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Poetry and Devotion in Buddhism the Sevenfold Puja

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by Sangharakshita

... very freely and spontaneously. But in the adult, this is usually not the case and the older we are, usually, the more emotionally we are blocked and unable to express our emotional energies.

Now there are various reasons for this blockage. One of the reasons is that for years on end we may be engaged in mechanical, routine work. In other words, work into which we are unable to put our emotional energies. Work in which we are not interested, work in which we are not emotionally involved. So we have to put a certain amount of effort into it. We put the effort into the work with strain and with difficulty and with tension and with worry perhaps, with unpleasant reactions and repercussions and after effects, but inasmuch as we're not able to put our emotional energies into the work, we get into the habit, as it were, of keeping our emotional energies in reserve, and eventually what happens is the emotional energies, not being put into our work, into what we're doing every day and all day, get as it were sort of congealed.

They go all sort of sticky and gluey and then hard within us, and then they start hardening more and more, and eventually they even petrify. So we're unable to put any emotional energies into our work, or perhaps into anything at all. They've just all got stuck within us. Sometimes this emotional blockage comes about through plain and straightforward emotional frustration and disappointment. This happens of course to quite a number of people in the course of their lives. They never really feel or never really find any positive or creative outlet for their emotions, whether in relation to creative work or in connection with people and so on, so for this reason they suffer from emotional frustration and disappointment and this leads to emotional blockage. And some people again are very afraid of being hurt, afraid of being wounded through their emotions, so they don't let their emotional energies flow out - they keep them to themselves, keep them within, and don't let themselves go very easily or freely. Perhaps not at all.

Another very important reason for emotional blockage is the absence of any real communication with other people. You may go through life. You may know many people, have many acquaintances, but you never really communicate with anybody. If you do chance to communicate with anybody one of the results, as you will find, is that you feel sort of emotionally liberated. It's as though energy had flowed out of you, but on account of the energy flowing out of you in this way. you don't feel depleted, you feel more full of energy. But lots of people don't get the opportunity of any real communication with other people. They come up against a sort of blank wall, as it were. They may try to communicate but there's no response.

So the energy, again the emotional energy, gets blocked up within us and they become emotionally, as it were impoverished, and this is the fate, this is the plight, of many many people in modern times, certainly in the West, certainly in this country, that inasmuch as there is no real human communication possible for them, they become emotionally blocked.

Another reason for emotional blockage is the wrong type of conditioning, and I'm thinking especially of the wrong type of religious conditioning. Most of us have been subject to this at some time or other - when we were young especially - and I mean in particular the Christian, the orthodox Christian teaching about morals and especially about sex; this is responsible for a great deal of emotional blockage of one kind or another in quite a large number of people.

So we can see all these factors at work, all these factors operative, and the result of them all, the net result of them all is that many people, if not the majority of people, in the West today, certainly in this country today, can be described only as emotionally blocked. There's no free outward flow of emotional energy, and so people's lives are impoverished, not only spiritually but even on the ordinary psychological, the ordinary human, level.

Now these emotional blockages can be removed in various ways. First of all, through what we may describe as general self-knowledge. We must start by being aware that we are blocked. Most people like to think well how kind and how friendly and how outward going, and how spontaneous they are, but not a bit of it. If you take a closer look at yourselves you will usually find that you are very very blocked indeed, that you don't really express, certainly not to the full, not to the full extent of your capacity, the emotional energies which are within you. Most of them, if not all of them, are dammed, are blocked up.

So fist we have to understand, we have to feel this, we have to face up to this fact, be aware of this - that we are in a state of blockage, we might even say chronic blockage, and we have to try to understand why.

Not just work it out intellectually by reading books on psychology, but just try to see how it comes about that we are blocked in this way, and our emotional energies do not flow or do not function freely.

It does sometimes happen that blockages, emotional blockages, are removed, as it were automatically, in the course of meditation. Even without your thinking anything about it, or about them, or even knowing intellectually about them, it does sometimes, in fact quite often happen, that in the course of meditation, certain emotional blockages will be resolved. And as a result of this there are various side effects.

Sometimes we find that as a result of meditation, sometimes in the midst of the meditation, some people start crying, they start weeping bitterly and shedding tears, and so on. And this is the relaxation, the resolution if you like, to some extent, at least partially, of one or another emotional blockage. So it's a very good thing when it does happen. Some people again find what we call the communication exercises very very helpful. We've done these communication exercises in retreat, as many of you know, and those who have undergone them, those who have experienced them, know, that at the end of the exercises you feel, as it were, emotionally liberated. You feel as though emotional energy, in fact energy in general, is almost pouring out of you and you feel greatly stimulated, you feel much more vital, much more alive than you were before, because a portion of that blocked energy has been released and liberated. So the communication exercises can also help, in many cases if not in the majority of cases, at least to some extent.

So these are just some of the ways in which blockages are removed and the blocked energy, as it were liberated and made available to the whole of the conscious psyche.

Now secondly, emotional energy is not available because it's wasted. And how is it wasted? Well we waste it all the time, and we waste it by indulgence in negative emotions. These negative emotions are, for instance, fear, hatred, jealousy, self-pity, remorse, guilt, anxiety and so on. These are all negative emotions. There's not a scrap of good in any of them. They're completely useless, in fact positively harmful, and they fester in most people's minds most of the time. They not only fester but they find various outward verbal expressions, and these verbal expressions of negative emotions, they drain away our energy, our emotional energy, all the time. No wonder we feel so weak and so depleted as energy is pouring out of us quite literally all the time in these various ways. Let me give a few examples of these sort of verbal leaks of negative emotions draining away our energy. First of all grumbling. Some people keep it up all the time. In this country there's a sort of tradition, a very honourable tradition, to grumble about the weather. If it's raining well it ought not to be raining. We grumble because it's raining, regardless of how good the rain is for the farmer or for the crops, because we can't go out, or at least if we do go out we've got to take a raincoat or an umbrella. If it's hot, well of course it's too hot. We grumble about that. If it's cold it's too cold. We grumble about that, and so on. We keep on grumbling all the time. We make the weather in this country a sort of scapegoat, a sort of whipping boy for our unconscious negative emotions and we go on grumbling about it, and some people, as I've said, grumble about just about everything. Nothing seems to be going right for them and they seem satisfied with nothing. They seem in a state of constant disgruntlement, but this is just negative emotion finding an outlet, and it's very very bad indeed. People who grumble, habitually grumble, are constantly wasting emotional energy.

Secondly, carping criticism. There are some people again who are never satisfied with anything. They have a positive genius for finding fault, however good something may be, however successful some undertaking, they always manage to discover something wrong with it, something inadequate, something not complete, something not quite satisfactory. Needless to say I'm not speaking here of objective detached criticism - this is quite a different thing - but believe me it's very very rare indeed. We may say that someone who always criticizes, who habitually criticizes, is inevitably expressing negative emotions.

So don't criticize, or at least don't indulge in criticism in this way.

The next verbal expression of negative emotion hasn't got, for some reason or other, a proper name in English, so I've taken the liberty of coining one and I think we might call it `dismal-jimmyism'. During the last war this was known officially as spreading alarm and despondency, and it was in those days a punishable offence. You could be hauled up in front of the magistrate by the police for spreading alarm and despondency. I think it would be a good idea ...

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