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Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Anger: Practical Practice in Daily Life

We may struggle to find time to practice, to meditate, in the fracas of our daily lives. Just finding 5 or 10 minutes a day or every other day may be difficult. But our meditation practice can go beyond just sitting or attending sangha. It can be more subtle and just as rewarding. Integrating practice into our daily life doesn't always mean just finding time. It could also mean finding a small space within ourselves during all our interpersonal interactions.

One of the most common situations every one of us encounters in daily life -- at home; in the office; when talking to colleagues, spouses, friends, children -- is conflict. And with conflict comes anger. I propose we try to make space in our daily interactions for being mindful of the anger we encounter, both in ourselves and others.

What's mindful anger? Thay Thich Nhat Hanh in his recent book Anger discusses how when we are angry, we should recognize it, be aware, be mindful of anger, and work immediately to transform it. He offers several practical suggestions for dealing with domestic conflict:

I always advise a couple that when they are angry with each other, they should go back to their breathing, their mindful walking, embrace their anger, and look deeply into the nature of their anger. And they may be able to transform that anger in just fifteen minutes or a few hours. If they cannot do that, then they will have to tell the other person that they suffer, that they are angry, and that they want the other person to know it. They will try to say it in a calm way. "Darling, I suffer, and I want you to know it." And in Plum Village, where I live and practice, we advise our friends not to keep their anger for more than twenty-four hours without telling the other person. "Darling, I suffer, and I want you to know it. I do not know why you have done such a thing to me. I do not know why you have said such a thing to me." That is the first thing they should tell the other person. And if they are not calm enough to say it, they can write it down on a piece of paper.

The second thing they can say or write down is, "I am doing my best." It means "I am practicing not to say anything, not to do anything with anger, because I know that in doing so I will create more suffering. So I am embracing my anger, I am looking deeply into the nature of my anger." You tell the other person that you are practicing holding your anger, understanding your anger, in order to find out whether that anger has come from your own misunderstanding, wrong perception, your lack of mindfulness and your lack of skillfulness.

And the third thing you might like to say to him or her is, "I need your help." Usually when we get angry with someone, we want to do the opposite. We want to say, "I don't need you. I can survive by myself alone." "I need your help" means "I need your practice, I need your deep looking, I need you to help me to overcome this anger because I suffer." And if I suffer, there is no way that you can be happy, because happiness is not an individual matter. If the other person suffers, there is no way that you can be truly happy alone. So helping the other person to suffer less, to smile, will make you happy also.

The Buddha said, "This is like this, because that is like that. This is because that is." The three sentences I propose are the language of true love. It will inspire the other person to practice, to look deeply, and together you will bring about understanding and reconciliation. I propose to my friends to write down these sentences on a piece of paper and slip it into their wallet. Every time they get angry at their partner or their son or daughter, they can practice mindful breathing, take it out, and read. It will be a bell of mindfulness telling them what to do and what not to do. These are the three sentences: "I suffer and I want you to know it." "I am doing my best." "Please help."

These are interesting pieces of advice. However, many of us experience the feeling, especially in the beginning, of being carried away by our anger, of being unable to grasp it, be mindful of it, calm ourselves enough to transform it into compassion. To help with this are two useful audio meditations (real player required) that can help you begin a practice to calm yourself and begin the transformation.

.: posted by fortune 11:41 AM


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