MSC for transforming anger
Session Details - November 7th, 2016 - Starting with a mindfulness practice, taking our compassionate seat and then re-visiting the MSC exercise of transforming anger via 'meeting our unmet needs'. Our discussion was based on Thich Nhat Hanh's book 'Anger'.
Kindling for Anger - Pema Chödrön
“The mindset of friend and foe, like and dislike, for me and against me.
And how that very mechanism of buying so tightly into this notion of the good people and the bad people - the ones that I like and the ones I don’t like - and how we get so invested in this and how this is "the kindling" or "the fuel" for anger and aggression to escalate.”
“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”
Reading the above words from Pema invited curiosity in our group about the role of our common humanity in easing the added suffering that some forms of anger are fueled by?
In Thich Nhat Hanh's book entitled 'Anger', he walks us through using our mindfulness, embracing our anger and cradling it in our compassion - soothing and caring for it. He uses the metaphor of our holding our anger with the same tenderness we would hold a baby, using our ability to be mindful and to be compassionate towards our own difficult emotions.
Loosening the Knots of Anger Through Mindfulness Practice
(Adapted from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book ‘Anger’)
The Knots of Anger
In our consciousness there are blocks of pain, anger and frustration, they are called knots because they tie us up and obstruct our freedom. When someone insults us or does something unkind to us, a knot can be created in our consciousness. If you don’t know how to undo the internal knot and transform it, the knot may stay there for a long time. And the next time someone says something or does something to you of the same nature, that same knot can grow stronger. These knots or blocks of pain have the power to push us, to dictate our behaviour.
Training in Aggression
Anger makes us suffer, so we try our best to get rid of it. There is the expression, “getting it out of your system”, venting anger, like ventilating a room filled with smoke. This kind of advice suggests you should ventilate it by hitting a pillow, kicking something, or by going into the forest to yell, swear and shout. People who regularly use venting techniques like hitting a pillow or shouting are actually rehearsing anger. When someone is angry and vents their anger by hitting a pillow, they are learning a dangerous habit. They are training in aggression. Instead, our approach is to generate the energy of mindfulness and embrace anger every time it manifests, cradle it in your compassion.
Treating Anger with Tenderness
Mindfulness does not fight anger or despair. Mindfulness is the capacity of being aware of what is going on in the present moment. Once we recognize our anger, we embrace it with a lot of awareness, a lot of tenderness. When it is cold in your room, you turn on the heater, and the heater begins to send out waves of warm air. The cold air doesn’t have to leave the room for the room to become warm. The cold air is embraced by the warm air and becomes warm - there’s no fighting at all between them.
Giving and Receiving Mindfulness Energy
When you are angry, when you feel despair, you can practice to generate the energy of mindful warm awareness. And if your mindfulness is not strong enough, you ask a friend in the practice to sit close to you, to breathe with you, to walk with you in order to support you with his or her mindfulness energy. Practicing mindfulness does not mean that you have to do everything on your own. You can practice with the support of your friends. They can generate enough mindfulness energy to help you take care of your strong emotions. We can also support others with our mindfulness when they are in difficulty. When you give a friend some of your mindfulness energy, they may be able to calm down and embrace their emotions.
Recognizing, Embracing, Relieving the Suffering of Anger
The first function of mindfulness is to recognize, not to fight our suffering. Once we have recognized our anger the second function of mindfulness is taking good care of our emotions. If you know how to embrace your anger, something will change.
It is like cooking potatoes. You cover the pot and then the water will begin to boil. You must keep the stove on for at least twenty minutes for the potatoes to cook. Your anger is a kind of potato and you cannot eat a raw potato. Mindfulness is like the fire cooking the potatoes of anger.
The third function of mindfulness is soothing, relieving. Anger is there, but it is being taken care of. The situation is no longer in chaos, with the anger left all alone like a crying baby. The mother is there to take care of the baby and the situation is under control.
Meditation: Calming the Mind – Bob Sharples
Don't meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself. Rather, do it as an act of love, of deep warm friendship to yourself.
In this way there is no longer any need for the subtle aggression of self-improvement, for the endless guilt of not doing enough.
It offers the possibility of an end to the ceaseless round of trying so hard that wraps so many of our lives in a knot.
Instead there is now meditation as an act of love. How endlessly delightful and encouraging.
“Kintsugi is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with resin sprinkled with real gold powder. The Japanese make no attempt to hide the repairs, but rather accentuate the breaks with gold so they become part of the beauty of the pottery, rendering the piece stronger and more valuable after being repaired.
Perhaps the human heart could be considered Kintsugi. If we gingerly patch the inevitable breaks with golden tenderness, then treasure that beautiful heart and honour it as stronger and more precious than ever, perhaps then we won’t close them off to the world, expecting them to be ever unblemished. And we can get on with the messy business of loving and losing and loving again. Of course, we don’t enjoy the darkest times in our lives, the times when we are broken and in pain, but if we can remember that the darkness defines the light…that we can’t see the candle’s flame in the brilliance of a summer day…then we will remember that the dark is a time of holding on to our hearts, tenderly patching the broken bits, and allowing time to heal. May you treasure and honour your battered heart. Shelly Penko http://www.shellypenko.com/treasured-heart/