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Dharma Talks / Handling Strong Emotions

Thich Nhat Hanh

Our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us that all emotions are impermanent and pass with time. He teaches us how to handle strong emotions and gives concrete practices on how to embrace our despair.

This video is part of an article “Handling our Strong Emotions”, you may read the full article at https://plumvillage.org/articles/handling-our-strong-emotions/

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#ThichNhatHanh #mindfulness #strongemotions

Emotion is a very strong feeling. And many people do not know how to handle their feelings, their emotions. They suffer so much they attempt to commit suicide. Because they believe that to die is the only way to end the suffering. So, a meditator is someone who knows how to handle his or her feelings and emotions. When the energy of the emotion emerges, they know right away what to do in order to take care. They don't have to fight the emotion or the feeling. They just invite the energy of mindfulness in order to come and take care of the feelings. Because they know mindfulness is the Buddha, in the form of energy. Mindfulness carries concentration and insight, having the power to relieve, to comfort, to understand, to liberate. The Buddha is within every cell. And that is why when the energy of suffering arises, we should know how to invite the energy of the Buddha to come and take care. Breathing in, I know the feeling of despair is in me. Breathing out, I know this is only one feeling. And I'm much more than one feeling. It's very important. And every feeling is born, stays for some time, and will go away. Why do I have to die because of one feeling? Each one has to succeed in this practice. It's very important. We have to survive our emotions, our feelings. We have to go through the storm. You should be equipped with the practice. You should master the art of mindful breathing, mindful sitting, mindful walking, so that we can encounter our strong emotions with ease. We don't fight, we are capable of embracing, recognizing, and smiling to them. This is possible. Many generations of practitioners have been able to do so. We should be able to do so ourselves. Whether in the sitting position, or a walking position, or a lying position, We should be able to handle our emotions. We cultivate our capacity of mindful breathing, mindful smiling, and mindful embracing our emotions and our feelings. If you succeed, then you can help many people, especially the young people. Too many young people kill themselves because they don't know how to handle their emotions. The rate of suicide of young people in our time is very high. And you should be able to help them. They are around you, all the time, tempted to kill themselves. Every time, they feel that they cannot handle their emotions. So every moment that is given to us to live, we can use it in order to practice cultivating the energy of mindfulness, the capacity of being in the here and the now, the capacity of recognizing, embracing, and smiling to whatever happens to us. And within a sangha, it's very easy, because everyone is supporting you to do so. Allow the sangha to embrace your despair. [Bell] You have pain in your heart. You have suffering and ill-being in your heart. You come and sit close to the Buddha. And after some time sitting with the Buddha in silence, you may say, "Dear Buddha, I suffer." That's what you should say. You should tell him, "Dear Buddha, I suffer." Because the Buddha may not be another person, not having anything to do with you. The Buddha may be just in yourself. And talking to the Buddha is very important. Every one of us has the Buddha within. And the Buddha, I can locate him, he is in every cell of your body. "Dear Buddha, I suffer." And if you are attentive, you'll hear him say, "I know, show me your suffering, so that I can see and embrace it." And you show him your suffering, your despair, your anguish. And he will embrace. You don't rely on you alone to embrace your suffering. You rely on the Buddha to embrace. And the Buddha is there in every member of your Sangha. You have to behave like that with your Sangha. "Dear Sangha, I suffer." You should be able to communicate like that. And your Sangha will say with the same amount of compassion, "Dear brother, dear sister, show us your pain. "Allow us to embrace your pain." This is very comforting, very healing when you have the Buddha to rely on, when you have the Sangha to rely on. Because they are Gems, they are Jewels, the Three Jewels. And with the practice, you'll realize that you are much stronger than you have thought. When you observe a tree, standing in the storm, or when you focus your attention on the top of the tree, you have the feeling that the tree is going to be blown away. The wind makes little branches and leaves swing back and forth like that, with violence. And you are afraid that the three will be broken, blown away. But if you direct your attention to the trunk of the tree, and if you are aware that the tree is deeply-rooted in the soil, you'll have another feeling. You know that the tree is going to stand. Each of us is like a tree. If we stay on the level of our brain, or our heart, we may feel that we are vulnerable, breakable at any moment, especially when the strong emotion has come up like that. We feel that we cannot handle. But the Buddha advised us in this critical moment, don't stay on that level of your tree. Go down to the trunk. And the trunk is here, somehow a little bit lower than the navel. The Chinese call it Dan Tien. Focus your attention on this spot, and begin to breath in and out, and invest 100% of your attention on the rise and fall of your abdomen. Sit in a stable position, because the stability of the body helps with the stability of the mind. Don't stay here, go down. Enjoy breathing in and out, with the awareness, "This is only a storm, among many other storms, that can go through my life. "I have survived other storms, this time, also, I can survive. "A storm that is something that comes, stays for some time, and will have to go. "Why do I have to die because of that?" It may be helpful if you write down these words in a small sheet of paper, and slide it into your wallet. And when the storm comes, just take it out, and breathe, and read. And you'll know what to do. That is a bell of mindfulness. You can hear the voice of the Buddha, you can hear the voice of your teacher, just by reading this small piece of paper. And you know how to sit down, smile to your pain, your sorrow, your fear, your despair, your strong emotions. And after having succeeded going through the difficult moment, you have confidence, (smiling, fist pumps) you have confidence in the Dharma. And you are no longer afraid. Next time when it comes, you'll know what to do, how to do, and what not to do. (smiling) And then you are in the position of helping the young people because they don't know yet, they don't know how to handle their pain, and their emotion yet. My recommendation is that we shouldn't wait until the strong emotion come in order to begin the practice. Because naturally, we will forget the practice. We have to practice right now when the storm is not yet there. And if we make it into a habit, practicing something like three weeks, and continue. And then when the emotions come, you suddenly remember to practice. (It) should be made into a tradition, a good habit.

You can help us caption and transcribe this video on Amara

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