I recently heard someone say that Zen practice involves suppressing or eliminating emotions (they weren't a Zen student).
Sometimes I wish it were true! Who doesn't wish to eliminate anger, irritation, hatred, paranoia and the other afflictive emotions? Perhaps this longing brought us to practice in the first place.
Unfortunately, practice doesn't seem to work that way. In my experience, Zen training has only increased awareness of my bizarre and tumultuous inner life.
And practice has also revealed that whenever I stay attuned to the turmoil, I can respond to it in a beneficial way. (For those on the path, ignorance is not bliss.)
In my clearest moments, I can honor the tumult. I can say, "Right now, I'm experiencing [name a favorite affliction]."
Our families and close friends already know when we're lost in emotional reactivity, even if we don't. Imagine the relief they would feel if we exposed the truth of what they already know.
And isn't that the work of practice - to unfold ourselves to the world? To expose our true nature in each moment?
Wouldn't that be the greatest gift we could offer those who suffer?
Cartoon by Alex Gregory; copyright by the Cartoonbank.