liberating "emotion" vs. "thought"

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Johnny Dangerous
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liberating "emotion" vs. "thought"

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Mon Nov 25, 2019 9:37 pm

I put them in quotes because I know they are usually not treated differently.

Nevertheless, working with thoughts is qualitatively different than working with emotion it seems. Conceptual thought is not hard to identify as such once one has a solid meditation practice, but emotion is felt somatically, and is often much harder to identify than "thought". I remember reading a description from Patrul Rinpoche of "water running under a mountain of straw" or something akin to this. This definitely is a good analogy in my experience, sometimes there are very subtle levels of emotionality coloring all our experiences, and they are not easy to "see".

I wonder if there are any instructions people know of that specifically address this sort of subtle emotional tone. I realize that in essence the instruction would not differ, but as these are often harder to identify, I assume the problem has arisen for people other than me, and that instructions might exist.

*Reminder/Disclaimer* I posted this in the Dzogchen area, so I'm kind of expecting mainly Dzogchen/Mahamudra suggestions, but other traditions that address this specific issue would be great too. I'm -not- interested in a debate about the validity of the question itself, nor in a debate on the subject more generally, just resources or advice from people who resonate with what I'm asking. I also understand that at the highest level these things liberate themselves, so I am not asking for a Dzogchen 101 primer;)
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Re: liberating "emotion" vs. "thought"

Post by Simon E. » Mon Nov 25, 2019 10:27 pm

I think it’s there in your summation Johnny. Emotions are worked with by direct awareness of somatic processes more than cognitions are. Although clearly there is no hard and fast demarcation..cognitions seldom arise with no somatic echo and bodily sensations are usually accompanied by subtle memories laid down by historical conditioning.
“The difference between us and Tara is that she knows she doesn’t exist”.

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Re: liberating "emotion" vs. "thought"

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Mon Nov 25, 2019 10:34 pm

Simon E. wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 10:27 pm
I think it’s there in your summation Johnny. Emotions are worked with by direct awareness of somatic processes more than cognitions are. Although clearly there is no hard and fast demarcation..cognitions seldom arise with no somatic echo and bodily sensations are usually accompanied by subtle memories laid down by historical conditioning.
That's a good explanation Simon, thanks.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Re: liberating "emotion" vs. "thought"

Post by Astus » Mon Nov 25, 2019 10:48 pm

'This task is to see through a particular train of thought and its related associations in order to discern the underlying mental current. For mindful recognition of our present mental state, the requirement is above all a clear recognition without getting involved in the details of whatever train of thought and related associations are taking place. Since it is often precisely these details that get us hooked and caught up in a particular chain of thoughts, achieving such recognition is more easily said than done. Recognizing the feeling tone of our current experience offers help for this task. It grounds awareness in the affective reality of the present moment and thereby draws attention to our subjective involvement in whatever is happening. In this way we learn to attend to the baseline condition of the mind rather than to the details of particular thoughts.
This is of considerable importance, since human beings are quite able to remain immersed in their thoughts while at the same time completely ignoring the baseline emotional condition of the corresponding state of mind. History abounds with examples of incredibly cruel actions that have had their basis in the fascination exerted by a particular political or religious ideal, leading to a thorough dissociation from basic qualities like kindness and compassion (at times in combination with relegating to some higher authority the responsibility for the harm inflicted on others). Other examples of no less atrocious events show the opposite side of the same coin, when wallowing in emotions takes place in complete dissociation from the rational capacities of the mind. The present practice works against the grain of the tendency of dissociation, based on the groundwork preparation of embodied awareness and clear recognition of the feeling tone of experience.
This in turn brings out the significance of the three satipaṭṭhānas explored so far and the importance of practising them in conjunction rather than in isolation from each other. It is precisely through the preparatory work done so far in the somatic and affective domain that the present satipaṭṭhāna acquires its full potential. Mindfulness cultivated in this way can be visualized as opening up the communication channels between these different domains. It offers a point of integration of the rational and emotional dimensions of ourselves. This takes place by giving each an equal hearing in such a way that both can make their contribution to a complete assessment of a particular situation and to finding the appropriate response to it. In this way, intuition and reasoning come to a point of balance, based on the support provided by mindfulness. This results from the dynamics of practice underlying the first three satipaṭṭhānas.'

(Satipaṭṭhāna Meditation: A Practice Guide by Bhikkhu Anālayo, ch 7)
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: liberating "emotion" vs. "thought"

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Tue Nov 26, 2019 12:22 am

That's actually quite good, I'd suspected this might be a thing that some Theravadins would have good advice on.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Re: liberating "emotion" vs. "thought"

Post by Lukeinaz » Tue Nov 26, 2019 1:11 am

Tsoknyi Rinpoche.

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Re: liberating "emotion" vs. "thought"

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Tue Nov 26, 2019 4:23 am

Lukeinaz wrote:
Tue Nov 26, 2019 1:11 am
Tsoknyi Rinpoche.
Anything in particular you'd recommend that he's written on the subject?
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Re: liberating "emotion" vs. "thought"

Post by heart » Tue Nov 26, 2019 5:52 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 9:37 pm
I put them in quotes because I know they are usually not treated differently.

Nevertheless, working with thoughts is qualitatively different than working with emotion it seems. Conceptual thought is not hard to identify as such once one has a solid meditation practice, but emotion is felt somatically, and is often much harder to identify than "thought". I remember reading a description from Patrul Rinpoche of "water running under a mountain of straw" or something akin to this. This definitely is a good analogy in my experience, sometimes there are very subtle levels of emotionality coloring all our experiences, and they are not easy to "see".

I wonder if there are any instructions people know of that specifically address this sort of subtle emotional tone. I realize that in essence the instruction would not differ, but as these are often harder to identify, I assume the problem has arisen for people other than me, and that instructions might exist.

*Reminder/Disclaimer* I posted this in the Dzogchen area, so I'm kind of expecting mainly Dzogchen/Mahamudra suggestions, but other traditions that address this specific issue would be great too. I'm -not- interested in a debate about the validity of the question itself, nor in a debate on the subject more generally, just resources or advice from people who resonate with what I'm asking. I also understand that at the highest level these things liberate themselves, so I am not asking for a Dzogchen 101 primer;)
According to Buddha Dharma emotions are thoughts. When my teacher told me this I was pretty surprised as it seems like we make a big difference between thoughts and emotions in our western world view. Well, I certainly did.

/magnus
"We are all here to help each other go through this thing, whatever it is."
~Kurt Vonnegut

"The principal practice is Guruyoga. But we need to understand that any secondary practice combined with Guruyoga becomes a principal practice." ChNNR (Teachings on Thun and Ganapuja)

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Re: liberating "emotion" vs. "thought"

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Tue Nov 26, 2019 6:32 am

heart wrote:
Tue Nov 26, 2019 5:52 am
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 9:37 pm
I put them in quotes because I know they are usually not treated differently.

Nevertheless, working with thoughts is qualitatively different than working with emotion it seems. Conceptual thought is not hard to identify as such once one has a solid meditation practice, but emotion is felt somatically, and is often much harder to identify than "thought". I remember reading a description from Patrul Rinpoche of "water running under a mountain of straw" or something akin to this. This definitely is a good analogy in my experience, sometimes there are very subtle levels of emotionality coloring all our experiences, and they are not easy to "see".

I wonder if there are any instructions people know of that specifically address this sort of subtle emotional tone. I realize that in essence the instruction would not differ, but as these are often harder to identify, I assume the problem has arisen for people other than me, and that instructions might exist.

*Reminder/Disclaimer* I posted this in the Dzogchen area, so I'm kind of expecting mainly Dzogchen/Mahamudra suggestions, but other traditions that address this specific issue would be great too. I'm -not- interested in a debate about the validity of the question itself, nor in a debate on the subject more generally, just resources or advice from people who resonate with what I'm asking. I also understand that at the highest level these things liberate themselves, so I am not asking for a Dzogchen 101 primer;)
According to Buddha Dharma emotions are thoughts. When my teacher told me this I was pretty surprised as it seems like we make a big difference between thoughts and emotions in our western world view. Well, I certainly did.

/magnus
Yeah, I know this is true in theory. To some degree I even get it, examining them deep enough in vipaysana etc. sometimes I can discern a more subtle conceptuality/dualism to emotion, but it is well..."felt" in a way that what I think of as "thought" is not.

So, either people in traditional Buddhist cultures who are practicing meditation feel and think substantially differently than we do, or they have a different conception of "body" that makes the question less important. I've always found this an interesting idea. To date, the only teacher I've seen even theorize on it is Reggie Ray. I get the "emotions are thoughts" thing, it just seems like it doesn't help much in terms of practice.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Re: liberating "emotion" vs. "thought"

Post by heart » Tue Nov 26, 2019 1:22 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Tue Nov 26, 2019 6:32 am
heart wrote:
Tue Nov 26, 2019 5:52 am
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 9:37 pm
I put them in quotes because I know they are usually not treated differently.

Nevertheless, working with thoughts is qualitatively different than working with emotion it seems. Conceptual thought is not hard to identify as such once one has a solid meditation practice, but emotion is felt somatically, and is often much harder to identify than "thought". I remember reading a description from Patrul Rinpoche of "water running under a mountain of straw" or something akin to this. This definitely is a good analogy in my experience, sometimes there are very subtle levels of emotionality coloring all our experiences, and they are not easy to "see".

I wonder if there are any instructions people know of that specifically address this sort of subtle emotional tone. I realize that in essence the instruction would not differ, but as these are often harder to identify, I assume the problem has arisen for people other than me, and that instructions might exist.

*Reminder/Disclaimer* I posted this in the Dzogchen area, so I'm kind of expecting mainly Dzogchen/Mahamudra suggestions, but other traditions that address this specific issue would be great too. I'm -not- interested in a debate about the validity of the question itself, nor in a debate on the subject more generally, just resources or advice from people who resonate with what I'm asking. I also understand that at the highest level these things liberate themselves, so I am not asking for a Dzogchen 101 primer;)
According to Buddha Dharma emotions are thoughts. When my teacher told me this I was pretty surprised as it seems like we make a big difference between thoughts and emotions in our western world view. Well, I certainly did.

/magnus
Yeah, I know this is true in theory. To some degree I even get it, examining them deep enough in vipaysana etc. sometimes I can discern a more subtle conceptuality/dualism to emotion, but it is well..."felt" in a way that what I think of as "thought" is not.

So, either people in traditional Buddhist cultures who are practicing meditation feel and think substantially differently than we do, or they have a different conception of "body" that makes the question less important. I've always found this an interesting idea. To date, the only teacher I've seen even theorize on it is Reggie Ray. I get the "emotions are thoughts" thing, it just seems like it doesn't help much in terms of practice.
Like I said, it really surprised me at the time but now, many years later, it actually makes sense. There are so many fast short thoughts that carry a mishmash of repetitive highly judgemental ideas about ourselves and our world that makes it feel like a continuous backdrop of color or emotion. But it isn't really there.

/magnus
"We are all here to help each other go through this thing, whatever it is."
~Kurt Vonnegut

"The principal practice is Guruyoga. But we need to understand that any secondary practice combined with Guruyoga becomes a principal practice." ChNNR (Teachings on Thun and Ganapuja)

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Re: liberating "emotion" vs. "thought"

Post by futerko » Tue Nov 26, 2019 6:55 pm

Personally I would be wary of chasing after objects here - in the same way that I can hold up a cup or a pen as objects in front of me and see that they are entirely designed and constructed objects, so too with conceptual designations - for me the enquiry must also become aware of the designation itself as the 'mechanism' of conceptual grasping.

When we speak of the subtle difference between emotion and thought - and the idea that thought and emotion are maybe not so dissimilar - I would here distinguish between the content of the thought and the mental agency which 'handles' the content. There is the apparent arising of phenomena, and there is the imputation of the status of this phenomena (attributing it as either existing or not existing, real or imagined, authentic or fantasy, good or bad, etc etc.)

The original experience must by necessity be non-dual, it cannot be said to either exist or not exist - it is merely the experience of two or more other arisings interacting. In talking about it, there is both the designated object and also the act of designation itself (the grasping of that content), so while we might talk about the emotional 'content' as the "details that get us hooked", the real act of mental grasping occurs elsewhere - any attempt to designate that as our object is likely to run into the same conundrum, as we would simply be grasping at grasping itself!

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Re: liberating "emotion" vs. "thought"

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Tue Nov 26, 2019 7:31 pm

heart wrote:
Tue Nov 26, 2019 1:22 pm
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Tue Nov 26, 2019 6:32 am
heart wrote:
Tue Nov 26, 2019 5:52 am


According to Buddha Dharma emotions are thoughts. When my teacher told me this I was pretty surprised as it seems like we make a big difference between thoughts and emotions in our western world view. Well, I certainly did.

/magnus
Yeah, I know this is true in theory. To some degree I even get it, examining them deep enough in vipaysana etc. sometimes I can discern a more subtle conceptuality/dualism to emotion, but it is well..."felt" in a way that what I think of as "thought" is not.

So, either people in traditional Buddhist cultures who are practicing meditation feel and think substantially differently than we do, or they have a different conception of "body" that makes the question less important. I've always found this an interesting idea. To date, the only teacher I've seen even theorize on it is Reggie Ray. I get the "emotions are thoughts" thing, it just seems like it doesn't help much in terms of practice.
Like I said, it really surprised me at the time but now, many years later, it actually makes sense. There are so many fast short thoughts that carry a mishmash of repetitive highly judgemental ideas about ourselves and our world that makes it feel like a continuous backdrop of color or emotion. But it isn't really there.

/magnus
Hmm, yeah, I mean, I get it. Maybe in sense we are observing the 'cosmology' of Dzogchen at the most minute level of emotion, where there is a very subtle division of subject and object due to non-recognition, and thus ignorance, aversion, attachment; and this is what I'm labeling "emotion".

On the other hand, it's a tough thing to say "emotions are really thought" when apparently most people in our culture have difficulty approaching them that way, just not sure what it would mean in practice.

There are definitely states that lead to a certain somatic response, and "thoughts" that don't seem to, and seem to be fully conceptual, but I guess as Simon mentioned earlier it is case of the two reflecting one another, and an arbitrary distinction being made based on how they manifest.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Re: liberating "emotion" vs. "thought"

Post by PSM » Tue Nov 26, 2019 10:42 pm

I highly recommend Lama Lena's approach:



Also, I'd second Tsoknyi Rinpoche's teachings on emotions, as he's one of the few lamas who teach on the link between tsa, lung and tigle and mind/emotions - and does so from a dzogchen context. His book Open Heart, Open Mind is the most relevant.

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Re: liberating "emotion" vs. "thought"

Post by Lukeinaz » Wed Nov 27, 2019 2:12 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Tue Nov 26, 2019 4:23 am
Lukeinaz wrote:
Tue Nov 26, 2019 1:11 am
Tsoknyi Rinpoche.
Anything in particular you'd recommend that he's written on the subject?
All his books are good. His "Handshake" practice stems from this text which you may enjoy:

https://www.lotsawahouse.org/tibetan-masters/patrul-rinpoche/self-liberating-meditation

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