Yesterday, a podcast of a weekly radio show, made me think about how nature can structure balance and knowledge in our life. The show I was listening to was NPR’s This American Life. There’s usually a theme to each episode and a variety of stories on that theme. They are mostly true stories about everyday people.
This week’s show was about people who were held hostage in various ways. The last segment was about a man who held captive by love. Matt, a 39-year-old professor and neuroscientist, has strange attacks during which his muscles get heavy, he loses control and is eventually unable to move. These attacks can last up to two hours and can happen several times a day. He has fallen down stairs, cannot drive, and police and paramedics have had to come to his aid many times. Matt has narcolepsy with cataplexy. Over a million people suffer from this disease, which causes a sudden loss of muscle control while awake. The attacks are usually triggered by strong positive emotions. So for the last four years, whenever Matt experiences compassion, happiness, love or other positive feelings, he becomes completely paralyzed. He can’t even pet a puppy without collapsing.
This disease has affected his marriage, his family and social life. To adapt, Matt has trained himself to be like a robot. He doesn’t engage himself emotionally. He tries to enjoy things less and keeps a lid on his enthusiasm. On the radio show he explains that no matter how hard he tries to control his environment and emotions, he can’t avoid happiness. It finds him no matter what.
I have no idea what Matt’s karma is, but his reaction is extreme. Yet strong emotions do overwhelm most people. They just get paralyzed in less obvious ways. Experiences are often a portal, an opportunity to bring us back into balance and give us wisdom. We usually think that part of spiritual development is not getting un-centered when feelings or situations we consider negative arise. Rarely do we make this assumption when it comes to feelings we enjoy.
Sri Sri has often explained that the peak of all feeling takes you inward. Being centered is realizing the source of joy is not in the objects or people outside, it is within. It seems that if someone was in touch with their source of joy at all times, they wouldn’t be thrown off when a strong emotion is triggered from outside. It would be no more than the ripple of a wave across the ocean.