a winter stroll
A few years ago I stumbled upon one of Alex Berzin’s taped lectures, The Two Truths (http://www.talkingbuddhism.com, 2005). My understanding of his presentation has provided me with an effective process by which to clarify if what I hold to be true about my self, “I am . . .”, is in fact true. This intellectual method has provided me with an experiential release of suffering subsequent to the letting go of a false belief about one’s self.
It is my understanding that in order for an “I am . . .” statement to be true one needs to answer, “yes” to two questions.
Question 1: Is the statement, “I am . . . ” been true/present throughout the entirely of my life? If no, then the self statement is false. If yes, process the second question.
Question 2: Do all living beings, from the bird outside my window, those close to me, as well as the strangers I encounter while shopping, relate to me as an …? If yes, then the statement “I am . . . ” is true.
If your answer is “no” to one or both questions, it may be beneficial to explore if the belief is more reflective of one’s current and transitory feeling state than reality.
It is important to note that the application of these two questions are never applied to the identification of feelings; e.g. “I feel . . .” How we feel at any given time is never to be negated through the use of The Two Truths. Emotional maturity may reflect our ability to acknowledge the 1) arising of a feeling, 2) presence of the acknowledged and identified feeling, and – in due course – 3) fading of this feeling, and 4) absence of the feeling.
Our feelings are known through an awareness of a continuum of physical sensations often identified as: interest, happiness, shame, fear, surprise, anger, sadness, dissmell*, and disgust. Each of these feelings are experienced as having different shades of intensity, and known through an appraisal of our physical sensations; for example, increased heart rate, blushing, furrowed brow, dry mouth, shallow breathing, clenched jaw, butterflies in the stomach, and trembling knees and hands.
Initial feelings activate emotions. Emotions in turn trigger thinking. Also, thinking stirs up feelings, which then can stimulate emotional reactions. This could create an unending cycle of suffering create by false beliefs. It is also important to explore if one’s feelings of guilt, worry, and anger, are secondary feelings as they are triggered by beliefs, thoughts, reflections, and/or defense mechanism outside the realm of real life experiences.
We often confuse our feelings with our thinking process. Feelings are generally put into sentences that begin with “I feel . . .” Thinking sentences begin with “I think . . .” , “I believe . . . “, “I suppose . . .”
A good way to test if a sentence is a feeling sentence or a thinking statement is to change “I feel . . .” to “I think . . .” or to change “I think.” to I feel . . .” (e.g., changing “I feel sad” to “I think sad”). If it makes more sense to say, “I feel . . .”, it is probably more an expression of how one is feeling than what one is thinking.
* cited in:
If disgust is a word indicating a bad taste, dissmell, Tomkins says, is his analogue for a bad smell. The facial characteristics are upper lip wrinkled and head pulled back. The body may also withdraw distancing itself from the source of the bad smell. Dissmell is an early warning of noxious substances. Dissmell and disgust may operate independently or together at different intensities.