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anger at the gate

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Following yesterday’s morning meditation some of us stayed behind for a cup of ginger tea. When I asked, “How’s your practice?” someone said that sitting at home has been difficult recently. I feel anger rising; I can barely sit for five or ten minutes. “And how was it today, sitting here as a group?” That was different, I felt loved; no anger. 

“What do you do when anger arises?” I get frustrated, thinking I should be able to control it. But it doesn’t work; I get even more angry. “Now angers multiplies: first it arises from somewhere within, then more is generated by being annoyed with it.”

“Have you tried to welcome anger and frustration?” I knew you’d ask. (smiles). I don’t know how I can welcome them: I don’t want them, they’re unpleasant. “When we say ‘welcome everything’ we’re not condoning anger or denying that it’s bothersome. We’re not saying O Good, I Feel Anger. Instead, we practice turning resistance into reception. Much like spying unpleasant guests at the door and, instead of hiding behind the sofa and hoping they go away, inviting them in.”

You mean simply allowing feelings and sensations to be? Not to fight them? How do you do that? “When I notice resisting I acknowledge that I’m resisting. As in: I’m getting pissed of at [something/someone] and, in addition, I getting annoyed at myself for letting this bother me.” And then …? “And then I escort my attention to the next breath — lovingly and gently — and become aware of where and how this sensation I call ‘anger’ is located. I get out of my head and into my body; away from fighting anger to meeting it.”

“Whether we suppress or express our anger.” writes Ezra Bayda, “in neither case do we ever clarify it, nor do we really experience it. Even when we’re caught up in expressing anger, we’re rarely in touch with its energy. We are so lost in the juicesness of believing our thoughts and in blaming, that we don’t experience the anger. In fact, one of anger’s functions seems to be that it allows us to avoid facing what’s really happening. What are we avoiding?”

source: Bayda, E. (2002). Being Zen: bringing meditation into life. Boston: Shambhala, p. 57.

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4 responses »

  1. I sometimes wonder if using phrases like “welcoming” when it comes to anger just trips people even more. It’s easy for some to get into “Oh, I can’t feel welcoming, so I must be a failure” type thought patterns. I’ve seen it in some at my zen center.

    “You mean simply allowing feelings and sensations to be? Not to fight them? How do you do that? ”When I notice resisting I acknowledge that I’m resisting. As in: I’m getting pissed of at [something/someone] and, in addition, I getting annoyed at myself for letting this bother me.” And then …? “And then I escort my attention to the next breath — lovingly and gently — and become aware of where and how this sensation I call ‘anger’ is located. I get out of my head and into my body; away from fighting anger to meeting it.”” This seems to be a more neutral approach. Watching, letting be, exploring with no agenda.

    To me, welcoming might be a great approach, but it still seems to be have an agenda behind it, and also can be a set up for more trouble, if one can’t let go of welcoming itself.

    Reply
    • agree, nathan. much depends on how this ‘welcoming practice’ is approached. always as an option, a possibility, as something to experiment with. language and tone matters (as you know so well).

      methinks that everything’s got “an agenda behind it” — what matters is intention: to be of service, to assist self and others to awaken.

      peter

      p.s. as always, thank you for your thoughts, nathan. how do you manage to accomplish so much each day? i adore your writing at http://dangerousharvests.blogspot.com/.

      Reply
  2. This reminds me of a Buddhist story I am extremely fond of. “Inviting the Demon” is about a Tibetan yogin Milarepa who, when confronted with his demons, welcomes them and invites them to stay- thus eradicating his fear and denial and destroying their presence in his life. It is only through his ability to welcome the demons (anger, negative feelings) than he is able to destroy them.
    You can read more here: http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-EPT/simm.htm

    Reply
  3. may i suggest a slight re-write of the last sentence … 🙂 … less “to destroy” than to “to diffuse by not-reacting.” thanks for sending this story and link from the Tibetan tradition, Lysa.

    Reply

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