Let me recommend a US public radio program: ‘On Being’. Created by journalist and theologian, Krista Tippett, it offers ‘intelligent conversation about religion, meaning, and moral imagination’. Her guests range from poets to physicists and the program is always thoughtful and provocative (even if she does sometimes talk too much herself). I listen to many of the podcasts more than once and, when I need an extra dose of encouragement, I replay her conversation with the late Irish poet John O’Donahue, or with the memoirist Mary Karr. (See onbeing.org.)
One of her weekly bloggers, Courtney E. Martin, recently invited readers to think about jealousy. The question struck me because, as one of the seven deadly sins, jealousy (and its cousin envy) portends danger and trouble. So when it – or any of the ‘negative’ emotions – show up on my internal horizon or stabs me in the chest, I want to run. Push them away. Bury them. I’m inclined even to pretend they hadn’t shown up at all.
The form of Martin’s invitation calls up a helpful Buddhist and mindful way of thinking about our emotions, in general, and jealousy, in particular. She asks: ‘Who do I feel most jealous of and what is that person up to that I want to bring more into my own life?’
She’s not encouraging us to act on our feelings, but the reverse: to pause and listen to them.
Our emotions – even the ones usually called ‘negative’ – can be our teachers, if we let them. They give us a glimpse into our shadows, yes, but also our needs, longings, even aspirations. What lessons are your emotions offering you today?