Our feelings are not always our feelings
The Bhagavad-gita (14.22) points to a fascinating thought-exercise that involves taking on the role of an observer towards our feelings. Let’s understand the whys and hows of such a thought-exercise.
Sometimes our mind gets flooded by negative feelings like anger towards an irritating colleague or hopelessness over an unsolvable problem. When such feelings arise, we often identify with them, get carried away and act in ways that we regret later. Or when faced with such feelings repeatedly, we start fretting: “Why do I get such feelings? Why do I have to fight them so often? Why can’t I win the fight against them once and for all?” Such negative feelings imprison us in an under-performing, self-pitying mode of functioning.
Gita wisdom frees us from such under-performance by targeting its root: our misidentification with our feelings. We can challenge and counter this misidentification by taking on, as this Gita verse recommends, the role of an observer towards those feelings. When we observe them dispassionately and intelligently, we will discover that they are usually not expressions of our authentic values and deep concerns – expressions that need to be carefully addressed. We will realize that most of them are merely projections of changing social fads and individual moods – projections that can and should be firmly neglected.
Observing our material feelings will be difficult as long as we depend on them for gratification. That’s why the less we delight in material enjoyment and the more we relish spiritual fulfilment, the more easily we will be able to observe our material feelings.
When we thus recognize that many of our feelings are not actually our feelings, huge amounts of our inner energy will be released for serving Krishna, enabling us to do tangible good for others and pave the way to our lasting spiritual happiness.
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: O son of Pandu, he who does not hate illumination, attachment and delusion when they are present or long for them when they disappear; who is unwavering and undisturbed through all these reactions of the material qualities, remaining neutral and transcendental, knowing that the modes alone are active; who is situated in the self and regards alike happiness and distress; who looks upon a lump of earth, a stone and a piece of gold with an equal eye; who is equal toward the desirable and the undesirable; who is steady, situated equally well in praise and blame, honor and dishonor; who treats alike both friend and enemy; and who has renounced all material activities – such a person is said to have transcended the modes of nature.”