Mindfulness vs Anger
Anger: enmity, ire, irritation, rage...we all experience anger but for many of us, the detritus of the emotion piles up over minutes, days, weeks and years and then what? We need only to think about the week that has just ended for some examples where a comment, a person, or a conversation evoked an angry response in us. The question is not whether or not we ever feel the consequences of rage but rather what do we do with that sudden, unstoppable flash of agitation which can completely engulf us- as if something deep within us is sliced open.
For many, perhaps the majority of those of us living today, we stuff it: Early on, a parent or priest or teacher admonished us severely enough that we became the most consummate of actresses and learned to pretend. We paste a smile on our face if we're female or a neutral one if male and become adept at filling ourselves with the unexpressed and the unreconciled.
Is anger truly an emotion? Reaction seems a better noun than does emotion, doesn't it? And that is how we are socialized. Think, The American Sniper, or more recently, Midway...I am coming to believe that war is, fundamentally, institutionalized rage.
The reactions of anger and rage are provoked for 'good' reasons:
Betrayal, injustice, disrespect are only a few of the events which can be transformed by an individual...or a nation to anger and rage. The questions becomes then, what do we do? How do we handle the racing heart rate and sudden red lens of our vision? Do we smile and move on or vow revenge?
Personally, I believe that pretense is toxic. Pretending that the betrayal or injustice did not occur leads to illness individually and collectively. There are more than a few studies of people who suppress anger as suffering far more cancer than do those who express their rage whether in a 'healthy' or unhealthy way.
There are answers- if we open our eyes and hearts: Mindfulness vs Anger
Thich Nhat Hahn, was ordained a monk at the age of sixteen and lived through the horrors of the Vietnam war. He foresaw the dreadful consequences of the Vietnam war for the world. In 1965, he wrote a letter he called In Search of the Enemy of Man to Martin Luther King.
He ended the letter with these words:
"Yesterday in a class meeting, a student of mine prayed: “Lord Buddha, help us to be alert to realize that we are not victims of each other. We are victims of our own ignorance and the ignorance of others. Help us to avoid engaging ourselves more in mutual slaughter because of the will of others to power and to predominance.” In writing to you, as a Buddhist, I profess my faith in Love, in Communion and in the World’s Humanists whose thoughts and attitude should be the guide for all human kind in finding who is the real enemy of Man."
King joined 'the gentle monk' in failed attempts to stop the escalating war. Reflecting on such an unlikely alliance impels us to wonder how different our nation and world would be if these two men had succeeding in stopping that terrible war. What lessons could have been learned...and taught.
I am reminded, once again, of the astounding similarities between Buddhism and Christianity:
- the reality of suffering,
- the eternal paradox of good and evil, brutality and beauty
- and the command to forgive the enemy,
- the fact that we must pray for our leaders and that we must not hate them.
The monk explains that his concept of mindfulness teaches us how to take suffering, our own and that of others, how to make use of suffering and transform it into peace and compassion:
'We cannot understand the kingdom of God without suffering. Suffering must exist...in order to understand the true nature of things. Suffering and garbage are both organic..the garbage becomes flowers...We have created a lot of garbage during the twentieth century...we do not know how to transform the garbage into flowers....We need friends to teach us.'
The actor Bradley Cooper playing Chris Kyle in An American Sniper declares to a fellow Seal that the reason he and the country he loves are there is due to evil.
"There is evil here, we have seen it," states Cooper, justifying their presence in this endless war worlds away from Texas, his wife and children.
"There is evil everywhere," replies his friend, unconvinced.
"It seems that Americans are caught in Iraq," states Thich Naht Hahn...
I think there should be an awakening in America...a realization that the reason for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan was a belief that there were weapons of mass destruction...but they were never found.... that this is a serious ethical problem....I think America is creating more terrorists not less...
"What would compassion look like, let's say, for a terrorist?" the monk is asked by Krista Tippet in an On Being interview.
"The terrorists are victims of their wrong perceptions of us....just as we are victims of their wrong perceptions of us....we should not hate our leaders but support our leaders...."
You are me and I am you.
It is obvious that we are inter-are.
You cultivate the flower in
yourself so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself so
that you do not have to suffer.
I support you you support me.
I am here to bring you peace
you are here to bring me joy.
- Thich Naht Hahn