I want to touch base on a couple of subjects and one of them is the emotions. When I look at the word "emotion" I see it comes from the Latin word "emovére. I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist or behavioural scientist, but it is clear to me that when a person experiences an emotion it is an internal feeling to be expressed, or which can be expressed, externally through words, deeds or action.
An emotion(s) can range from a myriad of feelings which I label as energies. These energies can and do cover a broad range such as fear, anger, rage, hate, love, happiness, envy, joy, peace etc... Our state of consciousness enables us to shift from one energy to the next. We can be happy one moment and sad the next. Our attitude plays a large role in this. Our attitude gives life to whether we are negative or positive to how we respond to a given situation.
Although the emotions are a necessary part of our human make-up they should not be the vehicle we use as guides to govern our life. I distinguish between feeling an emotion versus acting on it. I've met many people in my life who were under the misguided notion that because they were angry at a person or believed that that person was the source of their anger, that they are justified in acting against the person. But in actuality, the root of their anger comes from within themselves. There is nothing wrong with feeling emotions but it doesn't mean our emotions are a validation of truth or that we have to act or react to them.
Ask yourself if you are angry and feel like exploding, what would happen if you didn't react or if you did nothing? Nothing would happen. Eventually, you would calm down.
I came to the realisation and acceptance that one should never lead by, or be lead by emotions such as anger, hate or rage etc... because the emotions have very little ability to reason, rationalise logically or see things clearly. When you are angry or in rage, these emotions cloud judgement and undermine wisdom.
From personal experience I can attest to the fact that whenever I became infuriated or angry I could not see anything beyond these negative energies. I had tunnel vision and the only thing I could see was the rage. I was too entrenched and stuck in the mud of my own feelings and ego to form a rational thought. Anger can override the cerebral cortex - the sector of the brain that deals with rational thought, intelligence etc... You can bet if a couple are in an argument and they get angry, there are going to be things coming out for their mouths that under normal circumstances would make them cringe.
The emotions have to be brought under arrest and under the guidance of the intellect. Trying to lead by emotions alone is equivalent to trying to drive a car without brakes. The result - an accident!
It wasn't until I perused the Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Rama that I began to seriously place myself under critical self-examination. During my early years of self-reflection, I saw how my ego played a crucial role in how I dealt with people and situations. Because I had a distorted sense of manhood and my identity was wrapped up in how I saw myself.
Any time the ego is involved things are going to be personalised, which means a person is going to take it personally. In the book "The Four Agreements" by Miguel Luis Ruiz, one of the agreements is "Don't take anything personally". When it comes to an unchecked ego this is nearly impossible. Because the ego is all about me, me, me and me. If you criticize someone functioning from their ego then it becomes less about what you are critiquing, and becomes interpreted as a personal attack on the person because egocentric people are fragile and thin skinned.
I suspect an individual who is easily inclined to anger has a problem with their ego
Every human being has an ego. Some egos vibrate at a higher level than others. Some people do a better job than others at managing their ego and keeping it in check. Then, there are people (inside and outside of prison) who have spent time developing themselves to a point that they are unaffected and unmoved by issues that irk and drive the average person mad. This comes back to attitude and state of consciousness of which I spoke about earlier.
Whatever state of consciousnjess you are in, energy is going to follow it. Energy doesn't discern between good and bad, positive and negative, and destructive and constructive. Energy gives fuel to the mindset you are in. Whenever you shift your consciousness energy strengthens the state of mind you are in.
It would be irresponsible and untrue to suggest that you should never get angry or that you can rid yourself of anger totally. What I am suggesting is you don't have to surrender to anger or hold onto it as if it is an anchor. Holding on to anger is like carrying extra weight and eventually it is going to get heavy.
I know the statement or phrase "Let it go" has become a cliché, but the question is, is there value in this cliché? I emphatically and affirmatively say "yes". When you hold onto anger, who benefits from it? The only person who is harmed by holding onto anger is you. Beside the physiological harm you do to your mind and body by adding stress, you give power and control to that which you are angry at. Ask any person who has been angry at another person for a period of time, and when they let go of that anger, how they felt? The answer is free and liberated. The reason why you feel free once you let go of the anger is due to the fact you were not free as long as you held onto it.
Think about his, you are angry at a family member because you were wronged in some way and you feel justified in being angry and you hold onto this for years. Even though you can go about the daily routine of your life, the anger you hold onto will manifest in other areas of your life unconsciously. Plus, the family member you are angry at holds power over you. You can't move forward because the person is still in your head. How I began to deal with my demons was not by avoiding them, but by facing them head on. By spending quiet time with myself. This allowed the thoughts stirring in me to reach a point of cessation. Everything eventually stilled and peace and calm engulfed me. This made me think, if I can feel this way in meditation then I should like to strive to be this way in life. I asked myself wouldn't it be wonderful if I could live my life in meditation. By that, I mean being patient, kind, respectful, calm and understanding in my wakeful life. I considered this as an important spiritual challenge. Taking what I learn in my meditations and transporting it to my everyday life.
When I meditate I visualise myself in various situations. For example, I am in a hostile and stressful situation, but I handle it with patience, wisdom and calm. I stamp this visualisation on my consciousness so it becomes a part of me.
What meditation does for me is that it gives me clarity of mind. It allows me to explore and unmask deeper dimensions of myself in order to get at the essence of who I am. Meditation has helped me to work on being less judgemental of people. This is a constant work in progress that I pay close attention to because a person can do or say something you disapprove of, and reverting back to old patterns of behaviour of judging someone is like reuniting with an old friend. I fight against this.
By gaining more insight about myself, I gain more insight about human beings. Life is made up of nuances and comes in many shades, and cannot be reduced to just black and white. As human beings, we are fallible. We have the extraordinary and contradictory capacity to both amaze and disappoint. And sometimes we do. I believe we have to give people room to make mistakes. Refusing to do so is like issuing an indictment saying the person is incapable of growth,change, and transformation.
If a person decides to pursue a path of enlightenment and self transformation, this ought to be applauded and seen as a positive development that should be encouraged. No one has the right to deprive or deny redemption to a person who seeks it. If redemption isn't an option or is not made available to people who have lost their way and try to find their way it back, then who is it for?
Some people do not seek redemption nor do they pursue self transformation. They leave this earth with a state of consciousness of how they lived their life. That is their choice. People who choose to live a different way of life of self improvement and spiritual enlightenment should be supported in their efforts.
People in prison are judged and defined by what they are in prison for. If you are on death row, like me, you are labelled the wost of the worst without any redeeming qualities. Some people want to freeze you in time at the worst moment of your life and declare that is who you are and all that you will ever be. I've learned that you cannot take a snapshot of a person's life and define them by it. People are not the total sum of their mistakes. The one constant in life is change.
Steve Champion (Adisa Kamara)
San Quentin State Prison
Poetry, writing & Lessons in Life from San Quentin death row