The mind can think and process information kinesthetically, and this kinesthetic system ties in to your other brain systems, such as visualization. If you practice piano by visualization, you will improve. If you lift weights by visualization, your muscles will grow.
When you wiggle your fingers behind your head, it’s your kinesthetic sense that informs you where your fingertips are.
All of us naturally feel emotions within our kinesthetic sense. We can feel nervous in our bellies. We can feel grief in our chests. Horniness in our crotch and bellies.
This sense can be developed, refined, and matured, just by paying attention to it. There are many traditions and technologies for doing that, and the one I talk about most is called chi-kung.
Today I want to follow up on recent posts about giving and receiving and feeling affection, and I’ll introduce methods to deliberately increase ones ability to do so.
First let’s look at what some other traditions do.
Christians sing gospels and hold revivals. They get together and sing songs that are indistinguishable from love ballads or high energy party songs except for who is the object of affection. They give and receive love from a symbol they name as God or Jesus. This is very clever technology. The use of music, groups, and ritual is also powerful. Through these meetings and rituals and prayers, participants learn to internalize the giving and receiving of love, and can do so within themselves while washing the dishes. It’s similar to a 4 year old lugging around his Teddy Bear. He holds his object of affection as a symbol, and it is more than just comforting; it’s a developmental necessity that helps him to internalize affection as part of who he is.
Buddhism is the best source of methods of how to develop affection. If you google bodhicitta you can follow the trails to many sources and practices. I’ve met many people who met long time practitioners of bodhicitta meditations who’ve had their lives irrevocably altered just from the contact high. These practices are transformative, and the change is not just internal; it affects interpersonal dealings.
There are old Buddhist chants and scriptures that liken bodhicitta to a precious jewel. It just feels so good to have that sweet feeling in your heart, that once you can turn that on it feels as if you’ve discovered a jewel out of nowhere. Perhaps life wasn’t so great before, so the metaphor can be finding a jewel in a garbage heap. Suddenly there is this source of wellbeing and sweet good generous warm full rich engaging feeling.
I have a long history of doing practices that develop love, starting from well before I got involved with meditation. At around age twelve I was very interested in hypnosis and self hypnosis, and somehow had stumbled upon the idea that internal affection held great powers, so I’d do visualizations and auto-suggestions of relaxing into body parts with affection, or visualize peaceful scenes and emotions. Even masturbation was more than auto-erotic for me, it was genuinely self love.
Later I expanded out from the self hypnosis section in our local library to the section on meditation. Books by Baba Ram Dass and Sunryu Suzuki were favorites, and I picked up some meditation practices from these books. These inspired me to open up the yellow pages and by 16 I’d taken the train to downtown Toronto to visit a few meditation centers. In one of these I learned the practice of tonglen from Pema Chodron. I would recommend her books for guidance on increasing bodhicitta.
Tonglen is about breathing emotions in and out of the heart center. With this technique you can practice emotions, and refine your kinesthetic map to include these emotions. I won’t detail the practice here, but interested readers can follow up on their own.
Like with pretty well any meditation practice, you can get sucked in and start to see the world only through the lens of the practice. Meditative tunnel vision is fine, but don’t let it go on forever. The heart cakra is only one cakra; it’s not the whole world.
While Buddhism and Christianity have powerful techniques for internalizing and strengthening affection, they are really just software for our existing hardware. I think most of us have fallen in love, or exchanged love with parents, children, or grandparents. We can use these people in the same way the religious traditions use symbols. We can learn to deliberately develop our emotional muscles.
Another way to learn about how to develop emotional muscles is by having mentors. Have you ever known someone that you admired? Chances are strong that such a person is emotionally open and capable. If not, re-evaluate your admiration. Once you identify a positive mentor, try to hang out with them. Their ways will rub off on you. The mentor student relationship is very valuable, and possibly irreplaceable.
Later we will talk about how an open heart becomes addictive to girls, and how they make you their symbol; their teddy bear, their Dalai Lama, their Daddy, their personal savior. Their irreplaceable source of all that is valuable and good. Their living connection to bodhicitta.