"Mindfulness Practice isn't just about escaping to some magical inner realm devoid of life's challenges. The Practice is about calming your mind and opening your heart enough to engage Life directly, to be more fully Present in a kind, clear, and helpful way."

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call:
Musings on Life and Practice
by a Longtime Student of Meditation

Saturday, October 22, 2022

ARGH!!!

We can suppress anger and aggression or act it out, 
either way making things worse for ourselves and others.
Or we can practice patience: wait,
experience the anger and investigate its nature.
---Pema Chodron


“Just because anger or hate is present does not
mean that the capacity to love and accept
is not there; love is always with you.”
---Thich Nhat Hanh


The Universe is exquisite.  

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 story line," is an immediate fix to disturbing emotions.  I've found that when I have the presence of mind to expand the sphere of my attention from the realm of discursive thought to include what is going on in my 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 such an instantaneous transformation quite often.  Yet, it seems a bit of Karmic Comeuppance was necessary.  A few weeks ago, I found myself swirled up in an angry outburst for the first time in a couple of years.  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.  

The lesson?  
 
For some of us, 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 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.  Even then, there is usually an immediate recognition, and I'm able to come into the moment with a deeper sense of openness and relaxation.

Yet, life being life, usually doesn't mean never.  A few weeks ago, I dove into a deep pool of anger for the first time in quite awhile.  I was angry.  Really angry.  I could feel it in the muscles of my jaw, in my torso over the course of a minute or so.  Then, as I launched an explosive "F*# @  Y#@! You're driving me crazy!!!' the look on my beloved Migdalia's face was enough to wake me up.  I knew that she wasn't "driving me crazy."  I was.  My own deep conditioning had spun me out.  I had gotten deeply attached to my own point of view.  It was time to pause, withdraw, and re-calibrate.  (Thankfully, Migdalia helped that process by refusing to engage in even my toned-down defense of my self-centered position.  It wasn't just my own effort that helped save the day.)
 
(READ MORE)
Breathing Fire

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 choose to let the story lines go their merry way without attaching much attention to them, the cauldron of emotional energy seethed on for awhile.  I had to summon up the willingness to make some time and space to feel that anger in my body, to closely examine the nature of the patterns involved.  
 
It wasn't a "quick fix."  Deeply attached, the emotional energy surged on.  I was angry at myself for being angry.  Opening to that, 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 and Tonglen meditation, staying with the bodily sensations and breathing through the feelings in my heart, the anger began to morph into bursts of fear, pain, humiliation, 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 in the Heart of Awareness, the incredible beauty of our fragile majesty as interconnected human beings once again emerged.    

There were rainbows dancing 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 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 76, 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, patient 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.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

❤️

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this topic. I have been struggling with an anger inside myself recently. I have found the links to the Lion's Roar articles very enlightening and realize I have experienced many of the stages of acceptance and patience, but did not have a name for them.
A grateful reader.

Judith said...

Glad I read the whole post. When I become angered, which is rarely these days, I feel a sense of disappointment in my self. Call it ego or some such. And I realize I have a ways to go to embody that intangible inner peace. It is a journey and at 82 I am glad I have been given the time to continue down the path.