It is typical to understand many Zen masters as teaching that we should aim to be above such things as emotions.  Taking everything in one’s stride, finding the balanced path between extremes.  Neither getting over excited or happy, nor angry and frustrated.

After looking at such teaching for many years now I believe that the point of such teaching has two reason.  First is to learn a great measure of control over one’s emotions.  If you can learn to practice archery with an aim on feeling neither elated if you hit the target, nor disappointed if you miss, you’ll certainly keep your head in a real battle; staying focused and calm, shooting carefully with perhaps a cavalry charge coming straight at you.  The second teaching I believe is that it is in the attempt, you discover the realisation that, while some control is possible, you can’t and shouldn’t try, because in fact the suppression of your emotions is impossible.  In much the same way that trying to not think of something is impossible.  You can choose one thought instead of another and, as in some forms of meditation, you can keep a tight focus like holding a spring closed until the tension gets too much and it explodes in all directions and none.  But you can’t pick one thing and focus on not thinking it.  So with emotions, you can deliberately supress or replace one with another.  While you can’t, for example, focus on fear to stop fear, you can however choose to interpret the physiological experience as excitement instead.  Notice that if this control is not done deliberately, your mind can do it in very unhealthy ways.  The suppression of an emotion without choosing a healthy way for that energy to be expressed is like keeping the lid on a pressure cooker indefinitely; no one wants to be around when that finally blows.  The emotional energy of a suppressed emotion need to be vented either deliberately in an emotion of your choice or will be vented in random way, sometimes with surprising and shocking results.

No, no and a hundred times no. Have them all, emotions are literally the spice of life.  We are emotional beings and without them we are flat, depressed and life becomes meaningless.  What is the point without them?  If you ask anyone what they hope, strive or aim for, they will end up saying something like, happiness, harmony, peace, empowerment, satisfaction or love.  Even a goal like contentment, which sounds very low key and not at all that exciting, is in fact an emotional experience and can be a very intense emotional experience.  Living life to the full means experiencing all the emotions.  Learning to let go of persistent negative emotions, those that cling like a bad smell, and learning to choose a different, healthier direction for emotions as the form.  That is true freedom.  It is freedom from the negative emotions of the past and freedom to enjoy this moment without fear of the future.

Balance means having great love and great grief, great anger and great joy, great excitement and great contentment.  All of these are appropriate in their own place and time.  Balance is not about being in the center, flat, feeling nothing strongly.  That would be inhuman.  Balance is the sun on the side of a mountain, followed by the shade of the storm.  It is loving so strongly that the grief of loss is almost unbearable.  It is feeling the joy of feasting with friends so much that the suffering and want of others causes you rage and fury.

Balance is flowing with the constant cycles in life, being able to fully enter into each phase, completing the transitions from one to another without getting stuck in any.