The Paradox of Mind and Emotions

A good friend recently asked how I’m doing in my head and in my heart. It is much easier for me to decode my head space than it is to pinpoint how my heart is riding the waves. The noise in my head is audible. My heart walks to the beat of a more quiet drummer. My mind rules the roost in determining my life experience. I don’t ignore my heart; rather, my mind has a grip on its reins. My mind guides and checks while my heart beats, hustles, and flows.

If I’m unhappy, my heart isn’t the culprit. It’s my mind. Happiness or lack thereof is a function of how I look at things. Shifting out of happiness comes about as a result of changing what I’m doing. I can’t think myself happy. However, I can take care of my mind by doing things to produce an effect on my happiness. For example, doing yoga offers stability. Stability in my body begets stability in my head. K. Pattabhi Jois, reknowned yogi said about the practice, “yoga is mind medicine.” Practicing yoga is an exploration of both the bondage and the liberation of my mind. When I feel stable, I feel happy. The outcome of using my body to soothe my mind is much better than attempting to mentally manipulate my brain.

In earlier posts, I’ve spoken of anxieties of mine. Anxiety is trepidation about the future. Anxiety about my future is a condition of my mind at work. My heart may feel it as tightness in my chest, but the sensation is generated by mental machination. When anxiety morphs into fear, then its disturbance intensifies. I cannot think away anxiety. Thinking about it exacerbates it. Taking targeted action is my prescription towards quelling the forces of my mind that fuel anxiety. My meditation practice has a watchtower effect. It makes me more alert. It nudges anxiety and its associated fears towards wariness, a softer condition of being alert.

I stand in Warrior 1 pose attentively gazing forward but, like a sentry, I imagine eyes in the back of my head. They keep a watchful lookout behind me. Having bidirectional vision while steadying my carriage is an antidote to an anxious mind. There are fewer surprises. I stabilize my mind through my body.

In earlier posts, I’ve also spoken of loneliness. Loneliness is my mind playing games with me. Brandi Carlile sings about the adoption of her daughter in her poignant song, “The Mother.” She sings, “Welcome to the end of being alone inside your mind.” If you are a mother, this song puts it all in perspective. If you aren’t a mother and you are lonely, then I urge you to listen to this song. It speaks to my mind when it lapses into loneliness. It addresses the sensation as beautifully as any song I’ve ever heard, and it fills my heart. When my heart is full, my mind is inhospitable to loneliness.

I’ll step out on the limb of claiming that when I’m loving, or kind, or generous, it is my mind at work. Though the feelings may be in my heart, the expression and reinforcement of the feelings stem from my mind. I’ve already claimed that anxiety is mental. Love, kindness, and generosity mediate anxiety. All of these actions are good for one’s health, and all of them require neurotransmission. As a flint sparks a supply of fuel into energy, an expression of emotion likewise requires a mental spark plug. My mind interacts with my emotions to facilitate the expression of feelings. If I take care of my mind, my emotional flow will improve.

When I’m displeased or angry, my emotional instruments are engaged, but my mind is conducting the orchestra. Though anger is an emotion, it is triggered in the amygdala, a specific region of the brain. If I want to do something to influence my emotions, then it behooves me to do something to take care of my brain.

My self concept is a construct of thought.

Thought is an ingredient in everything I experience. Taking care of my mind is paramount.

Published by jmlewisjr

Hello. This is Jimmy Lewis. I'm in Memphis, Tennessee. My golden doodle, Lola and I are leaving on a North American tour in May, 2021. We'll be traveling in a 2021 Jayco Melbourne 24L motorhome. We have neither time constraints nor exact destination specifications. We'll spend May in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and then head north through New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont. If Canadians resume the practice of putting out a welcome mat for Americans, then we'll cross the border.  The seed for this journey began after my wife, Sarla passed away in May, 2020. Sarla was a yogi. An early yoga teacher of hers implored her to "Have what you need, and use what you have." As I prepare to close on the sale of our home on April 30, 2021, I'm deciding what I need based on the likelihood of using what I have. I give some things away without a flicker of feeling. When more meaningful items like the piano I inherited from my parents leave the premises, I feel like I'm saying goodbye to an old friend for the last time. Sarla's death lessened my attachment to the home we had enjoyed for 15 years and life as I knew it. I didn't need and couldn't possibly use a house that could satisfy the needs of a family with four children. I'll no longer experience residence, a concept identified with staying in a specified place, as I've heretofore known it. Life will never be the same, nor do I want to attempt to shape my future into a likeness of what I once knew.   I've set my sights on adventure. I want to be challenged by not knowing who or what I'll meet on the road. The outdoors is one of my default antidotes for stress. Other than my rig, I won't have an indoors base. Whereas others might opt to downsize so that they have the stability of a landing spot, I won't be able to go "home" as I've known it. I'm jazzed about the prospect of being at the whim of the muse, to go where my finger lands on turning pages of the Rand McNally atlas. My dog, Lola is indifferent even though I've been talking to her about the journey every day. She looks quizzically at me when I enthusiastically say we're hitting the road together. I'm confident that she'll do well. We've previously driven together to and from a destination 12 hours from home. She curiously gazed out the window and occasionally snoozed in the passenger seat. She didn't express displeasure about the podcasts and music selection that I chose to entertain and inform me while driving. This trip isn't driven by personal goals. Will I learn more about myself? Will I take advantage of the opportunity to reflect? Will I be lonely? Will I be uneasy? I'm motivated by a curiosity to follow the questions.

3 thoughts on “The Paradox of Mind and Emotions

  1. Jimmy Jo. Been thinking of you and was about to call, but thought it better to check in with those dog wheels first.
    Excited by your description of mind versus emotions as though there is competition between the two – a tug’o’war.
    Emotions, feelings are affects – like pain, hunger, lust, loneliness, feeling too hot or cold. They originate in the midbrain which is the source of consciousness. What is the mind, where is the mind ? An Amazonian indigenous tribe believes that it resides in the forest which sustains them. The mind, thoughts, intensions, conscious behaviour are thought to arise mainly in the cortex. But I think there is an inextricably complex inseparable connectivity between mind, body and emotions. Tuning in and partnering with all three is useful.

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    1. Steve,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog posts. I’d love it if you came to the US. Will go out in the rig. Talk soon. Love, JL

      On Mon, Oct 18, 2021 at 12:50 PM Four Wheels and a Dog wrote:

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      Like

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