Emotional Rescue by Dzogchen Ponlop

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche
Title: Emotional Rescue: How to Work with Your Emotions to Transform Hurt and Confusion into Energy that Empowers You
Author: Dzogchen Ponlop
Published: Tarcher / Penguin
Release Date: 19 April, 2016
Pages: 180

Emotional Rescue, as the detailed title suggests, deals with the subject of emotions and how one can use emotions to live meaningfully and happily. So many times we get swayed by emotions and often wish we hadn’t done what we end up doing. The book looks at emotions in a very positive way, and explains not only how emotions work and affect us, but also how one can use them to transform their outlook.

The process seems simple, like most important things are. It has been broadly divided into three phases (or steps) that not only help you understand your emotions better but also, if you use this knowledge and practice it, to be more aware of them when they come up, and being able to work with them effectively (which here means being able to control your 'reaction', in word, action and thought, to those emotions). The three steps are:

1. Mindful Gap: Look – The first step deals with making oneself 'aware' of emotions as they rise. Observing them. Trying not to react as soon as you feel something. As we pause, it creates a gap or space, even if it is for a second, which gives time for emotions to run their course and give one enough breathing room. Being more mindful/watchful of what we do and what we feel brings clarity and makes one more attentive. The book tells us how to bring about this 'mindful gap'. It is more about attaining self-knowledge than anything else, and oh, how that helps!

2. Clear Seeing: Explore-- It is about getting to the big picture once you've seen the individual things in step 1. You are aware of not only what you feel but also what else is around you and how you affect them. When you begin seeing the big picture, you form patterns in your relationships (those formed with the world). You are able to 'see' the impact of those emotions as and when they rise, and you can respond more skilfully to what's happening around. It involves a good deal of reflection so you also see the hidden emotions.

3. Letting Go: Relax-- This is about the practice of letting go of your negative emotions. It is not about rejecting your feelings and emotions, or avoiding them, but to welcome them as they are while being aware of them and knowing what they are (step 1 and 2). How can you look at so much energy (because that's what it is) as a potential creative one?

You'll find ideas and steps you can take to avoid unnecessary confrontations--at home or at work. There are tips for dealing with difficult people and with conflicts in relationships. The author encourages you to look at emotions in a healthy way, step back from them in the process, but also to keep them as a creative force.

The situations described are easy to understand and universally relatable. When you're in the first phase of the book, you're drawn into it, nodding your head at nearly every page because you GET IT. You are shown what you can be, how you can help yourself, what the ideal situation is, but it takes some more time (and pages) to actually get down to it. However, that's a pattern. Don't stop reading, but be persistent. The author is first ensuring that you are made aware of your emotions enough before spoonfeeding you the correct dose.

But again, I find there is no 'correct dose' for such things. It mostly depends on how you see it or how you work with it. I'm glad the author points that out too. There are no views of an ideal situation without being realistic; it could take a lot of time and practice, because emotions are such difficult things to deal with (at least that is how we see them). The author mentions early on how we tend to assume ‘emotions’ as negative. There are positive ones too, but because the negative ones cause us most distress, the book talks about those.

The book then goes on to suggest exercises to get you to follow the three steps. Those exercises are mostly to make you aware of yourself, but they are very much workable. They are detailed, and not exactly a step-by-step 'how to' process, but by making you reflect and get in that mind frame. There's a Part 2 of the book that talks about a Buddhist approach to emotions, which is similar to what has been described in the book but talks about it from the perspective of Buddhism.

Emotional Rescue encourages you to think, reflect, re-read and search for answers within yourself instead of hand-holding you through the process. It will help you identify your emotions, especially the ones that disturb you, help you think about them in a useful way, to begin to see them in a clear light, and tell you what to do with them. That's as much as a book, text or lecture can do. I'm quite glad that, like a lot of self-help/philosophy books do, it does not loudly proclaim that you can win at life if you do so-and-so things. In a very real way, it 'helps'. That is what one actually needs.

The writing style is clear, easy to understand, and very engaging. There's not much you will find out of your range. The book is also not too long. There's only so much you can talk about emotions, and explaining in detail the three steps I mentioned above. It can be read in a flow without seeming to get boring, which is a rare thing for books in this category (or maybe I was too keen to know how to be emotionally rescued, the topic being close to home and all). I thought of it as a positive coincidence that I got this book just when I could do with some guidance on the emotions front. I joked, "If this book helps me, it'll get a 5 star rating." That was a funny idea, but a novice one. Like the author suggests, transformation cannot happen suddenly. You have to practice these steps. BUT. Ever since I started reading it (not only when I finished it, mind), I have been able to pause and reflect before reacting, and thus have had minor confrontations where otherwise there might have been huge blow-ups. I think that’s a start. I plan to follow the ideas and exercises mentioned in this book, and will add later what came out of it!

Recommended for: Anyone looking to learn more about emotions and how you can regain control of them. Suitable for all ages—early teens to major adults.

About the author: Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche is a leading Buddhist teacher in North America. Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche was recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa as a reincarnate lama of the Nyingma tradition. He is the founder and president of Nalandabodhi, an international network of Buddhist study and meditation centers, and of Nitartha International. Rinpoche is most active at Nalanda West, in Seattle, Washington, which offers public programs by teachers from many traditions that support a meaningful, contemplative life. His previous books include Rebel Buddha: A Guide to a Revolution of Mind.

Note: This book was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.