Being With Anger
He was running late.
I stood there, leaning against the car, fuming.
I was proud of myself for not yelling (yet), and for doing all I could to help him get ready (even though it wasn't my job).
But as I glanced at my watch again and again, I just kept getting angrier. He knew what time we had to leave! What are they going to think if we are late? Why should I have to be the one to deal with the consequences of his actions??
A few birds flew close overhead and swooped to a nearby tree. I watched as they hopped from branch to branch, and even smiled a bit when one of them seemed to slip a bit then do a little shiver as if to indicate, "I meant to do that". My attention drifted to the warmth of the air that blew a bit of my hair into my face, and the pressure of the car against my shoulder blades. It felt nice, ... peaceful.
As if on cue, I remembered my watch, then the time, then the reason I was standing there, and then my anger. He still wasn't ready to go.
But the birds were still dancing and the warm breeze blowing past my face. In that moment, I realized I had a choice. (Several, actually, but only one choice that mattered.)
I could let my thoughts drift to my anger or elsewhere.
My thoughts were determining
the experience I was having.
After all, regardless of what was going through my head, he was still frantically rushing around the house. The birds were still courting. Time was passing, the wind was blowing, life was happening. My thoughts determined how I was experiencing it.
Lest I seem all Pollyanna, allow me to admit: There was a fighter within me that was screaming to DO something about all of this.
I wanted to yell, to prove I was right, to explain quite clearly the consequences of running late. Screw the beautiful nature stuff, I was pissed.
Thankfully, that beautiful nature stuff had allowed me just a moment of pause. And in that pause, (and because of practice done in the months before), I was able to reflect on the consequences of my thoughts and actions.
Yelling at him wouldn't get him out the door any quicker. I knew this. It might make me feel better temporarily to divert my angry thoughts into angry actions. But we'd been down this road before, and temporary fixes made in anger never led to long-term, peaceful solutions.
It wasn't that I was being complacent. I wasn't going to let a repeated behavior that caused unwanted consequences for all of us simply be forgotten, nor was I trying to suppress my anger into some little ball and push it away.
I was simply realizing what was - the birds, my anger, the time, possible consequences of my actions, the connections, the wind.
In that awareness, knowing how I wanted to experience this moment and the next, I made a decision.
I stayed with my breath.
We made it out the door and actually arrived to our destination on time.
Buddha said that holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone else. You are actually the one that gets burned.
In the Christian Bible, we are told "in your anger do not sin" (Ephesians 4:26).
No one actually says to avoid anger. Jesus, Buddha, and every figure who has stepped foot on this beautiful earth has gotten angry. It is part of the experience we get to have in this life.
The adjustable part is what we think and do while steeped in the anger.
Remember my earlier thought about being angry that I had to deal with the "consequences of his actions?" Part of being alive on this earth is knowing that we are connected to everything and everyone else. Nothing exists in a vacuum.
Whether we like it or not, we are constantly causing and responding to the thoughts and actions of others. I wasn't just dealing with the consequences of his actions; I was dealing with the consequences of my own thought process. I wanted to control him and his actions instead of focusing on my own anger. However,....
I do not have control over the actions of others. I only have control over my own thoughts and actions.
Acknowledging the connections, and that I create ripples of consequences just as others do, I take responsibility for the only thing I can -
myself and this moment.
This practice of being breath is not one we do so we can be more peaceful while on the meditation cushion, just like we don't lift weights just so we can lift more weight the next time we head to the gym.
We practice so that we can be stronger in every part of our lives.
Situations will arise every day that tempt me into anger. Sometimes (ok, often), I will slip into anger. And, I'll admit, I'm not one to easily let go of that emotion. (Trying to make me laugh when I'm angry, for example, only makes me angrier. Now you know.)
But I also know how I want to experience life.
And that grasping, blocked-off, fiercesome, screw-you type feeling that swims in my core when I'm angry and that colors every one of my actions is not how I want to experience my life.
So as anger arises, I try to remember my practice. I try to feel my breath. I listen to the bird, or simply try to find my heartbeat, and remember how I want to feel. I don't try to suppress my anger - that only makes me more upset. Nor do I try to overlook what is making me angry. (That often leads to a kitchen-sink type explosion down the road.)
I acknowledge what is. ALL of what is. Everything that is my anger and everything that is outside of my anger.
What sort of things push your buttons? How do you find yourself dealing with others when you are angry?
Let's open an honest conversation and finally exhale all of this tension.
We are human -- angry, loving, sad, breathing, hurt, joyous, and vibrant beings.