We can suppress anger and aggression or act it out,
mean that the capacity to love and accept
is not there; love is always with you.”
Last week, I spent time here presenting the notion that simply "cutting loose of the storyline", the process of refocusing our awareness from discursive thought to other aspects of our experience (preferably what we are feeling in our heart), can sometimes take us from hell to heaven in the blink of an eye. (See Your Courtesy Wake Up Call: Once Upon a Time...)
Although I certainly have experienced something approximating that quite often, it's obvious I needed another round of lessons, another strong dose of humility and compassion. During the last 24 hours or so, Life has interjected a pretty dramatic bout of upset apple carts and broohaha into the Grand Mix. It's been enough to remind me that it certainly can take a bit longer than a "blink of an eye" to regain a sense of wonder about it all. It may even take what may seem like a hell of a long time.
As a child and a young man I had what folks might call an extremely bad temper. Having grown up in the midst of a lot of anger, I would react to things in my world with bursts of violent emotions -- and even physical violence. I could roar and smash things and strike out with the worst of them. Perhaps, the deepest gratitude that I have to the Practice is that I no longer am likely to inflict harm on others due to angry outbursts. (Although I can still be pretty clumsy and stupid at times. Sigh.)
Yesterday, I hit a deep pool of anger for the first time in quite awhile. Mixed with fear and pain,
there was no amount of cutting loose of the story lines was about to rapidly dispel this cauldron of emotional energy. Although it certainly helped to repeatedly allow the story lines to go their merry way without attaching much attention to them, what was called for was some patience, the willingness and ability to make some time and space to allow the anger to run its course embraced by as much mindfulness and heart as I could manage. As it was, it took me a couple of hours in the evening, then a couple more in the early morning to bring myself to the point where I felt safe to re-engage with Betsy and the rest of my life in a clear and kind way.
During that time, both Shamatha/Vipashyana and Tonglen practice seems to have afforded me the opportunity to feel and examine the nature of the patterns involved in that anger, to stay with it rather than withdraw. First in little bursts, then with a slow and gentle expansion I felt that gracious spaciousness return. Slowly I felt my heart open again.
I am so grateful to the Teachers and the Teachings that have given me at least a clue about how to work with all this.
Working with Anger: Two Good Articles
Shambala Sun, a magazine which offers a "Buddhist view for people of all spiritual traditions who are open, inquisitive, passionate and committed" has two articles that may be helpful to you if you are interested in ways to look at and work with anger (and the whole continuum of aversion). "The Answer to Anger and Aggression is Patience" by Pema Chodron and "Loosening the Knots of Anger" by Thich Nhat Hanh are both available on-line and can be quite useful.
I'm certainly grateful that Life embraces the possibility of Love, Forgiveness, and Good Will. I'm grateful that we have the means to bring that into our world individually and collectively. I'm grateful to the Practice and all it provides.