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Emotional Control



“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

 Viktor E. Frankl



This is only true for those with emotional control. Otherwise the emotion is flooding us before we can have a thought of choosing a response. I would be so proud if I could control my urge to raise the social finger when someone honks. On one occasion I encountered another such person, and it almost came to a bad end. Perhaps you have had such a reaction yourself.

This would be a good place to think about that. It would be excellent if you would note it in your journal. In my journal I wrote, “I want to stop fingering the honkers.” I know what I mean, even if that amuses you. Is there anything in your life that causes an emotional flood? Do you have insane jealous reactions? Are you overly desirous of status? Search for knee-jerk emotional reactions that don’t stay with you when considered later. This isn’t easy because the reaction feels so good. I like my rage, my urge to combat, so why do I wish to eliminate it? Because the prize of emotional control is worth so much more. Our animal rage covers up a far greater inner power, that is the realm of the martial artist. There is this inner genius that will control your body, your life, if you let it. When you have the mind of the martial artist, you can do incredible things.


Perhaps you have to experience it to really comprehend it. I think that you already have, but you didn’t realize what you were doing, that you were accessing a powerful inner power that is always there for you. I recall when my infant son was about to step out a door to a long drop downward. My wife moved faster than ever before in her life. I have taken to only blocking in my sparring, because the joy of my body doing such incredible things so fast is a wonderful feeling. Others write of mu shin, the motionless mind, and modern people write of flow. This is a time to realize that these mental states will take you to your Purpose, and perhaps now you can see why I have chosen driving for your martial art.

Because in driving, most of the time, you are as close to a state of “flow,” as you get. All that is necessary is to be aware of what you are doing. And of course note when an emotional reaction kicks you out of this state. Let’s be clear about what I am suggesting. I say that part of the time you spend driving you are on auto pilot, and another movie is playing in your head. It might be plans or fears for something upcoming. It can just be a fantasy of satisfying some inner need in a particularly wonderful fashion. Frequently it will be a running inner dialogue that only serves to maintain your Matrix identity, but rarely will you be in touch with your driving.

And when you are, for the most part, you do quite well. It might be the thing you do best. Give that some thought, and see if you don’t drive better, relatively speaking, then anything else you do. Even if you do, we are going to make it better.  We are into a two stage process here. I want you, in as safe as possible manner, while you are driving, to ask yourself, “Who is driving the car?” Just be aware of how well you are doing. And recall that it wasn’t always this way, right? You weren’t born driving anymore than you were born walking. You had to learn.

Go back in your memory to those early days. For me, in was in a 1954 Chevy station wagon. It was our family’s first new car, blue and white, middle of the line. My father would take me to Griffith Park, this is in Los Angeles, and we would find a large empty parking lot, and we would change places. You might open a new page in your journal now, and remember a time when you couldn’t drive. And then you could. 

And wasn’t driving fun? You wanted to drive all the time, you were learning something new; getting better at it, changing into a different being, so to speak. You had “beginner’s mind.” Now you don’t think of it at all. We want to bring back your beginner’s mind into your highly competent present self [I hope],and have you become aware of your flow, and then use that awareness to have an advanced state of mind at your command.

This is approaching the mind of the martial artist. And it is going to be a very beautiful experience. You will note now that part of our mnemonic is,”..searching for beauty..”, so we will have much more to say about that later, and what we say will be necessary, but for now we want to change drudgery into beauty.

Doesn’t that sound wonderful? And it is. We are going to make a movie of you driving to work. This movie will be very beautiful, and it will be only for you. Right now you make and see “movies” in your mind’s eye all the time, and you are already the star. Many of these movies are not pretty. I know this, because when I look at “you” driving next to me, your face usually isn’t smiling or happy. It can’t just be because I am driving next to you, because you aren’t aware of me, and from the look on “your” eyes you aren’t even aware of where you are.  Your inner movie is that powerful. So you are already a skilled director, now I want you to deliberately make a movie that is beautiful. When you do this, your face will change. You will be smiling, your entire being will be relaxed and your eyes will be super alert as you search about you.

Before we get right into it, I want to play a learning-imagination game. I want you to imagine that some of the world’s finest photographers know the route you drive each day, and after much deliberation they have gone down this path and taken the most incredible photographs of things that you consider mundane and not worth noticing, except now you would because all these incredible photos are in a magazine labeled with your name, _______;s Drive to Work, and it is sitting there on the rack as you check out from the market.

You snatch up the magazine. You look through the pages, and you can remember some of the items only with effort, but you know that you drive by these scenes almost everyday. The next morning you are excited. You drive [safely] searching for those scenes, and there they are. The homeless “Vet,” is there, and now the wrinkles on his face and longing in his eyes come through to you. You drive by a house and what was once a jumble of unused items on the porch, that now becomes a story of the life inside that house, and so it goes, and too soon you reach your destination.

You see where this is going? Tomorrow you will film your own movie, not play one prerecorded. The camera will be your eyes, the director will be your 1eye, more on that later, and the sound track will come from your car radio playing classical music. For me that is an intriguing challenge. 

Another mental game is to imagine that you are challenged to record a movie of your daily drive, that movie will be compared with the movie shot by ten of your fellow employees, and the winner gets $1,000,000. Now that would be interesting wouldn’t it. . So if it is raining, and you come to a red light, your mental camera will narrow down to the that light with its pulsing redness against the gray of the rainy morning. Perhaps while you are stopped at the light, and it is safe, you take a shot of the driver next to you picking his nose, of that middle aged woman with eyes squinted in suffering from some inner movie, and grasping the wheel to her. And all the time your car radio is playing the music for your movie.

And if you do this everyday, and become skillful at it, you will for sure win a prize that might be worth more than a million dollars. The money comes and goes, and except for trinkets and tokens, you remain the same. This is why so many who win lotteries are little changed and no more happier a year or so later. But if you develop emotional control, you are enhanced forever.

Now I want to summarize before we launch our exercise. You will recall that the martial artist is driven by a deep value that comes out of his gut and makes him face adversity, so as to polish his spirit. These adversities are various purposes, and facing them helps him accomplish his main Purpose, of becoming. To do all this requires Discipline, and the foremost discipline required is emotional discipline. And this we will train while driving.  Because you drive everyday and have been doing so for some time. Now while the mnemonic for this position is a remembering of Rocky, the music and his training, the actual training is your driving. 

To end the summary recall Yoda, in Star Wars lecturing Luke Skywalker, “Remember, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware. Anger, fear, aggression. The dark side are they. Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.”  And your driving.

I need you to see that your act of mentally choosing to be aware of the flow of driving and to create a beautiful experience with your perception settles the question of freewill for you. You have it to the extent that you can do the exercises. If you can’t control your emotions, then you don’t have freewill, and you are reacting like a rat in a maze. This is not our Purpose.

It is one thing to gradually learn emotional control as you drive. If you rage now and then, it’s not the end of the world. You can review the “rage,” later, and rewind and replay it. Constant practice gives you more and more control, and if you reflect, you will see that your driving is improving. You will see that your life is improving. And that should keep you smiling and laughing. The important thing is that there is room for error in emotional control while you are doing normal driving, but when Fate opens the Gates of Hell to release your opponent, then you need your spiritual armamentarium cocked and locked.

Now I want you to journal what you have derived from the above. Next journal an emotional experience during the day, and your attempt to discipline it.