Mapping Emotions

Bodily Maps of Emotions (after Prof. L.  Nummenmaa et al, Dec 2013)

Bodily Maps of Emotions
(after Prof. L. Nummenmaa et al, Dec 2013)

Imagine yourself to be the Sun God.

Think that your entire body — the face, limbs and all – is made out of the Sun-stuff, as though you are a 3-D cutout of the Sun disc.

Visualize yourself as the brilliantly shining, dazzling-to-the-eyes, bright person with boundless effulgence all around with an intensely white lustrous contour line along the edges to your shape.

(Hint:  As a first step, you may think of yourself as an astronaut completely covered in a space suit. Then imagine the suit shining like the Sun).

See the glow of yourlight (replace ‘your’ with your actual name; for example, if the name is Smith, it will be ‘smithlight’ similar to Sun’s sunlight) spreading in all directions illuminating everything around.

It is all brightness, BRIGHTNESS, and BRIGHTNESS alone and you know no ‘thing’ else.

Is there any scope for the opposite of brightness to exist in such a situation?  Can there be anything like “unbrightness”?

Will it be possible even to conceive of ‘darkness’ as the opposite of brightness?

The Sun would never ever know any darkness!

He does not have “to do” anything specially in order to be bright. He is brightness. He can’t but be bright. Brightness is just another name of his.


Advaita tells us that “Happiness” is similarly another name for “You.”

Happiness is not something that qualifies your disposition; It is what you are. You do not have to do anything specially in order to be happy.

If there cannot be anything like ‘unbrightness’, there cannot be anything like ‘unhappiness’ too.

So happiness and unhappiness are not opposites. They are not even negatively correlated; in fact, they are totally unrelated.

Happiness is not relational. It is not a quality.


We often hear statements like ‘happiness is a state of mind’ as if it is a feeling or emotion. No, it is neither.

Psychologists tell us that ‘feelings’ are private and ‘emotions’ are public.

We experience our feelings internally.  We show our ‘feelings’ through our emotions. Thus emotions are the first medium of communication in evolution even before sign language or verbal expression.

‘Happiness’ is not a state of mind. On the contrary, mind is the obscuring agent, the curtain that veils happiness!

In other words, happiness is when the mind is not!

The emotional states of the mind may take the form of sensual and related desires, anger, greed, infatuation, pride, jealousy and their variations. These have been considered as not conducive to happiness by our ancient sages. They described them symbolically as the “enemies” of happiness (“arishadvarga-s”).  So people designed ways and means to fight them. The fight is misguided. The fight becomes unending because that very fight gives strength to the emotions. The emotions veil the happiness – much like the clouds that obstruct the sunlight. Imagine yourself running along with the cloud keeping up a battle to subdue or conquer the cloud. You can be sure that you will perpetually remain under its shadow. You will never see the Sun beyond the cloud.

Whether you are from the so called developed nations in the West or from the countries in the East, different emotions show up the same way in our bodies. If you map the emotions by “coloring the bodily regions whose activity is felt to increase or decrease” with each emotion, we could get consistent results with “statistically separable bodily sensation maps” (see the figure at top left), as showed in a paper published a few days ago in a respected scientific journal.

“Emotions adjust our mental and also bodily states to cope with the challenges detected in the environment. The most common emotions trigger strong bodily sensations, and the bodily maps of these sensations were topographically different for different emotions. For example, anxiety may be experienced as pain in the chest, whereas falling in love may trigger warm, pleasurable sensations all over the body.”

These maps of the bodily emotions show to us the possible nooks and corners in the body where the different emotions could persist even after one understands at an intellectual level the advaita teaching that “You” yourself are the Existence-Consciousness-Happiness (satchidAnanda).

What is to be done then?  Simply notice the various emotions arising and do not pay any further attention to them. They will eventually wither away on their own for lack of attention. Just as the bright Sun shining behind the clouds is the very reason that you could see the clouds, the self-effulgent true “You” is the reason that you are able to notice these emotions. Just as the Sun never stopped shining, the real “You” were never away from you. So be That Awareness because of which you have been able to be aware of the varying sensations in the body. That Awareness is unaffected by the changing sensations in the body and realize that you are That unchanging Awareness which is a synonym for Happiness.

The passing cloud is neither the opposite nor the enemy of the Sun. The ever shining Sun does not know darkness.

The changing emotion in the body is neither the opposite nor the enemy of Happiness. True Happiness does not know sorrow.