The Very Delicate Matter Of Feelings

We cannot help having feelings –
but we can control our reaction to those feelings.

Our feelings are memories of past experiences; our karmic programming. These feelings either control us – and therefore we get more of the same – or act as indicators of something arising in the mind, and are therefore illuminating, allowing us to turn down the volume. Memories can be either useful or intrusive.

Don’t look back in anger. We have all had trauma of some sort: we all did and said things we had little control over, and now regret. We didn’t know any better then, so we should be kind to ourselves, and in doing so, we can empathise with others.

It is said that these feeling are held in the subtle body. We see someone – or even just hear their name – and an energy seems to rise up; we experience a physical tightness in the body somewhere – gut, heart, throat or head. This happens just before we start expressing our feelings.

It doesn’t matter how knowledgable we are, those feelings will still show. We are only inscrutable in meditation.

We need to know how to relax.

Subtle Body

This is from Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s book, Open Heart, Open Mind:it’s a very short description of what is called ‘the gentle vase breath’.

First, one exhales slowly and completely, collapsing the abdominal muscles as close to the spine as possible. As we slowly breathe in, we imagine we are drawing our breath down to an area about 4 finger widths below the navel. This area is shaped a bit like a vase, which explains why it is called the vase technique.

Of course, we’re not really drawing breath down to that region, but by turning our attention there, we find ourselves inhaling a little more deeply than usual, and experience a bit more expansion in the vase region. As we continue to draw breath in and attention down, our “lung” ( pronounced loong) will gradually travel down there to rest. Hold the breath in the vase region for a few seconds (but don’t wait until the need to exhale becomes urgent), and then slowly breathe out again.

Just breathe slowly in this way, 3-4 times, exhaling completely and inhaling into the vase area. After the 3rd or 4th inhalation, try holding a little bit of the breath (maybe 10%) in the vase area at the end of the exhalation, focusing very lightly and gently on maintaining a bit of lung in its home place. It may be a little uncomfortable, but the practice is worthwhile to calm one down.

Vase breath is practised for 10 or 20 mins a day, and can become a direct means of developing awareness of our feelings, and learning how to work with them, even while we are engaged in daily activities.”

This is a video I made on this subject some time ago:


Tsoknyi Rinpoche on Tigley and Neurotransmitters:

The channels are the means through which what we might call ‘the spark of life’ moves. In Tibetan, these sparks are called tigle, which may be translated as ‘drops’, or ‘droplets’ – an interpretation we are given so that we can form some kind of mental image of what passes through the channels.

Nowadays, of course, we can begin to imagine these drops as neurotransmitters, the body’s ‘chemical messengers’ that affect our physical, mental and emotional states. Some of these neurotransmitters are fairly well known, for example serotonin which is influential in depression, dopamine, a chemical associated with the anticipation of pleasure and epinephrine (adrenaline), a chemical often produced in response to stress, anxiety and fear. Neurotransmitters are extremely small molecules and while their effects on our mental and physical state can be quite noticeable, their passage through various organs of the body could still be called ‘subtle’.”

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