Jun 13, 2017 Living more powerfully and happily by transcending anger and embracing wonder
Everyone gets angry, at least sometimes.
Anger, rooted in fear, is weakening and even debilitating. However, it also is debilitating for us to beat up on ourselves for getting angry, and to beat up on ourselves for anything. We must continue on the positive and powerful path, while learning from our mis-steps rather than letting our mis-steps become our quagmire.
Why do I keep returning to this topic of anger? Because I have known anger by having grown up feeling too much anger, knowing the need to transcend it, and now being on that transcendent path, although with mis-steps along the way. I have gotten angry at those seeming to cross my path, violating human rights, expressing racism and acting racist, and being downright dishonest. Lama Surya Das wisely learned that demonstrating for peace during the Vietnam War while feeling anger was not sufficient. Peace starts within ourselves.
I keep returning to the approach of finding calm within the eye of the storm. We can test our powerful calmness by wading among proverbial feces and even stepping in actual feces. Courthouses are often far from pretty places, and jails and prisons are warehouses from where people will eventually emerge, and not necessarily as better people after the incarceration dehumanization process.
Overly rosy and superficial platitudes from Norman Vincent Peale and friends are not the antidotes to overcoming anger. The balance needs to be found between Peale’s optimism and Zappa’s dissatisfaction. For me, the antidotes include mindfulness/meditative/contemplative practice, compassion for self and others, non-duality/non-attachment because it is hard to get angry when powerfully engaged with everything and everyone but attached to nothing nor no one, vibrating highly and being fully awakened and understanding that our mis-steps often happen when less awakened, altering our perception of perceived obstacles, the powerfully harmonious practice of taijiquan, recognizing when were are feeling and acting on anger and still moving on, dissipating anger, and rechanneling anger energy into something more positive. Rather than fearing or running away from our anger, we can invite the anger front and center, dance and play with it, and the anger then transforms to non-anger.
Even the Dalai Lama — who knows suffering of so many through China’s severe oppression of Tibetans, yet still generally maintains an optimistic disposition probably heavily rooted in non-duality — loses his temper at times (min. 1:45). In fact, he wisely insists that the only completely non-angry being is from another planet. The Dalai Lama’s inability to remain anger-free neither is an excuse to get angry nor a reason to give up on being less angry and less often. The Dalai Lama’s admission of his own instances of losing his temper reminds me to recognize the anger in me, let it pass, and recognize and work with the anger if it comes out as anger rather than as a passing feeling.
When we are on vacation, we perhaps get less upset or angry at people blasting their music outside their window next door at 3:00 a.m., when we know that in a few hours we will be checking out from that hotel forever, versus if the same behavior is happening right next door to the house on which we still owe a large mortgage balance. When on vacation, we might overlook seemingly disinterested and slow service from restaurant workers as we enjoy the relaxing moment, when we might get sorely disappointed if our favorite neighborhood restaurant did the same when we are paying good money for a lesser experience than we are accustomed to, perhaps when in a hurry to get to the next place. When a stranger lies to us, that can be irritating. When our seemingly best friend seems to betray us, we can become furious. That not only is duality talking, but also interferes with our going through each day with a sense of wonder on this planet that holds so much fascination, even among the environmental degradation, poverty, human rights violations, war, terrorism, and the list goes on. We are indeed visitors to this planet, here at most for a century or a little more. We can either enjoy the visit or turn ourselves neurotic.
One day, I told a psychological counselor with whom I am friendly — and whom I take to be an excellent psychological professional — about my approach sometimes to try to wait until the next day to express my anger or irritation, in that this perspective and time passage often solves the irritation and gives me a better outlook on the matter. His response was that doing so can make the anger grow and eat at you. Maybe so, but this space in stepping back before expressing anger or irritation at others also gives me a chance to work on myself. If there is no out there for the mind, the idea is for me to keep working on myself.
All this ties in with my developing as a human being and criminal defense lawyer. In the end, feeling fulfilled is heavily rooted in working on ourselves, rather than relying on our well-being and cursing our misfortunes on the actions and happenings of other people and outside forces.