(( The topic :: Anger. This post is inspired by my first experience sharing my free course “21 Days of Lovingkindness” which is a journey in heart-centered meditation practice and living. ))
I got SO MUCH feedback about this particular lesson and the feedback itself was so powerful.
I opened my inbox to see so many responses from my students I thought there was a problem– a tech glitch or some such that people were letting me know about.
No, they were sharing their feelings about anger with me in such an open and free way.
I was floored. Tears came to my eyes as I read the responses.
Here’s what I wrote. And the exploration I shared is underneath……
“Anger shows us precisely where we are stuck, where our limits are, where we cling to beliefs and fears.” ― Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life
I’m not going to talk to you about your anger, but here’s what I know about mine:
1. I’ve learned anger is a layered emotional experience, meaning it’s an emotion that comes out of other emotions. Mine usually begins with getting my feelings hurt– feeling unseen, misunderstood and/or under appreciated.
2. The yelling, mean words, tears, “silent treatment” are not the anger,but the ways the anger tries to be seen and work its way out of the mind and body. (Just like a fever is actually NOT the illness but the cure :: the body’s attempt to sweat the invading sickness out).
3. “Anger is sad’s bodyguard.” I’d rather fight an injustice than be the victim of one.
4. And more than anything, I know this. Anger destroys when not released. It can’t be pushed down, fought or hidden. Anger does not go away, it deepens and becomes more complicated over time.
There’s a purpose anger wants to serve, a truth it wants to point out, an injustice it wants to reveal.
I’m told we only get angry about things we truly care about. When we peel away the layers around anger, we find a gift of truth at its heart.
This is what my life and my teachers have taught me about anger.
Below is an exploration for meeting your own anger as it arises. It’s a way to allow anger to “be there” and be “seen” by you, so that it is free to dissolve. I hope it helps you as much as it helps me. I learned it from Jack Kornfield, who is quoted at the very top of this email.
The Hidden Gift in the Heart of Anger
Throughout the day, pay attention as you enter situations that tend to trigger anger. This exploration works best in the moments just before (or just as) anger begins to arise.
1. Notice how the first sparks of anger feel, where they are located in the body and how they move.
Allow the sensation of anger to be there as it is.
Notice if your habit is to engage with anger.
Don’t fight, push down, ignore or engage with the sensation of anger in any way, just observe and feel.
Resist the urge to amplify or decrease the volume of the sensation.
Breath calmly as possible, while giving yourself permission to feel the sensation.
Don’t deny your feelings nor be overwhelmed by them.
Refrain from mental commentary about the anger or the situation that is fueling it.
Feel and breathe the sensation rather than thinking it.
2. If the sensation continues:
Allow your attention to pool in the area of the body where the sensation is strongest and imagine your breath is coming in and out of that place.
If the sensation moves to another place, breath in and out of that place.
Continue to follow the movement of sensation with breath.
3. If the sensation continues:
Begin to explore the sensation as form.
Does the sensation have a color? A shape? Texture, taste? How does it change over time?
Is there a sound you associate with the feelings? If yes, make that sound.
Keep breathing. Observe how the colors, shapes and sounds change with the sensations of the body.
4. When the sensation subsides or you need to put this exploration aside for the time being, take a moment to remember the first moments of the sensation of anger. Has anything changed?
Whether yes or no, begin to bring
yourself out slowly by listening to the sound in your environment.
Slowly begin to stretch in the areas you feel tight or achey. Keep breathing.
5. If you have time/ inspiration:
Jot down some notes. What truth or gift was this anger pointing to? What injustice did it want to reveal? Does the anger want to show you where you’re stuck? If so, where, how?
What practical steps can you take to begin to address this issue that doesn’t involve getting angry? (If you draw a blank here, imagine there’s no such thing as anger, how would you respond to this issue?)
Allowing yourself to feel your anger rather than engage with it might not “cure” the anger. But, the anger does have the chance to reveal it’s hidden truth
and/or to release.
This is a step in the right direction.
“If you can feel, you can heal.”
Treat your anger like you would treat a difficult person who really means well despite acting like an absolute jerk. Radical tolerance, compassion with boundaries.
So that’s The Anger Email. I hope it resonates with you as much as it does with me and the people doing “21 Days”. And I’d love to hear (mailto:email@example.com) what you think and/or how the exploration went for you.
And thank you for your willingness to feel.