Monday, March 10, 2014

Regaining Peace When Emotional



At sometime during our emotionally and time filled day we will most likely experience a moment when we simply lose it.  Out of frustration we may yell out. Out of anger we may say something we wish we had not said. The key to maintaining peace is to recognize when our emotions have taken over the normal functioning of our mind and body.

Emotions work very quickly in our body. It's part of a system of self-defense that God has given us, but it needs to be controlled and reserved for those times when we really are in danger.  Dr Antonio Damasio (The Feeling of What Happens) studied how emotions work in the the body. He found that first there is some input from our senses that serves as a trigger. This may be verbal attack on our self-esteem, a put down. It may be a challenge to our given authority, or a desire that is suddenly blocked. It may be a reprimand by a coworker or authority figure. When this event occurs we can easily loose it. In less than a second the brain sends commands to the other regions of the brain and almost everywhere in the body proper.  In the bloodstream commands are sent in the form of chemical molecules that act on receptors in the cell of body tissues. In the neuron pathways commands take the form of electrochemical signals which act on other neurons or muscular fibers or organs which in turn can release chemicals of their own into the bloodstream.  The result is a instantaneous change in the whole state of our biological system. Our heart rate will increase and other physical changes will take place.  It is only after all this takes place that we become aware of a feeling. The implication of this is that when we do experience extreme feelings we need to be aware that our body has been changed and is prepared for a fight. To act with a mind of peace, we need to intervene quickly in a way that will bring our system back to normal.

Here is the best way to do this. As soon as you recognize this change in state, stop what you are doing. Immediately begin saying the Jesus prayer. Excuse yourself from any further interaction before you act in a way that may get you into trouble. Now is the time to take a prayer walk. A prayer walk is when you walk and say the Jesus Prayer. With each step say one word of the prayer. Your whole body becomes the prayer. If you can, leave the building for a few minutes, all the time saying the prayer. When outside walk in cadence with the words of the prayer. In minutes you will be brought back to a peaceful state and you will be able think rationally again. Now you can choose how to enter the situation you were in when this was triggered. You may choose to not reenter. But now you are no longer a physical state prepared for a fight. You can again act with a peaceful mind.

This prayer walk is a most powerful tool. But to use it you must first establish a peaceful mind based on the daily practice of the Jesus Prayer.  With this practice you will also become watchful of all negative thoughts entering into your heart. You will be more aware of your mental state. But there will still be times when the body's defense system takes over where you need to make an intervention to maintain your peacefulness and Christian attitude. With this ability to be watchful will come the ability to know when to intercede and take a prayer walk. 

Whatever your state of spiritual development you will find the Jesus Prayer walk a useful way to bring you back in touch with God when you have separated from him based on emotions. Try it. 

1 comment:

  1. This is an excellent expression of a modern reframing in how to literally shift one's attention away from well practiced emotions. I have also read, in markedly different words the same refashioning put forward across the Philokalia. It is marvelous to see the same issue addressed from within our context!

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