Christophe André’s beautiful book Mindfulness- 25 ways to live in the moment through art uses paintings from Rembrandt, Lucas Cranach, Peter Doig and others to teach presence and control of awareness and attention. As I cease to resist myself and the beautiful world, and become positive, his challenging lessons help me grow in love and appreciation.
I know that my feelings are proper to my situation, and yet I find them difficult. André recognises the confusion and pain. I unlearn suppression of and resistance to feelings, and change the goal of my spiritual growth quest from “never feeling emotions I find unpleasant” to something more achievable on Earth, and doubted the wisdom of his earlier comments: it is one of the hardest processes of mental life to distance ourselves from thoughts saturated with emotion, which we struggle to prevent or dismiss. It is easier to establish this necessary distance by noticing our emotional states than struggling to suppress them. Moods come from suppressed emotion.
Obviously we can’t do it by obeying them- well, sometimes I want to go with my emotion instantly, and sometimes I want to make a long term plan based on a feeling.
He names where I was: hypersensitive patients who have managed to freeze painful emotions, like permafrost in which nothing can grow. This is no longer me. Thanks be to God.
Like a toddler tugging on Mummy’s arm, desperate for attention, feelings may only be quieted by hearing them. Despite the unpleasantness, allow them to be, and observe them. What thoughts do they lead to? What state do they put my body in? What do they make me do? If I acknowledge my anger I need not project it on the situation, and can respond better.
At any moment in the day, take time to feel, gently connecting with our emotional state. Practise introspection in calm and rest, and we can adopt it when we are suffering, without trying to change the feeling.
Having passed through this recognition of the difficulties, his final conclusion that first we accept that suffering and discomfort exist within us, then we can listen to and believe our own words of comfort- it doesn’t really matter, it will pass, etc.
The seeds of serenity can only grow in the soil of lucidity.
This is only one chapter, much richer than my summary, with a lucid commentary on a slightly different Cranach painting of melancholy.
A fbfnd shared Karla McLaren on multiple emotions: allow the confusion, they are all good, but we frustrate this by commonly accepted ideas: there are good and “negative” emotions, the thought that sometimes we are unemotional, imagining we only feel one emotion at a time, and the thought that the only options are acting instantly on a feeling, and suppressing it. She writes on developing empathic skills.