Thursday, August 26, 2004

The Distorted Soul

The Distorted Soul

I mentioned casually in a previous blog entry that negative emotions like hate, fear, anger and jealousy "distort" the soul. Let me examine further what I mean by that and why such distortions are ultimately painful.

When something is distorted, it is basically "out of shape". If your physical posture is out of shape, you cannot walk or sit properly without suffering a certain amount of discomfort. Distortion can also happen to a car--if the wheels are out of alignment, some severe amount of wear and tear is expected on certain parts of the car. Basically distorted systems are not in their optimum state of operation; they cause friction, abrasion and breakdown. Pain.

A soul that is distorted is not so self-evident, because we only see a person's physical appearance. And our perception of another person's behaviour is coloured by our own distorted view of the world.

Which is why some psychologists say: when two persons meet, six different personalities actually interact. Who are these six personalities? Basically three from each side: the individual's real personality (which is often partially hidden, sometimes deliberately), the personality which the individual hopes to project to the other, and the personality that is actually perceived by the other party.

If every individual in this world love each other unconditionally, then there are no distortions--every soul is in harmony with the rest of the world. But such a perfect world does not exist; we all have our "personalities"--likes and dislikes. There are people that we like and people that we dislike. Feelings of hate, fear, jealousy, pride and prejudice would inevitably arise. These are all soul-distorting elements. The moment any one of these feelings stir in our soul, the distortions they cause would ultimately result in pain.

The highly distorted soul gets angry easily when someone disagrees with him. An angry man is a man in pain. Jealousy would stir in his bosom when his colleagues get recognition instead of him. Jealousy is certainly not a pleasurable experience; it is another pain. He comforts himself by proclaiming that all the people he is dealing with are stupid. With that prejudical stance he sets himself up for even more pain in the future. The cycle of pain is endless--every interaction with a fellow human being would result in a lot of friction. How could such an individual ever be happy?

If we learn to eliminate hatred in our hearts and instead cultivate an equanimous state of mind, we will experience a lot less pain. You see, the balanced soul is a super-efficient vehicle which suffers a lot less wear and tear. We are able to transcend the petty emotional upheavals that impinge on our daily lives. We are like a well-aligned car with a good suspension system.

If by some miraculous strength, we summon enough courage to learn how to forgive our enemies and even love them--like what Jesus encourages us to do (Matthew 5:43)--we do not only eliminate a lot of these distortions, we radiate out positive energies that help to smoothen the kinks in our enemies' hearts. Buddhists have a special type of meditation called Metta Bhavana, or lovingkindness meditation, where the individual learns how to send out loving thoughts to all beings--loved ones and enemies alike--in the universe.

When a Catholic confesses and seeks forgiveness for his sins, and does so sincerely, he is basically allowing all negative energies in his soul to be released. To forgive and to seek forgiveness are acts of strength--they release a lot of trapped energy and allow the soul to unfold back to its natural state of peace. When the soul does not have to waste so much energy harbouring all these distorting emotions, it becomes free and starts to blossom like a lotus, unleashing its divine potential.

I cannot imagine people keeping so much negative emotions inside them--they have to face the world everyday with a soul that is painfully distorted. If we have the ability to see such a person's soul--it will probably look like a haggard face with a perpetual scowl. No wonder, such people grow old very fast.

A harmonious soul, at peace with the world is like a freshly made bed--clean, smooth and uncreased. It is so inviting that you cannot refrain yourself from collapsing on it and burying yourself in its warmth and comfort. But all beds get creased from use--you'll have to smoothen them everyday.

All spiritual practices--meditation, prayer or confessions--help us to smoothen the distortions in our souls. A soul free from distortions is a happy soul indeed. And heaven is but a freshly made bed.

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