At 2am I tasted some of the five poisons as defined in Buddhism. At little bit of delusion, some desire, a pinch of hatred, a dash of pride and a sprinkling of envy. It wasn’t difficult to go to all five stops, at 2am nothing is difficult and everything is imagined. The dark seems to make the unreal so real. It started with a simple thought of whether I should re-connect with someone who hadn’t been in my life for a while.
These 5 ‘poisons’, pride, desire, delusion, hatred and envy are said to be the base of 84,000 other negative emotions. The word emotions comes from the Latin word ’emovere’ which means to move. Therefore an emotion, good or bad, is a feeling that moves the mind toward a harmful, positive or neutral thought.
Emotions tend to distort our view on reality. If we see a person we like we may think they are beautiful, but if we see a person we dislike we may consider them ugly. Negative emotions not only cloud our reality in this way but they tend to make us unhappy. If we are to find more peace in the world and step away from our own forms of mental suffering then it is useful to have some techniques to deal with negative emotions.
1) When an emotion arises that is not helpful to you the first step is to learn to see it arise. This means being mindful or aware that you are having a thought that isn’t particularly helpful to you. If you can watch it arise then you can watch it dissipate, like drawing your finger over water the thoughts arising from the emotion will start to melt.
2) The antidote. Take a pill or antidote. It is known that two opposing emotions can’t exist at the same time. You can not feel love and hatred simultaneously. So if you see hatred arising in you practice loving kindness. Each negative emotion has it’s own antidote. If you feel fear, practice bravery, if you feel resistance call upon openness, if you feel envy try to find something good in yourself, if you feel anger try to find patience.
3) The thought. The Buddhists say that each thought is an emptiness. It is empty of real existence, only something you have created. With this technique you simple let your emotions arise without trying to stem their flow but see that each thought is not real. Just like a cloud in the sky seems solid, when really it is just vapor and gas.
Practice for today. If you have one of the 84,000 negative thoughts today try one of the techniques above. Watch it arise, take a pill. or acknowledge its emptiness. By working with our shadow side like this we will soon make room for more sun and turn the stickiness of our poisons into wisdom.