This is the sixth teaching in the Cafh course “Nuances of Prayer.” In our prayers we invoke the divine presence‚ which we traditionally call the Divine Mother‚ and we give a very wide scope to the term prayer. It embraces not only words‚ but also practices and our effort or asceticism to unfold and deepen all our relationships. The teaching opens with a quotation from a message addressed to members of Cafh:
Gain profound control over yourselves… Feelings escape out of a person's hands and hide. Without knowing what one really feels there is no self-awareness‚ there is only awareness-reaction.
Emotion occupies a central place in individual development as well as in society as a whole. Many emotions have the same meaning all over the world-both for individuals and whole social groups. Fear‚ joy and anger in human experience seem to be archetypes with the same meaning for everyone.
Our upbringing‚ as well as art‚ literature‚ and philosophy‚ help us to understand our emotions. Without realizing it‚ from a very early age we learn to identify emotions and give them meaning. A three-year-old child can look at a picture of someone crying‚ identify the emotion‚ and conclude that the person is sad.
We know that our emotions can be activated automatically and unconsciously. We know that we often experience emotions without knowing why or analyzing where they came from. We also know that this has an influence on the way we perceive‚ think‚ judge‚ remember‚ imagine and adapt to circumstances.
Research in developmental psychology and neurology bears out this aspect of popular wisdom and goes even further. It suggests that there are two ways of activating emotions which are highly important for behavior and the acquisition of knowledge. Automatic sub-cortical processing of information provides the data for an immediate emotional response. Information-processing of a higher order‚ taking place at the neo-cortical level‚ produces the emotions necessary for adapting to complex situations.
Bio-social research and constructivistic theories agree that perception‚ thought‚ imagination and memory are important causes of emotion. They also agree in suggesting that once an emotion is activated‚ emotion and cognition influence each other. What we think has an effect on what we feel‚ perceive and do‚ and vice versa.
The development of empathy‚ altruistic behavior‚ moral conduct‚ personal characteristics‚ as well as what we learn‚ remember and know‚ are deeply influenced by our emotional states.
What does all this mean in connection with our path of unfolding? It means that a deep knowledge of our emotions is of utmost importance‚ and so is the work we do on our emotional responses. Given the fact that our emotions have a great influence on the way we perceive‚ feel‚ think and act‚ we need to be aware that what we feel-and what we do with what we feel-determines to a great extent our degree of participation‚ understanding and love.
How can we work on our emotions? Our method of life highlights some of the means: exterior discipline‚ the discursive meditation‚ the affective meditation‚ vocal prayers‚ spiritual reading and the study of the Teaching.
In one sense‚ exterior discipline is like a mirror which reflects each action in our consciousness. By being aware of our actions we can trace their origin‚ discover motivations and expose the emotions inciting us to act.
The exercises of the discursive meditation and the affective meditation work specifically on our emotions.¹
The discursive meditation allows us to see ourselves as we are. It teaches us to allow our deepest and most unknown emotions to bloom‚ and to look at ourselves without concealing anything‚ and without justifications or explanations. We are face-to-face with the Divine Mother and we open ourselves to her without filtering what we say. We leave aside our self-image-what we want to appear to be. We are what we are and we acknowledge the Divine Mother as our witness.
This self-acceptance is a very simple and effective way to place ourselves in conscious contact with our emotions. Many psychological problems originate from denying our emotions.
The affective meditation teaches us to feel at will‚ to manage our emotions to produce responses that are increasingly better suited to the various situations of life. It teaches us to generate the emotions which are necessary at each moment to live the way we choose to live and respond at the highest level of our consciousness.
Vocal prayers also work on emotion and cognition. They do this by means of the persuasive power of words‚ positive and rich images‚ and the strengthening of faith and hope.
Spiritual reading‚ on well-chosen subjects‚ leads us to nourish our thinking with images and ideas that are in harmony with our desire for good thinking. Such reading gives us concepts to work on to understand ourselves better‚ and to understand souls and the world around us.
Study of the Teaching is also a way of working on our emotions‚ because it connects us with the source of our strength and discernment: vocation‚ which is our deepest feeling.
Let us master our feelings so that we may master our lives.
The course “Nuances of Prayer” is available in its entirety on the Cafh website: www.cafh.org. The teaching published here has been adapted slightly for the purpose of serving as a Feature on the Seeds site. Other chapters from the course published on the Seeds site are:
The Importance of Prayer‚ Hallow the Day‚ Unfolding as an Objective‚ and Exterior Discipline.
1. Meditation is an important element in the practices of Cafh. See Inspiration for a description of the affective meditation. The discursive meditation is described in Gaining Inner Strength: Learning to Choose‚ and there are many examples of it on the Seeds site‚ among them
A Meditation for Guidance.