George, a former London bus driver, was my teacher -- and my guide. He didn't just repeat 'The Rules of Road' booklet and explain how the gears worked. He encouraged, scolded, teased, cheered me on, helped me through tight spots, and yelled at me when I hit curbs. He taught me to be considerate on the road and not over-react. He calmed me down when I was spazzing out and picked me up when I was feeling low. In other words, he acknowledged emotions, respected them and was a master at managing them. He helped lift me out of them and transform all that energy so I always felt better than ever.
Reading the 'owners manual' wasn't going to help me transcend emotions in that learners' car, and it sure won't in the midst of life's experiences. If I'm forced to suddenly detour way over there, I'm frustrated and bitter, with an anger emerging that I just don't want to confront. How will memorizing quotes or the rules help? If someone I love leaves, no matter how much I've read on psychology, neither the number of books on spirituality lining my shelf nor how much I talk to a confidante can possibly match, let alone overcome, the tidal force of emotional energy.
Thought can sometimes (particularly during traumas) trigger emotions, those powerful, subterranean energies that defy reason, understanding, and logic. Many in the New Age world have mantras, rules and rituals; formulas and methodologies, but I don't find this helpful once in an emotional grip. They're not mutually exclusive: I can practice headstands, and ritualize mornings with candles and incense and still be emotionally off kilter. I can get realizations and hits on all kinds of stuff, yet still be unable to balance out decades-old emotions.
This is where other disciplines and practices have helped. I've been forced to meet other teachers who are masters at transcending emotions (like George), and it's certainly informed my yoga practice. It's the emotional triggers that I'm in the process of diffusing, that I need to diffuse. I still hear the 'Oh, you're not doing enough' of my monster mind, but fear and other emotional reactions are less and less pronounced and as a result I'm less inclined to act on it.
We all build or adopt one coping mechanism after another until we're armed with an arsenal of coping mechanisms, or sometimes addictions. These is our under-armours, beneath the professional masks and gloss of a life contained. But it's such a relief not to carry all that gear around, the spear up, my shield held tightly. I'm done with driving around in life, trying to 'understand' my emotions or make sense out of any of them or narrate a pretty, little logical story out of them. I welcome the unpleasant and challenging in a new way, because the worse it feels, the further I get to deep-sea dive. It's precisely out of the uncomfortable that we find the pearl of great price.