"Here is a list of some of the most important [emotions that feed the heart]: wonder, awe, gratitude, joy, compassion, forgiveness, humility, kindness, hope, reverence, devotion, inspiration, contentment, humor, courage.
"Because when we feel them we are close to the source, we could almost think of all these emotions as nuances or gradations of Love: each is a specific quality that arises when Love illuminates a particular facet of life. For example, awe can be thought of as the form that Love takes when it shines through the prism of mystery. You may experience it in a moment when you look up at the sky and feel your chest expand, as the Love that you are recognizes itself in the form of immensity and transcendence.
"These are some of the nuances that illuminate each of the essential emotions:
Awe: love plus perception of mystery.
Joy: love plus delight.
Compassion: love plus empathy for suffering.
Gratitude: love plus perception of grace.
Appreciation: love plus recognition of virtue.
Hope: love plus a sense of meaning.
Forgiveness: love plus acceptance of fallibility.
Kindness: love plus desire for the happiness of others.
Humility: love plus transcendence of ego.
Reverence: love plus admiration.
Wonder: love plus appreciation of beauty.
Vitality: love plus vigor of body and soul.
Devotion: love plus commitment and surrender to someone or something.
Inspiration: love plus an influx of spiritual energy.
Contentment: love plus peace.
Humor: love plus appreciation of the absurd.
Courage: love plus strength and conviction.
"What is the common thread that runs through all these emotions? All of them pull us out of the stuffy corners of the mind and connect us to a reality greater than our circumstances. They do not coexist for long with afflictive emotions, which are defensive by nature, but rather tend to displace them. By reminding us that we are not just our minds, bodies or stories, but part of an immeasurably greater reality the emotions of the heart produce a strange kind of joy that cannot be fabricated by artifice nor lost by a simple change of luck.
"Like fear and anger, the emotions of compassion and gratitude are rooted in the limbic brain. But, at the same time, they appear to be in a category of their own. Essential emotions seem to be the north star of evolution. They evolved later in the history of our species, and appear to be pointing the way forward. Not only do they facilitate flexible, creative, integrated and efficient thinking, and activate the parasympathetic nervous system (bringing us serenity and relaxation), but they are also the mark of emotional maturity. In childhood, youth and early adulthood, we dedicate much of our energy to developing and strengthening our ego, and dedicate much of our energy to developing and strengthening our ego, and defensive emotions are necessary for this process. In the second half of life or the second adulthood, if all goes well, emotions such as anger, jealousy and envy become less frequent and intense, giving way to deeper impulses, which are closer to the heart and to our higher selves. It's not that the ego ceases to exist, by any means, but it becomes progressively subservient to the soul.
"A curious fact: although all emotions are contagious by nature, essential emotions also have an 'uplifting' effect: the mere fact of witnessing them, even without participating in them directly, opens the heart and expands vision. How do you feel when you see a teenager helping an old man cross the street? Or when you read about someone who puts his life in danger to save another? Or even when you watch a movie where love triumphs against all odds? How does your chest feel at such moments? What is the expression on your face? At those moments, what is your perception of the ultimate nature of life?"