and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and
is not easy. Aristotle
I've just returned from the 5-week retreat on Cultivating Emotional Balance Teacher Training (CEBTT) in Australia, there is much to reflect on and process. My last blog introduced this training. Cultivating Emotional Balance, or CEB, was developed by Dr.’s Paul Ekman and B. Alan Wallace. Their main objectives are to address imbalances arising in our emotional states that cause harm to oneself and others, and to teach methods that cultivate exemplary levels of mental health based in empathy, loving-kindness and compassion.
My personal experience in this retreat was unparalleled by any other retreat or training experience I have had throughout my educational history. Not because I’m ranking or comparing, but because I see the deeply transformative fruits of these teachings which everyone would find of benefit, if applied. It is with the motivation to be of guidance that I write this blog and hold the desire to bring CEB to our community.
CEB is a 42-hour training course designed to teach methods for cultivating a balanced and wholesome emotional life. The course covers the latest in the science of emotions along with long established contemplative methods for developing a life of genuine flourishing. Of course, once through the program, it is essential to continue the daily practices. It’s no different than exercise. If you stop, the results stop. Our mind is like a muscle and the more we engage certain types of mental states such as compassion, loving-kindness, empathy, joy, and serenity, the more we reside within those states, especially when the going gets tough. And certainly the inverse is true. Mental states that are destructive only become stronger when reinforced, increasing the misery we experience.
To establish a life of emotional wellbeing, it’s helpful to look at the four domains, within CEB, that facilitate the development of emotional balance. These are defined as the ‘conative’ (or intentional), ‘attentional’, ‘cognitive’ and ‘affective’ aspects of mental life. Within each of these domains CEB promotes practices that cultivate an intelligence, if you will, which can be fine tuned just like an instrument. To fine tune the instrument of our mind, we need to know what music we wish to play (conation), hold that tune in mind (attention) and with the help of a good ear (cognition), produce a harmonious and richly rewarding affective experience (emotion). Based on a wholesome ethical foundation, our minds have the capacity to be fine-tuned with qualities of clarity, stability and quiescence.
When speaking about balance, we are also speaking to it’s opposite, imbalance. If any of these domains slips from balance, they may tip into deficits, hyperactivities, and dysfunctions. Each of these imbalances give rise to distinct mental states that disrupt our ability to experience genuine happiness. As one cultivates methods for addressing these imbalances through contemplative practices, balance may be re-established.
Ultimately, we seek emotional balance because it points in the direction of happiness. Something each of us seek each day. It’s why we say things like, “It will make me happy, if….”, “I only want to be happy”, “once I finish this…..I’ll be happy”, etc… Yet once we look boldly at these statements, we see they are wishes, hopes, desires and aspirations for “people, places, and things” outside of us. CEB, at it’s core, is about Eudaimonia, or well-being, and to realize this kind of genuine happiness CEB points in the opposite direction from ‘out-there’ to ‘in-here’. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, defined eudaimonia as “being at the work of the soul in accordance with the highest virtue”. This is the essence of CEB. In the words of Lao Tzu:
“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”.
Stay tuned for more……and may you each be happy and know the causes of that happiness.