither drowned in nor terrorized by the feeling nor do we reject it. Out attitude of not clinging to or rejecting our feelings is the attitude of letting go, an important part of our meditation practice.

If we face our unpleasant feelings with care, affection, and nonviolence, we can transform them into the kind of energy that is healthy and has the capacity to nourish us. By the work of mindful observation, our unpleasant feelings can illuminate so much for us, offering insight and understanding into ourselves and society."

Thich Nhat Hanh, excerpt from Peace is Every Step