~by Rambhoru Brinkmann
“Being a truly well and self-satisfied individual rests on the ability to understand the information that emotions give you and be able to skillfully utilize and respond to that information…Emotions are not negative or extraneous, but rather an important aspect of being human.” (Hannah Curtis, LCSW)
Sometimes, in the interests of spiritual development, practitioners avoid, suppress, or disconnect from their feelings viewing them as taboo. They may even be self-critical or judgmental of themselves or others for having “negative” emotions. The trouble with these attitudes is that they prevent us from perceiving the valuable information our emotions carry with them.
Our emotions help us know whether we can trust our environment or other people. They help us discern our personal nature, inclinations and preferences. They can rouse us into action, inspire us to pause to reflect or get us to notice a potential problem and resolve it before it manifests.
Emotional cognizance or awareness means to be able to identify what we are feeling in any given moment. For example, when we start a sentence with “I feel….” and there’s no feeling word in the sentence, pause and become curious. What is the feeling word that captures the essence of your experience? Then ask, “What does my feeling mean? Is it inviting me to change my behavior or attitude in some way?”
One of the qualities of the Supreme Lord is that He is All-cognizant. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “cognizance” as “knowledge, awareness or noticing”.
Srila Prabhupada explains, “We are also cognizant (aware), and God is also cognizant (aware)… He is also a person. I am also a person.” (purport, BG, 3.17). As individual persons we each have our unique natures and preferences. Being truly aware of ourselves requires us to be able to grasp the information our emotions bring and to skillfully respond to that information in ways that transform our attitude and behavior to align with our essential spiritual nature; sat (eternal), chit (knowledge or awareness) and ananda (bliss or joy).
When we keep in view our goal of loving the Lord unconditionally within the hearts of all living beings, we can utilize the information provided by our emotions to guide our transformation towards realizing our true Selves. Self-Realization literally means the “fulfillment of oneself by the possibilities of one’s character or personality” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). To that end, “The mind should be fixed in the self. We are self, and Kṛṣṇa is also Self.” (BG 6.25-29-purport). The closer we align with our essential spiritual nature, the more we will experience ourselves as whole and undivided. That’s called integrity.