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Balance and Freedom

It is typical to understand many Zen masters as teaching that we should aim to be above such things as emotions. Taking everything in one’s stride, finding the balanced path between extremes. Neither getting over excited or happy, nor angry and frustrated.

No, no and a hundred times no. Have them all, emotions are literally the spice of life. We are emotional beings and without them we are flat, depressed and life becomes meaningless. What is the point without them? If you ask anyone what they hope, strive or aim for, they will end up saying something like, happiness, harmony, peace, empowerment, satisfaction or love. Even a goal like contentment, which sounds very low key and not at all that exciting, is in fact an emotional experience. Living life to the full means experiencing all the emotions. Learning to let go of persistent negative emotions, those that cling like a bad smell. That is true freedom. Freedom from the negative emotions of the past and free to enjoy this moment without fear of the future.

Balance means having great love and great grief, great anger and great joy, great excitement and great contentment. All of these are appropriate in their own place and time. Balance is not about being in the center, flat, feeling nothing strongly. That would be inhuman. Balance is the sun on the side of a mountain, followed by the shade of the storm. It is loving so strongly that the grief of loss is almost unbearable. It is feeling the joy of feasting with friends so much that the suffering and want of others causes you rage and fury.

Balance is flowing with the constant cycles in life, being able to fully enter into each phase, completing the transitions from one to another without getting stuck in any.

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