The Middle Path of Crying

by Kumāra Bhikkhu, The Buddhist Channel, 28 April 2023

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- When we are overwhelmed by emotion, crying is normal and human. However, some people make the matter complicated.

Some force themselves not to cry. They may succeed, but only the crying stops; the emotion remains. It is merely suppressed. After some time, they may forget about it, and might think that they’re done with the matter.

However, when they are relaxed and their mind quietens, the emotion arises again. This may happen only after a long time, which explains why some people find themselves crying for no apparent reason.

Some, on the other hand, don’t have any issue of suppressing crying; they have an issue of overdoing it. They love to cry. By this, I don’t mean those who cry easily. By this, I mean those who really enjoy crying.

You may have met some of them. When they cry, they don’t want to stop. They may even deliberately think of something sad so that they can cry.

Both of these are unhealthy responses to crying. What then would be the healthy response? What would be the middle path in regard to crying?

If you need to cry, cry. It’s a healthy way to release strong emotions, but that's all it does. Crying doesn’t liberate you from its causes. To be liberated from them, you need to understand them. Otherwise, they remain, and you may unknowingly continue to strengthen them.

As a spiritual teacher, I’m in the business of ending suffering—my own and others’. In the course of my spiritual practice, I learn that crying happens when the mind is ready to touch unhealed emotional wounds. That takes composure and wisdom. As such, it’s a sign of spiritual progress.

But that’s not enough for me. I want to make use of those opportunities to understand the underlying causes and conditions for the crying. For only when I understand them can I be released from them.

So, how can we make use of those opportunities for better understanding? Two principles of Dhamma practice are relevant here: right view and right attitude.

It’s important to see crying as a natural phenomenon. It happens when the causes and conditions are there for it to happen. Crying is neither good nor bad. Crying is just crying. That’s right view.

It’s also important to neither try to prevent or stop it, nor try to make it happen or prolong it. That’s right attitude.

With right view and right attitude in place, you can step back and just let crying happen naturally. You become the observer. You become interested.

You can see the crying. You can see the emotion behind the crying. You may even see the perception or idea behind all that, though perhaps not right from the start. You just need to be interested.

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