Yoga and Emotional Intelligence
Recently, in one of my journals, I read an article by a psychologist who had stumbled across an obscure research project involving emotional intelligence. I had first been exposed to the concept of emotional intelligence when I was working on my master’s degree back in the nineties. As a yoga teacher, emotional intelligence as a basis for a balanced life seemed intuitive.
The premise of the research is basically that our emotional intelligence is as important, if not more important, than our intellectual IQ. Without a strong emotional foundation, intelligence alone was not enough to create a successful and balanced life.
There are four components to emotional intelligence. The first is self-awareness or knowing what you are feeling and why. The second is self-management or the ability to use your self-awareness to get better at handling your impulses and disruptive emotions. The third component is empathy or the ability to sense how others are feeling; and the fourth component is being skilled at establishing and maintaining healthy relationships.
Without self-awareness, self-management, empathy and relationship skills, even the most intelligent person would find it difficult to live a healthy and stable life. That is because we are all dependent upon each other and emotions and feelings are a major part of human existence.
In yoga emotional turmoil is often referred to as “monkey mind.” This is an expression used to describe the jumping and scattering of our mind due to emotional instability. In life, it is all too easy for us to lose our emotional balance and end up leaping from one emotion to another.
Who doesn’t get pulled into drama and emotions or caught up in games, competition and fighting? How about sadness and fear? We call this being tossed around in the world. In the ideal, we are in the world, but not of the world. That means we are aware of our presence while being in control of our thoughts, words and actions. We have compassion for all of life and we relate to others with a sense of complete understanding. We appear in the world, but are not perturbed or thrown off balance by the events of life. Once this is achieved an individual is said to be liberated or free of the monkey mind.
Now, it is not that a person must go away and live the life of a hermit in order to achieve liberation. It means to live fully in the world, while maintaining a sense of emotional balance. It’s about control and reaction. If you learn to control your mind, you control everything. This is yoga intelligence. How do we achieve this? Practice; nothing in life is achieved without practice.
Sometimes people try to run away and hide and even renounce life to be free of life’s turmoil. But you can never run away. Without emotional intellectual we can remove ourselves physically, but the mind – its thoughts and emotions – go with us forever.
As the saying goes, “you take it with you wherever you go.”
Intellect in yoga is really mental attitude. “As the mind, so the person.” It is not about changing the outside world. It is about changing your attitude towards things. If you gain control over your emotions you will never be tossed about by the outside world. Emotional intelligence reminds us that there is nothing wrong with the world; the problems begin and end within our own minds.
We can try to measure the quality of life with a high IQ, but without awareness, control, empathy and the ability to relate the mathematical equation that measures our intellect, we miss the mark. The prize does not always go to the smartest, but it does more times than not, go to the one who has the ability to keep a focus; and keeping a focus requires the application of the four components of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, empathy and relating.
Therefore, with all things in life, be aware and fully understand their nature. Manage them with empathy and understanding, and then rise above the turmoil and be at peace. With awareness you begin to understand yourself. When you understand yourself you free yourself from the entanglement of worldly emotions. In this you will find a sense of balance and you will achieve the pinnacle of yoga and emotional intelligence: peace.
How to Tell If You’re Being Controlled by Your Mind or Intellect
We make decisions every day. These decisions can fall under a few categories: ones we feel good about, ones we feel badly about, and ones that don’t make us feel anything.
The decisions we make can make our lives heaven or hell to live in because everything in this world is subject to the law of cause and effect, also known as the Law of Causation. We know what happens when we decide to drink too much alcohol one night. The next morning, we feel sick, tired, and most likely have a headache.
We won’t be able to function optimally and we suffer. Yet, even with this knowledge of the effect, people still decide to drink too much alcohol all too often. In order to understand why people do this to themselves, we have to break down the types of equipment we have as humans and better understand their functions. These understandings come from Vedanta: the ancient teachings of yoga as described in the Bhagavad Gita.
As humans, we are made up of matter and spirit. Spirit is the consciousness that gives rise to our matter. Spirit is your highest Truth. Without Spirit, there would be no matter. Our matter is comprised of three types of equipment; the body, the mind, and the intellect. The body is, of course, your physical manifestation with your organs, limbs, skin, bones, etc. This is what makes you tangible. Your mind is defined by Vedanta as the home of all your emotions like love, hate, anger, jealousy, joy, etc. It is also the home of your desires, likes, and dislikes.
Your mind is where your preferences live. And lastly, your intellect, your third and most important equipment is your ability to be objective and discern what is truth and what isn’t true based on knowledge and wisdom. Your intellect is the mature reasonable part of you that can question and think for itself when there’s adversity and when others are imposing their opinions and ideas on you. Your intellect stays centered regardless of the chaos happening externally.