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Niranjan Seshadri

Understanding thoughts and emotions. How to channel this valuable source of energy within the mind

Understanding thoughts and emotions. How to channel this valuable source of energy within the mind

Any given thought offers an incomplete perspective. It may be by design, or it may be an inherent limitation of the mind. Every thought is a subtle resonance of one or more of the five senses. For instance, at the thought of a particular type of food, remembrance is predominantly of its smell and taste, which is then reflected in thoughts. When it comes to beautiful scenery, thoughts regarding it is linked to the faculty of sight, and so on for experiences related to the other senses. Depending on the contents of thoughts, the subtle correlates of the senses kick in within the mind. The limitations of the five senses are apparent, and thoughts reflect those limitations. By understanding the deeper emotional dimension that accompanies every thought, we may be able to intervene not just at the level of thoughts and actions, but well before any thought takes a specific form in the mind. This may be important in developing self-control, and it helps prevent accidental leakage of precious mental energy. That energy may then be transmuted into something beneficial.

Energy and concentration

There is an infinite amount of energy in the universe. Compared to this, the human body holds a tiny, almost negligible amount of energy. Part of it manifests as the body, and a part manifests as the conscious mind. Within the conscious mind, it is further distributed amongst thoughts. To make the mind more productive, a commonly adopted practice is concentration, which channels the energy of the mind into a specific narrow path, generally towards a goal. It is like collecting rainwater in a catchment area, which is then diverted into a canal that serves many purposes, such as providing drinking water, irrigating fields, etc. Similarly, the energy that is collected and channeled into a specific direction is ultimately used through the intermediary of thoughts for visualizing, creating, and manifesting material and scientific progress.

How thoughts function

The process of concentration, channeling of mental energy, and actualization into something beneficial may be made more effective and powerful through a better understanding of how thoughts function. Like trees, which have visible branches, leaves, fruits, and flowers aboveground but their roots underground are invisible; thoughts may have hidden anchors that enable them to remain 'local' to an individual's mind.

Roots of a tree serve one principal purpose, which is extracting nutrients and water from the ground. In contrast, leaves, fruits, and flowers may have more than one use. They may be helpful as food, decorations, medicines, or they may be beneficial in maintaining the ecosystem. Their appearance and applications may differ, but taken together, they add to the harmony in nature. If only one type of plant grew in a forest, diseases that strike one plant might completely wipe out the entire growth in those woods. Biodiversity protects against this in nature. In humans, genetic diversity helps with controlling the spread of deleterious genetic mutations. Similarly, the mind has a wide variety of thoughts which helps with its perpetual state of existence.

If there was only one type of thought running through the mind all the time, it might perhaps become easier to tune the mind out and point our awareness elsewhere. However, thoughts thrive on account of their wide variety. Removing one type of thoughts from conscious awareness does nothing for the overall body of thoughts in the mind. Something else takes that place. But an understanding of how thoughts are anchored to the individual mind and remain 'local' to a particular individual may help in more quickly gathering mental energies and deploying them in an orientation that is likely to have productive results.

The link between thoughts and emotions

Like plants which need a bed of earth, thoughts need a foundation of emotion to sprout and grow. The bed of emotion is based on our likes and dislikes. If we like something, it creates one type of feeling which we call a positive emotion. On the contrary, if we dislike something, it creates a different kind of emotion, which we call a negative emotion. Positive and negative emotions usually do not coexist at the same time related to a particular thought. It is either one or the other. If there is an opportunity to blend the two, it becomes easier to see both sides of the equation and grow in understanding.

Some thoughts grow on a bed of positive emotion, and others may be well suited to adapt to negative emotions. In the mind, there is a mixture of the two. Nobody can be purely negative or purely positive, but there may be a predominance of one or the other. Our external actions are the result of the emotional bed that is carried within the mind.

The emotional bed on which thoughts sprout is like the root system of a plant, the stem and branches are like the thoughts, and the fruits are like the actions that result from thoughts. All three, emotions, thoughts, and actions are linked. The water that is supplied to a plant may be the same water we drink, but in the human body it turns into bodily liquids such as blood, and in plants, it turns into the sugary juice within its fruits. Similarly, there is deep-seated energy that supplies the emotional bed, which hosts thoughts that later manifest into actions. All thoughts and actions take shape from the universal energy source that powers the mind.

If a fruit turns out to be poisonous, it is not the fault of the water the plant receives. It is a result of the seed that ultimately grows into the plant. Similarly, if actions of an individual are harmful, it is not the fault of the energy that underlies and supports the mind. That energy is common to all beings. How that energy is utilized differs from person to person.

The seed planted on the emotional bed of the mind that results in thought and its corresponding action is ultimately under the control of the individual. When we are conscious and aware, we are in control of the 'seeds' which become thoughts. When awareness is absent, this process happens automatically based on prior likes, dislikes, pending desires, external environment, habits, etc.

To find fault with others, the focus on actions. Since actions are what the world sees, and not thoughts which may remain hidden in the mind, when we want to project an image of ourselves as being noble and useful, we undertake suitable actions. This may create a good impression in the eyes of others, but does nothing to for inner transformation of the individual. To maintain that artificial facade of goodness, precious mental resources and time are squandered.

To see our faults, the first place to look is not our actions, but our thoughts. Thoughts will, in turn, suggest the nature of the emotional bed from which they derive support. Once we identify our faults by examining thoughts that have resulted in negative actions, merely changing those thoughts may not be effective in the long run. Whether we forcibly change thought pattern or not, given time thoughts disappear on their own. Being aware of thoughts and not engaging them hastens this process.

Changing emotions bring about a change in thoughts

Rather than wasting energy on 'plucking thoughts' we see as the cause of our wrong actions, a more effective long-term strategy may be to address the emotional bed on which thoughts have taken root. This involves developing an awareness of not just thoughts but also emotional feelings. A farmer is responsible for the land within the boundaries that define the area under his or her ownership. Similarly, we are accountable for our emotions. We may help another with their feelings, but ultimately, we cannot take over their emotions.

Within the individual emotional field, identification with emotions is like watering that field. Identification happens with both positive and negative emotions. The former is interpreted as happiness and the latter as sorrow. As long as we remain identified, joy and pain will continue. Sometimes awareness is on pleasure, and at other times it is on sadness.

When there is no identification, the emotional field may continue to exist based on the accumulated thought and emotional patterns of the past. However, without further interpretation of them as either positive or negative, it cannot sustain their growth. A trained eye can tell whether a piece of land is healthy and fertile and what type of crop it is likely to support. Similarly, we train ourselves to identify a particular emotion as positive and another as negative. Being in awareness without identification is like unfocused eyes. Energy is perceived, but it is not labeled and differentiated into various categories.

Transmuting emotional energy

At the level of the undifferentiated emotional field, mental energy is fluid, and can easily be channeled in any direction. Some may choose to direct it further inwards to gain a deeper understanding of the inner being. Others may choose to direct it outwards towards creative endeavors in science, art, or for that matter, any field of interest. The energy will have to go somewhere. It cannot be locked up within. Rather than let it find its way, through unpredictable thoughts and actions, we may be able to guide its passage towards pursuits that add value to us and the world. This transmutation of mental energy can happen when we understand and work with the emotional field that supports thoughts.

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