The twenty-ninth practice practice of the Bodhisattva says “Understanding that emotional reactions are dismantled by insight supported by stillness, Cultivate meditative stability that passes right by the four formless states — this is the practice of a bodhisattva.” I understand the immeasurable benefits of this now, however when I began my meditation practice I had neither idea nor any conscious desire to “dismantle” my emotional reactions. I didn’t even have much awareness of my emotions or feelings and I for sure didn’t realize how unreliable they were. Lot’s of studies have been done about how much we remember of a conversation or a moment or a situation and how much our brains simply “fill in” the gaps that inevitably exist and then quickly believe them to be true.
Practicing all these years, it’s taught me to be the watcher, to observe how feelings come and go, to notice my reactions to various emotions and to come back to present awareness over and over again. “Think of this as your spiritual gym, each time you follow a story and lose yourself in an emotion and then realize it and bring you awareness back to your breath and your center, you are building muscle” Bhante says.
I asked him what the benefits of this are. “When you disrupt the story, you make room for a deeper truth. Over time, like an onion, layers of story can fall away and the truth is left”.
Early on, I couldn’t relate to what he was saying at all— but the more I practiced and “interrupted” the stories and patterns I manufactured, the more durable I became. The more truth I observed, the more I could handle it without a need to rationalize or alter or fill in the gaps. As the practice says “insight and stillness” dismantled my emotional reactions and I began to put less value in how something felt until I fully investigated it.