6

Recognizing the Trouble

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Motivation

Whatever my virtuous deeds may be,
Venerating buddhas, generosity and so on,
Amassed over a thousand aeons--
All are destroyed in a moment of anger.

Shantideva starts with a bang! A moment of anger, he says, can destroy a lifetime of good deeds. Can this be?

reflect

Think of a time when your lashing out in anger disrupted what seemed to that point to be a harmonious relationship. One minute there' was love and friendship; the next minute it feels like the flash of anger negated months or years of positive feeling. Think of a time when someone you trusted lashed out in anger. Even with an apology, how did the anger affect your trust?


There is no evil as harmful as anger,
No discipline as effective as patience,
Thus by all possible means I should
Cultivate patience with intensity.

Yes, there are many destructive emotions: there is conceit, arrogance, jealousy, desire, lust, closed-mindedness, and so on. But anger has a place all its own in terms of its harmfulness, both to our wish to be good-hearted and to our calmness and clarity of mind.

What discipline can we identify as a path to transcending anger? The opposite of anger ultimately is love and compassion, the will to help others not to suffer and to be happy. But we know we just can’t make this happen. We need a middle way, and that way is tolerance, patience, forbearance. And forgiveness.

reflect

When you are harmed, or think you are, how hard does it seem to you to be able to actually tolerate the irritation, be patient with the harm, forbear from reacting, and even forgive the injury?


Recognizing how difficult even this middle way is for us, we see how much we need the positive resolve is to cultivate tolerance and patience.

Keeping the mind wounded by anger,
I will never experience peace.
I will have no joy or happiness,
Will lose my sleep, writhing with frustration.

reflect

When you are harmed, or think you are, how hard does it seem to you to be able to actually tolerate the irritation, be patient with the harm, forbear from reacting, and even forgive the injury?

We think of being wounded by other people’s anger. How about how your anger wounds you?

Can you remember being so consumed with angry thoughts – of being wronged or hurt or ignored or insulted – that you have lost your peace of mind? Have you been unable to sleep because of angry thoughts?


reflect

Do you know how anger feels in your body? One problem with our being consumed with anger is that we don’t recognize it. Perhaps we just take it for granted. So it can help to make an effort to experience and recognize the physical discomfort of anger.


Here’s a meditation Pema Chodron suggests:

reflect

If 
you've been angry, you can intentionally replay the whole story.
 Pay attention to your feelings and thoughts. Are they obsessive and
repetitive? Do they fuel your grudges or judgments? Then, while
gently breathing in and out, take the feeling of anger as the focus
of your meditation. Give it your full attention, without moving
away from it by repressing or acting it out. Try to experience the
anger nonverbally by getting to know its qualities. What color is
it? What temperature? How does it smell or taste? This practice
 puts us in touch with emotions very directly and lessens the sense
 of struggle.
 quote


Feeling how awful anger feels can motivate you to work
 on transforming anger.