Are emotions merely just body sensations?

Tania's picture

Average: 4 (12 votes)

According to Guenka's Vipassana (and maybe the Buddha, who knows), what we call feelings and emotions are merely patterns of body sensations. Everything is mapped to body sensations.

This claim seemed to me far too radical at first glance, an outrageous underestimation of our rich and painful emotional world, even some sort of new mind-created invention for suppressing emotions.

But when I started observing my emotions deeply and continuously, I was astonished to find out that behind the mental abstract image of each experienced emotion indeed hides a unique pattern of body sensations... endless patterns in shape, area, type of sensation, location... Endless combinations. I found out that this mental abstract representation we call emotion of each body sensation is just a cover for the underlying sensation and moreover, when I penetrate into observing and accepting the sensation itself something magical happens that did not happened when I was just observing the front-end emotion: the whole emotion+sensation simply weaken and even disappear or at least I suddenly did not care anymore about them - they can stay or they can go away, I am not that preoccupied with them anymore...

Omkaradatta's picture

Cool :-)

Sounds like a very 'useful' thing to realize... in a sense, the body is part of the mind, eh?

Really, the body is 'in' the mind, as it isn't there at all unless we think of it. As I see it, your focusing on the underlying body sensation was the same as letting go of the connected thought(s), which is possibly why the feelings went away or lessened.

From here, this kind of awareness you've been practicing is a great approach, as it dissolves falsehood, i.e. unconsciousness, or "what we believe to be true" that was never really true. This is exactly what self-enquiry is.

Omkaradatta | Mon, 07/14/2008 - 04:45
Tania's picture

Hey Omkaradatta, thanks!

Hey Omkaradatta, thanks!

I agree, the body is in the mind (or at least in awareness) from the reason you mention and from the very fact that during deep night sleep it is not there...

This Vipassana thing of observing and accepting the body sensations taught me the one truth for me: accept and observe whatever is and then you find out by experience that the solution is not that the pain disappears (as you were certain before that this is the solution) but that you suddenly don't mind if it disappears or not, you are indifferent.

This "revolutionary solution" is the supporting experiential basis, I feel, for the claim that we are not the body... if I can be indifferent to the pain of something than I am not that something, by definition...

Tania | Mon, 07/14/2008 - 09:26
Quantum's picture

Emotions: Mental component + physical component

I been waiting for a POst on emotions and their physical component. And woila...another thought and another manifestation. I love meditation.

A massage therapist told me once that emotions get stored in muscles. Massage releases the trapped energy, toxins, stress.

My understanding and experience of emotions is that they have two components I am ware of: The thought ("That old lady cut me off!"), and the resulting physical sensation (increased heart rate, rise in body temperate, tightness in chest, sweaty palms, knots in stomach, pain in the ass, pain in the neck, etc).

When new emotions (the negative ones) come to me, I'm basically toast.

With old emotions, I close my eyes, look for the physical sensation, the negative ones are usually in my upper frontal torso below neck level, and around shoulder area. Keeping my attention fixed and focused on just the physical sensation that sometimes feels like a "jagged edge heavy vibration" dissolves it. The trapped energy is released, and feels like the release of energy you experience while yawning. Tolle talks of this. THere are different ways to describe it, it seems.

Tim: You commented on how focusing on just the physical sensation cuts off attention from the thought. Have you ever actually tried or experienced dissolving an emotion this way? Do you know what it feels like? Or are you merely expanding on a theory of non-duality to explain teh posters post?

I see the logic in your theories and beliefs, or non-existence there of, but I wonder what is your actual experience, or non-existence of them?

Quantum | Sat, 09/19/2009 - 07:23
nathan's picture

The mental component is a phantom

When you practice Vipassana enough time, you notice that there is no such thing as mental component of an emotion - just a body sensation.

The mental representation which we got so used to see as the emotion itself turns to be some symbolic transparency put over the physical sensation, created probably so that we could easily reference the emotion and differentiate it in the chaotic mess of endless physical sensations taking place in our body.

At some point, wehn you are present enough, you access the phisical senations directly when being aware of an emotion without the mental representation even needed to be accessed.

nathan | Sat, 09/19/2009 - 07:59
Quantum's picture

I see

I'm looking fwd to that. For now I sometimes need to mentally recall the
the event to feel the physical sensation when I am trying to dissolve
a weak emotion.

When the emotion is strong, I don't need the memory as much
b/c my body is boiling or "jagged edged vibrating" inside.

Quantum | Sat, 09/19/2009 - 19:16
Surya Kumar Mishra's picture

Emotions, body sensations === discussion

Look, anything that is touchable is hardware
if you think that body and all its various parts are touchable, then they pertain to hardware

If you think that emotions are abstract. You cannot measure emotions by feet, meter, grams, mls, degrees etc, then they pertain to software. Here you will not be able to touch the emotions as you touch your body hardware.

Now you think, about body and emotion and get the result.

Surya Kumar Mishra | Wed, 05/05/2010 - 09:21
Azeemi's picture


We carry forward (backward) emotions and feelings in our energy/aura/celestial/ethereal zone too (dream world). However, one more spiritual zone/level up, we will find ourselves to be less emotional in a melodramatic sense, but more emotional in a spiritual sense, where our feelings and sensations are more sublime and directed towards God. The emotions are less physical and less dense in nature.

We do emote in front of God, but more respectfully...;)


Azeemi | Tue, 05/11/2010 - 12:36
Surya Kumar Mishra's picture

emotions feelings more less

all these are abstract
however good thoughts are always welcome because such thoughts are elevating.
let us practise to be God-ward in true sense
God bless all so that all of us realise HIM.

Surya Kumar Mishra | Tue, 05/11/2010 - 13:56
joejo's picture

Emotions & materiality

If Tania's contention was that emotions are material then yes they are. But isn't there a difference between our normal emotions and compassion.

Body emotions and thinking are the three levels through which our energy flows and they are all interconnected and that is why to change one without changing the other is not possible.

Mr Azeemi has brought out another practical aspect of truth for those who are not merely intellectually interested.

joejo | Tue, 05/11/2010 - 14:35