Garden of the Heart

The heart is like a garden.
It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love.
What seed would you plant in it?

I observed with interest that when varieties of emotions are asked to be spelled out in a workshop, the list of negative emotions named by the participants usually outnumber the positive; it is as if there are limited positive emotions compare to its opposites. It is a common occurrence and I am not surprised. And if I were to seek cooperation from the participants to share with me on what scale of emotions do they think they experience throughout each day, having a scale of 0 as negative to 10 as positive, majority of the answers that come back would be above 5. It is a wide contrast to the first feedback during the initial period of a workshop.

I wish to make two valid conclusions from an observation based on my own personal experience of the mind. First, if I was not a practitioner of self-inquiry, I may not have truly recognized what is within my scope of emotions throughout the day. I may not have realized that a major part of the actions I take are motivated by negative thoughts or emotions. That there was some form of stress underlying my daily activities. That restlessness was the cause of my continuous seeking and doing. In other words, my actions were not motivated by inspiration, by love or joy but rather a dread commitment of chores I “had” to do. And usually these statements were returned with replies of “what choice do I have” mentality. I can’t say this is not a valid retort as there is much commitment as an individual, and also as a society, to address and undertake in day to day issues at hand, to live a life of decency. But the question again is not about the work or activities we undertake but rather the attitude that is accompanying it. It is these attitudes that determine our emotions and also thoughts.

Secondly, I observed that it is the mentality of not “right” to admit that we have more negative emotions than positive. There is an ingrained societal mentality that we have to hide or suppress our emotions; mostly negative; for us to be efficient in our deals. We were told that expressing our feelings is inappropriate and that we are only expressing our weaknesses if we were to do so. Burying our feelings underneath our actions is one of the main causes of misery. In truth, feelings can’t be buried except to mask over, hence the word, personality or persona to mean a mask. Ironically, it is feelings that we are all seeking in life and yet we are told not to feel. How could it be possible to experience happiness if what be at the bottom are all unresolved negative emotions? It is not unusual that when happiness finally arrive at the doorstep, there is a feeling of incompleteness in it, that there is a better happiness somewhere else than what is here in front of me to savor – it is the result of the hidden unresolved feelings.

Could it be this that there is no true “happiness”? That there is so much “look good” factors running in our society, or more true, running in the mind that we are not true to ourselves any longer? That we have ingrained mentality of blame and accusation hidden in our hearts but not spoken? Not that we have to express or burst it out to hurt others but rather the suppression which is what causes us to put the responsibility of our pain onto others; which we did not take the responsibility to investigate what is going through the mind and to take appropriate steps to address it, either through right understanding or right perception. That true happiness is found whenever we recognize, understand and accept what is within us, and not through the contrary or ignoring it.

My meditation teacher once reminded me that it is because of our firsthand experience of what our mind is, that inclines us to purify it. When we are ignorant to our own mind, cultivation is impossible. Thus we have to admit that the mind is predominantly filled with negative emotions before the actual journey of love and wisdom begins.

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