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Mindful : June 2014
June 2014 mindful 55 Anger is a complex and fascinating emo- tion. We can be sitting quietly, apparently calm, and then the trigger comes—“You know, you never...”—and before you know it, Mount Vesuvius erupts. Lava is spew- ing every where. People are ducking and running for the hills. Or maybe your anger is the more slow-burn style that seethes and bubbles beneath the sur face, only erupting in tiny bursts of snarkiness. Anger is fier y. Even when it’s cold, it requires a lot of energy, like a refrigeration system. When we pay attention to how it feels in our body, we might notice a knot ty stomach, a clenched fist or jaw, tightness in our chest. We may notice that the state of anger can strongly tint our thoughts, and we interpret the world through the lens of our rejecting state of mind. We are sending out the message: “Get out!” Deep within the anger, we may be stor- ing feelings of inadequacy that cause us to see threats and injustices where no real threats exist. It helps to uncover and uproot these feelings and deeply held false views. At the same time, anger can have beneath it a wise and power ful protectiveness, like the hovering presence of a mama bear or a wise judge enforcing justice in the face of racism and other ills and evils. But it’s usually very hard to defend what is right or necessary without throwing a little resent- ment into the mix. We can ut ter a clear “no” when a child throws some food in a sibling’s face, but maybe (under our breath) we throw in, “You little brat.” Refining our emotions can involve shaving things pret ty fine. The old R&B tune got it right: “It’s a thin line bet ween love and hate.” Rich, complex, and power ful, anger ben- efits from contemplative time and investi- gation. There’s lots to learn about what’s going on beneath our outbursts. Practice EXPLORING AGGRESSION In a moment when you NOTICE yourself feeling angry and aggressive, turn your at tention to the feeling. Where is it in your body? What is going on? Breathe mindfully for a few breaths as you notice your body sensations change. LISTEN for your thoughts without adding to the inner dialogue, or trying to silence your thoughts. What are your thoughts saying? When you’re offended, you’re usually holding onto a Anger It can be one of the ugliest emotions. It can ruin any situation. If it lurks deep inside and curdles, it can make us sick. It also has awesome power. rigid definition of yourself and what you can accommodate, so ask yourself “who” is offended. WHY? It can take some patience to stick with the unpleasant feelings, but remind yourself to COME BACK to observing the anger in this moment with self-compassion and discover what your anger has to teach you. If you like, you can finish with an ASPIRATION for yourself, something that will also take out some of the self-involve- ment. You can say to your- self silently, “May I find the resources to understand and transform my anger,” or “May I take care of the pain I’m feeling and care for the pain in others.”