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Emotions

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The key to taking care of our emotions is to change how we relate to them. Often, well-meaning people will tell us to simply “put it out of our mind,” or “stop thinking about it.” This may work for a short while, but we can verify its ineffectiveness in a short thought experiment: simply try to avoid thinking about flying elephants.

The moment you do this, you most likely find yourself thinking about the very thing you’re trying to avoid thinking about! Some people say they succeed at this, but since we only know success by reference to the thing we’re trying to avoid, it is inevitably still present.

So suppressing doesn’t work. In fact, it makes it worse! Often what we try to avoid returns with greater strength than before. At the same time, we all know that wallowing in our feelings doesn’t help either, but also makes it worse. So what then?

The way to take care of our feelings is to learn to gently embrace them with our mindfulness, with a soft, clear awareness that allows the emotion to be and to run its course. Any of the books by Thomas Bien can help you do this, but one to start with is The Buddha’s Way of Happiness.

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