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How to Cultivate Emotional Intelligence

I hope you are well and surviving the onslaught of wind and rain!  With it being cold, wet and nasty outside over this next month the focus of the class will be on cultivating a warm and loving heart!  Regulars will be  familiar with the Loving Kindness meditation but this is one of a set of four meditations for cultivating skilful emotions. In traditional Buddhism it is said that to cultivate these states is to make one’s mind like those of the gods and lead to rebirth in the heaven realm. Whilst Buddhism does not teach that there is a creator God, it is said that those with refined mental states may be reborn in a god realm of pure consciousness and live there until the skillfull actions that led to that rebirth run out and they return to the human realm. Whilst we may no longer believe in gods and rebirth into different realms, we all know the hell of jealousy, envy and  hatred and how changing our state of mind changes our experience of the world. The Divine Abiding meditations counteract unskillful states of mind and instead cultivate skilful emotions.
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Each meditation is said to have a near and far enemy.  The near enemy is an unskilful mental state that undermines the skilful state being cultivated whilst appearing to be similar.  The far enemy is the opposite of what is being cultivated.
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Loving Kindness is seen as the root practice as the other three meditations grow from the heart’s response with Loving Kindness to what we experience in the world.
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Far enemy: ill- will
Near enemy: selfish affection
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Compassion: the hearts response to suffering. Here one cultivates the ability to be with suffering (one’s own and others) rather than run from it or sentimentalise and feel pity. It is the wish for others to be free from suffering.
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Far enemy: cruelty
Near enemy: pity – feeling superior and looking down on one who is suffering rather than feeling with them and seeing that their and one’s own suffering are of the same nature.
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Sympathetic Joy: rejoicing in the good fortune of others, counteracting the poisons of jealousy, envy and derision.
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Far enemy: resentment
Near enemy: exuberance – an over excited and manic state that grasps at moments of joy.
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Equanimity: this meditation has an insight element as it involves looking at all experiences whether happy or sad and seeing that their nature is impermanent, insubstantial and not self – everything changes, nothing remains for ever, the pain of loss is as much part of life as the joy of receiving and neither is more right or wrong than the other. A result of this is what has been described as “a spacious balance enabling us to work with, rather than against, change”.
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Ajahn Chah, the Thai forest master who taught my teacher, points to the practice of equanimity when he suggests that we cultivate a mind that knows how to let go. “When we can let go a little, we have a little peace. When we can let go a lot – we have a lot of peace. When we can let go completely we have complete peace.”

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Far enemy: craving and clinging
Near enemy: indifference
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The Four Divine Abidings, like much of the Buddha’s teachings, may be summarized to the following two words: emotional intelligence.

In 1995, Daniel Goleman, published the best-seller, Emotional Intelligence in which he showed a person’s success is determined more by how well they deal with social and emotional issues rather than simply their I.Q. Emotional intelligence refers to getting along with others, knowing how and when to act, not letting things bother you, and success factors, such as persistence, determination, and deferred gratification.

To read about these meditations in more detail click here

To buy a copy of Emotional Intelligence click here

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