Cultivating Emotional Balance

Contemplative practice meets emotional psychology

People around the world suffer from anger, greed, jealousy, hate and other afflictive emotional states every day. During the 2000 Mind & Life Institute conference, the Dalai Lama requested that a program be developed to address destructive emotions, not just in conversation but also in society. In response, emotion researcher, Paul Ekman, PhD and contemplative scholar, B. Alan Wallace, PhD, developed a 42-hour psycho-educational program called Cultivating Emotional Balance (CEB). The aim of CEB is to teach participants skills that facilitate greater emotional regulation and focused attention through didactic and experiential methods. CEB is an evidence-based curriculum that draws from empirical research on emotion, coupled with contemplative practices that are rooted in Buddhist traditions. Throughout the program, participants learn to identify the physiology and facial expression of emotions, develop attention skills and mindfulness, as well as cultivate meaningful aspirations for genuine happiness and resilience. A primary goal of CEB is for participants to gain greater flexibility and choice in cognitive and emotional processing. A randomized-controlled trial documenting the outcomes of the CEB program has been published in the journal, Emotion, and the is currently available online at: Link to the clinical study of CEB. Future studies should continue to investigate the empirical basis for the importance of combining emotional skills with contemplative practices. Article about the effects of CEB.

 

The training is available  in a 8 week course or a week long intensive retreat. Please contact me  for more information or to request  a training.

Official CEB website.

Conative balance

Conative balance has to do with our intention and motivation, a way of life that is rooted in ethics and virtue. We cant expect to be emotionally balanced our selves if we are living a life that creates emotional imbalance for others.

 

Attentional balance

Attentional balance is making our mind serviceable. Being able to direct our attention at will. To think when you want and be able to keep the mind still when there is no need to think. To some extent we all suffer from OCDD ( Obsessive Compulsive Delusional Disorder ). We have a constant stream of thoughts running through our minds, we tend to identify with these thoughts and we think they are the truth and nothing but the truth. To attain attentional balance is to rid our self’s of this disorder and have a mind, instead of the mind having you.

 

Cognitive balance

Cognitive balance allows us to see reality as it actually is.  By removing our cognitive bias and distinguishing what is actually being presented to our senses and what we are super imposing on that experience. To not identify with every thought or emotion that happens to us with out our asking. To see that all phenomena are impermanent, not intrinsically satisfying and not who we are.

 

Emotional Balance

Emotional Balance is the result of having attained some level in the other categories. If we are working in all the critical areas Emotional balance comes for free 🙂 Although there is something we can do to specifically strengthen the emotional balance that is present on the foundation of Conative, Attentional and Cognitive. By intentionally cultivating positive states such as Loving Kindness, Compassion, Empathetic Joy and Equanimity. Familiarizing our selves with these qualities of mind so that they occur spontaneously.

 

The 42 hour training includes:

Emotional skills developed by Paul Ekman

Understanding the 6 major emotions, detecting universal facial expressions and physical effects.

Understanding your emotional triggers

Understanding the emotional episode timeline

Contemplative practices, a secular adaptation of classic Buddhist practice presented by Alan Wallace

Shamatha (calm abiding) meditation – > Attentional Balance

The four applications of mindfulness -> Cognitive Balance

The four immeasurables (Loving Kindness, Compassion, Empathetic Joy and Equanimity) -> Emotional Balance

Some thoughts on Genuine Happiness:

When we think of happiness we might be able to break it down into two categories: Hedonic Happiness and Genuine Happiness or Eudaimonia. When most of us think of happiness we are most likely focused on the hedonic form of happiness. Which is short is the happiness we get “from” the world. This includes the things out there that will make us happy: money, a nice house, nice car, the perfect job, a healthy good looking body, a partner, fame, power, the newest iphone etc … The problem with hedonic happiness is that ultimately it is unsatisfying because it doesn’t last and it is based on things that are out of your control. What ever material possessions you acquire, just as easy as you got it you can lose it. As we get older our bodies don’t work the way they used to, we have to deal with illness and decay. What ever person we thought was the source of our happiness, will most likely change and not fulfill our unrealistic expectation of being an endless source of happiness. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with enjoying the hedonic pleasures of the world but in so far as there is attachment to them and they are our only source of happiness, we put of self’s in a very vulnerable  position. Because as much as we want to hold on to these things that we think are the sources of our happiness they are impermanent and its not a matter of if they will change, it is only a matter of when. All that being said there are certain forms of hedonic happiness that are critical such as , food , shelter/clothing, medical care, education etc .. having our basic needs met. A funny thing about people in the modern world is that once we have our basic needs met, we are not struggling to survive, we have a decent job , friends , family , a house , a car , some entertainment etc … we are not satisfied. When we are really doing OK and there is nothing we should be complaining about for some reason we are still not happy, we need more , we need better, always thinking there is something out there that will finally make us happy.

This is where genuine happiness can finally bring some clarity to the situation. genuine happiness or eudaimonia is a sense of well being, of being at peace, at ease, contentment. It is not a happiness that comes “from” the world , but it is a happiness that comes from what we “bring to” the world. A type of happiness that arises right from the nature of having a balanced mind that is stable, clear and sees reality as it is. A type of happiness that comes from living a life of ethics and virtue. It does not depend on any external stimulus, but comes from within. It is something no one or thing can give us and no one or thing can take away. Its source is unlimited and boundless. You can reflect on your own life and see for your self where most of your time energy and effort is spent. Towards the hunter gatherer approach of trying to seek out and hold on to hedonic happiness or towards the cultivator approach of developing genuine happiness. If you can imagine making the shift where your priorities are towards to cultivation of genuine happiness a source of well being that is always with you, then you can still enjoy hedonic happiness but without attachment because it is not your only true source of happiness. So when things changes, when hedonically times are good and bad, your happiness does not lie out of your control.