Dealing with emotions in a healthy manner can be challenging for many people. We often tend either to be out of touch with our emotions—which can lead to feelings of isolation and over-intellectualization, or to struggle with feeling overwhelmed by our emotions—which can lead us to believe that we are overly sensitive and misunderstood. In his book Feeling Wisdom: Working with Emotions Using Buddhist Teachings and Western Psychology, Rob Preece provides us with a guide to working with our emotions in order to alleviate our suffering and awaken to a life of greater wisdom and compassion.
As a psychotherapist who has extensively studied and practiced Tibetan Buddhism, Preece explores methods of dealing with our emotions, combining techniques derived from both of these disciplines. Bringing the two together can be somewhat challenging, as they tend to view emotions from two conflicting points of view. Whereas the Buddhist perspective urges us to overcome our feelings as they are a source of suffering, Western psychology encourages us to become more aware of our feelings and to explore their underlying meaning in our lives.
In the first part of his book, Preece delves into the examination of emotions from both perspectives. During his practice of Buddhist meditation, he was initially taught to learn to control and transcend painful emotional states; however, he found that doing so did not always address the underlying feelings or make them go away. He then discovered a Buddhist practice known as Mahamudra, similar in many ways to mindfulness meditation, which enables the witnessing of emotions without becoming engulfed in them. He found this practice to be much more helpful in actually transforming their power.vitality and wisdom into our day-to-day lives.
Allowing our emotions to flow through us, rather than repressing them, as well as learning to become more attuned to our gut feelings and inner truth, can bring a greater sense of vitality and wisdom into our day-to-day lives.
The second part Feeling Wisdom is dedicated to exploring methods of transforming emotional states in order to bring about a greater sense of well-being. In addition to examining the changing nature of emotions and creating more inner spaciousness around them through the process of Mahamudra meditation, he also stresses the importance of disidentifying with powerful emotional states. Some methods that he describes for bringing about this type of change include the use of Jungian techniques, such as personifying the emotions and bringing our shadow— repressed aspects of our nature—into conscious awareness. Bodywork and movement can also be powerful tools to transform emotions held in the body, especially when any type of trauma has been experienced.
The final part of the book deals with harnessing our passionate nature in a healthy way so that we neither repress our innate sense of vitality nor allow ourselves to be carried away by our passions. As we continue transforming our emotions in the ever more subtle ways described, we begin to connect with a heartfelt sense of bliss, love, and compassion.
Embarking on this inner journey requires courage and the openness to experiencing our emotions on a very deep level. Feeling Wisdom: Working with Emotions Using Buddhist Teachings and Western Psychology is a great resource for setting out on this journey combining tried and true methods from the East and West. Preece guides us masterfully on this exploration to the final state of spiritual awakening to our own true nature and what he refers to as “a radiant quality of blissful wisdom.”
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