Transforming Neutral Feelings

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There is a concept proposed by Thich Nhat Hanh that that can increase your joy in life. It is based off of the Buddha’s teaching that there are three types of feelings – unpleasant feelings, neutral feelings, and pleasant feelings. You’ve got to raise your conscious awareness in order to recognize neutral feelings. It’s quite easy to know when you are experiencing something pleasant or painful.

Hanh makes the simple yet profound assertion that there is hardly a neutral feeling that cannot be transformed into a pleasant feeling by shining the light of mindfulness on it. There are countless examples. For example consider breathing. You were probably not consciously thinking about your breathing until right now, and even as you do you are probably not deriving too much pleasure from it. But think about any time you have been swimming and found yourself under water for too long. You started to panic and frantically darted to the surface to gulp in air. That first big inhalation was one of the best feelings in the world.

In my view a neutral feeling almost always signifies that you are in a state of relative health, either mental or physical. We can easily grow jaded about the miracle of our existence or how fortunate we really are to be in good health. When something goes wrong and equilibrium is upset we definitely pine over what we have lost. Hanh uses the easy to understand example of a toothache. Before it began to hurt you didn’t give more than a passing thought to your tooth, but now it is the center of your attention and causing you great distress.

You can do a simple body scan as a way to immediately increase your well-being by focusing on your physical health and the miracle of your living body. Just sit in a comfortable position and begin to breathe rhythmically and deeply. Then start your scan by focusing on your feet, considering the work they do every day to help you move from place to place and how invaluable they really are to you. Slowly move your way up your body, considering the interconnectedness of all your various parts, and thank them for helping you be alive and healthy. Some areas to pay special attention to are your heart and lungs. Those dependable little guys have not taken a single break since you were born, constantly pumping blood and oxygen to all the areas of your body. What dependable workers.When you have finished your scan you will probably notice yourself calm, relaxed, and above all else grateful, and you will have transformed your neutral feelings.