mean that the capacity to love and accept
is not there; love is always with you.”
Once you hitch your wagon to Practice and roll out, you are going to get the lessons along the way that are needed to take you deeper --whether you like it or not! This might be especially true if you have the unbridled chutzpah to publicly ramble on about your experiences.
More than once here in this blog, I've spent time presenting the notion that simply "cutting loose of the storyline," is the ultimate fix. When we have enough presence of mind to refocus our attention from the realm of discursive thought to explore what is going on in our breath, body, and heart, sometimes hell dissolves and heaven is revealed in the blink of an eye. (See Your Courtesy Wake Up Call: Once Upon a Time...)
The operative word here is -- sometimes.
As the years roll by and the Practice deepens, I have experienced an instantaneous transformation quite often. Yet, during the last past week, Life has interjected a pretty dramatic bevy of upset apple carts and broohahas into the Grand Mix. It seems a bit of Karmic Comeuppance was necessary. Hopefully, getting my tail burned with my own anger will burnish my humility and compassion a bit. It's certainly been enough to remind me that it can take a lot of work and a whole lot longer than a "blink of an eye" to learn something from a situation -- and regain a sense of wonder about it all.
Being a calm and kind, clear and compassionate, human being is NOT that easy. It is a daunting discipline. It takes commitment, courage, patience, skill, time and effort. It takes Practice.
Then and Now
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 and physical violence, I would react to things in my world with bursts of violent emotions -- and even violent behavior. Throughout childhood, I could fly into a rage and smash things and strike out with the worst of them. My kid brother and I fought like cats and dogs. Our last furniture breaking brawl took place when I was in college.
It would still take years to quell those patterns.
Perhaps, the deepest gratitude that I have to the Practice is that I am no longer likely to get extremely angry. Annoyance and irritation usually is about as bad as it gets. I'm grateful that it usually doesn't spill out of my mouth without immediate recognition and re-calibration.
Yet, life being life, usually doesn't mean never. Recently, I hit a deep pool of anger for the first time in quite awhile. I was angry. Really angry. Thankfully, after launching a few unkind words, I withdrew. ( I wish I had withdrawn before I launched those misguided missles, but, obviously there were deeper lessons to be learned.)
I soon found out that merely cutting loose of the story lines wasn't going to dispel the emotional energy. Although it certainly helped to repeatedly allow the story lines to go their merry way without attaching much attention to them, the cauldron of emotional energy seethed on.
I discovered that this would call for some patience. I had to summon up the willingness to make some time and space to really feel that anger. I needed to allow the anger to run its course embraced by as much mindfulness and heart as I could manage. As it was, I had the liberty to pull the plug and observe last week's personal Day of Mindfulness before re-engaging.
During that time, hours of Shamatha/Vipashyana and Tonglen practice helped. I was able to feel and examine the nature of the patterns involved in that anger, to feel it in my body, to stay with it rather than withdraw. It wasn't a "quick fix." I had to accept that I wasn't St. George. I was the freakin' dragon. I had to breath fire for awhile.
Yet, over time, in the clear, kind, and compassionate embrace of mindful awareness, staying with the bodily sensations and feelings in my heart, the anger began to morph into bursts of fear, pain, discouragement, and a profound sadness. Then, at a certain point, the tears emerged.
I felt my heart open again.
At that point, grief and gratitude were indistinguishable. Taking a deep breath, adrift in a boundless and mysterious sense of well-being, I relaxed. I saw clearly, once again, that we are each Bozo and each Buddha. Embracing both, the incredible beauty of our fragile majesty as interconnected human beings once again emerged.
There were rainbows playing through my tears as the sun streamed in the window.
Working with Anger: Two Good Articles
There is a long tradition of developing the skillful means to work with anger in many of the schools of Buddhism. The Lion's Roar, a magazine which offers a "Buddhist view for people of all spiritual traditions who are open, inquisitive, passionate and committed" has two articles available on-line that offer 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 may be helpful. Even if anger isn't "your thing", you may find these articles helpful in working with other powerful emotional energies.
Sitting here at age 74, having been fortunate enough to stumble across similar teachings decades ago, I can say from my own experience: We can move beyond our conditioned patterns.
With commitment, effort over time, and great gentleness we can open our hearts to the Love, Forgiveness, and Good Will inherent in our species. It's worth the time and effort.
It just takes Practice.