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Creative ways to navigate intese states of mind

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  • Creative ways to navigate intese states of mind

    I was wondering if the monastics here would be willing to share any of the ways they deal with the more intense states of mind. In particular I have been having a lot of intense rage that is sometimes very difficult to "get under" and fully express without causing harm to the body. There was a wonderful monk who gave a talk recently where they mentioned that a part of their life experience involved murdering a cow. As sad as it was to hear that had to happen, I found it incredibly useful to hear how that went and was a part of their life journey. It seemed like they felt that need deeply inside of them, and a sort of causal process worked itself out, culminating in those events and allowing the expression of what was necessary to express in it's entirety so that it would never have to take place again.

    The reason I ask is because although I do find that I'm a very peaceful person, I accept that I deal with some very severe states of mind as a result of extensive and prolonged early childhood trauma. I live with a great deal of deep feelings that need expressing and understanding, so I always appreciate hearing how others have came to understand and interact with their deeper feelings and experiences.

    I'm particularly interested in a response from monastics, because you will likely have a good understanding of your own experiences and natural processes.

    Thanks very much for listening. May peace be with you.

  • #2
    Dear Andria,

    I have never heard the story about killing a cow, so I can't really comment on that.

    I certainly agree with you that any deep-seated feelings you have need to be understood and then gradually let go of. Whatever trauma you have experienced as a child, you need to get to the point where you can forgive the perpetrator(s). By coming to understand that the people who hurt you probably acted out of deep suffering, that they were in the grip of delusion and stupidity, that they were following deeply ingrained habits over which they had little or no control (non-self right!), you can gradually moves towards forgiveness and then let it go. It is certainly not easy, but if you can do it incredibly worthwhile.

    When it comes to expressing your feelings, I would caution you to tread very carefully. I know this approach is sometimes recommended in psychologist, but in most situations I think it is better to avoid it. Sometimes we cause a lot of hurt by expressing our feelings. If you can resolve your situation without going down that path, so much the better.

    Good luck!

    With metta.


    • #3
      Dear Ajahn Brahmali,
      Thank you for your response.
      I think I may bring more forgiveness into the more active parts of my healing processes. One of the people was a kid themselves when I was. I actually do really well with understanding that it wasn't his fault either. His dad used to burn him with cigarettes. So although I prefer not to sympathize with "abusers", I can appreciate the depth and commonality of human suffering and the importance of how one expresses and relates to their own feelings.
      I always prefer to play guitar and express the deeper feelings that come up in artistic creative ways that will not end up causing harm and may potentially be of benefit in the short and long term.
      Thanks again for your response and kindness as well. All the best!


      • #4
        When I was a layman and experiencing very strong anger, I did one day go for a long walk into a desolate wilderness area (a windswept beach) and basically just gave my mind permission to go crazy, to really get into that bad mood.

        At the furthest point, I screamed into the wind. Pretty sure you can't hurt the wind's feelings.

        And then I had to walk back, a couple of hours. Giving plenty of time for the anger to burn out before interacting with other people. That was my plan all along, that when I was at my angriest, it would be physically impossible for me to harm anyone.

        The main little tip I would give if you want to try this sort of thing, don't talk to anyone (at least in terms of important conversations) for at least 3 days afterwards. Even if it's successful in overcoming blockages (or particularly if it's successful) the mind will tend to be highly unstable and "roller-coastery" for quite a while and will certainly project those emotions onto other. When I was successfully overcoming my deep-rooted anger issues (and like you, I was normally a very peaceful person, but much of this was suppression), my mind was just such a roller-coaster, from blissful love to seething hate in mere hours. Unfortunately I didn't know that my mind was untrustworthy while in those states and I tended to get caught up in those emotions and speak accordingly which was uhhhhhh.... interesting.... to say the least ("like chucking hand grenades around" would be more descriptive). So if you care about your relationships with other people, let things settle down *before* talking to others, or otherwise choose only highly forgiving people with highly forgiving friends.

        This is not essential though, I kind of destroyed a few relationships in the process of working through my intense emotions and it was still totally worth it. Even though I sorely regret the loss, taming the mind is a truly great blessing which really surpasses anything else, the Buddha says in many places that loss of reputation e.t.c. is a trifle, so if you have to appear or sound a bit crazy in order to break free from dukkha, then just do it. But still - know the mind and try to be aware of when it's utterly untrustworthy, just that much will help A LOT. If you have to express emotions, try to know that they're rubbish, if you express anger or hate with the intent of trying to abandon it, then that'll be a whole lot more effective than expressing anger or hate fully wrapped up in it.

        I hope this is in some way helpful,
        With kindness,


        • #5
          Thank you Bhante Nandiya. I found your response helpful and relatable.

          I reflected for some time and have widled my response into something more simple and genuine than the previous "pile of text" which itself may be retrospectively likened to a plethora of ducks sitting atop a pile of rubbish which had stained certain of their feathers yet did not detract from their ability to quack some sizable pieces of gold and silver (amongst some other more errant substances) into a sort of imaginary yet powerful existence.
          So without further ado, my now more inflated response...

          It helps to be in my own private space when expressing and experiencing strong moods. Unfortunately many people seem to "cheer a person on" for things which are best to abandon altogether.

          Thank you both for your wise responses and kindness. I appreciate your presence here.


          • #6
            Hi Andria,

            I know I'm not a monk, but please don't mind me trying to comment on your question.

            There is one technique that I heard in a talk by Thannisaro Bhikkhu. In this when things come up in your mind try to question 'why is this coming?' or 'what is the attachment that is causing this behaviour?'. Sometimes the mind will tell you and just knowing the reason "why", can cause the defilement to disappear. Ofcourse this is also dependent on the mindfulness and understanding of the mind/dhamma that you already have.

            With Metta.



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