An incident yesterday, lasting less than 10 seconds, reminded me of the unstable nature of mental states. Walking home from a workout at the beach, sore and sweaty, the sun shining, not a worry in sight, feeling happy.
Turning a corner, I saw a horde of highschool students coming towards me in the boisterous and self-absorbed way so typical of that age. Emerging from their midst were four boys on skateboards, weaving in and out with little regard for pedestrians. I suddenly found myself extending my body and right shoulder into their path, clearly wishing for one of them to take a tumble. Two of us did made contact (ka-thudd!) but he rolled past me undeterred.
What happened here? I was astonished to realize once more how close anger resides below my skin and how easily I missed that split-second moment of decision-making between anger and action. (See discussion on May 1). Ezra Bayda offers a useful description of what comes next in practicing (and learning from) anger.
First … we have to realize that the very occurence of anger is our path. Anger arising is a signal for us to point the arrow of our attention inward. It’s an opportunity for us to see the ways we keep ourselves enclosed in the protective reactive shell out of which anger is born. It’s a cue for us to look at the ways we’re wanting life to meet our expectations, requirements, and desires. In order to clarify these pictures, we have to look inside, without self-justification and blame. And we need to do this with unrelenting honesty and precision.
And so the day’s work is cut out for me. As I go about my business I intend to let his words wash over me. Meanwhile, I’d be interested to hear how you practice with strong and slippery emotions. Anger, and its cousins greed and envy, seem to have a way of sneaking up when least expected. Approached Bayda’s way, they are grist for the mill of our unfolding.
source: Bayda, E. (2003). Being Zen: bringing meditation to life. Boston: Shambhala, p. 57.