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Mindful : October 2013
74 mindful October 2013 in practice insight As we lea rn more effective ways to stop and step out of intense feelings of a nger, we immediately empower ourselves to look a bit closer at the causes and conditions that are creating a nd sustain- ing our feelings of anger and aversion. Once on a meditation retreat, I experienced a period of practice filled with such intense anger a nd violent images they actually fright- ened me. When I asked the teacher for help, he told me to look more deeply. “Beneath anger is fear,” he said. “Beneath fear is a fixed belief. What is the belief that is driv- ing your fear and anger?” An approach recommended by therapists and mindfulness teachers alike is to ask our- selves if the frightening belief underlying our anger a nd fear is actually true. It is helpful to ask ourselves, “Am I in danger in this moment? Why? How?” I call this analysis the “structure of anger,” and I have found it a very useful approach to understanding the causes a nd conditions supporting and sustaining anger in me. Interestingly, the approach works equally well for anger at a horrific externa l event such as the Boston Marathon bombings, or for an irritating encounter with a stranger on the street. All that ’s required is to stop and look at the feeling deeply and mindfully, inquiring and listening with a spirit of curiosity. Here is a meditation prac- tice you could use to under- stand the structure of anger. PRACTICE: WHAT IS MAKING ME ANGRY? When you notice anger, irrita- tion, or stronger feelings such as rage or hatred arising in you, stop and take some time to be more mindful of them. Apply steady attention on your body by feeling the shift- ing sensations as you move or the subtler interior ones if you are sitting still. Resting your attention on your breathing, take a few mindful breaths, noticing the different sensa- tions as the in-breath and the out-breath come and go in various places in your body. You don’t have to do anything special. Just relax and trust your awareness to notice. Allow yourself to rest in that awareness. When attention steadies and you can feel the sensa- tions of your body or your breath more clearly, ask some simple questions while resting in awareness: What is upsetting about this situa- tion? What am I thinking that is worrying or frightening me? What is making me angry, sad, or disappointed right now? Practice without judging yourself or needing to fix anything. Breathing with awareness, offer your mindful questions with a spirit of curiosity, listening gently for any response that your nat- ural intelligence and wisdom produces in response to your questions. → Understanding Your Anger