In his sixth Mindfulness Training, Taking Care of Anger, Thich Nhat Hanh says: “Aware that anger blocks communication and creates suffering, we are committed to taking care of the energy of anger when it arises, and to recognizing and transforming the seeds of anger that lie deep in our consciousness.” There is a saying in Zen; We take care of anger and allow it to transform into compassion and love by being willing to be our anger completely. The origin of anger lies within, our deep conditioning to make demands on the present moment give rise to the energy of anger when we resist, and aren’t willing to accept what life is presenting us with. Our attachments to our thoughts about what is unacceptable, are attempts to separate us from our surroundings, and also from the energy of our anger. We label the energy ‘our anger’, and create the idea of our anger as being separate from our self image.
Energy itself has no agenda, sensations are inherently free from our thoughts about it. So when we are willing to just witness our thoughts about the energy of anger arising, we begin to see and actually experience the freedom of the energy itself from our imagined agenda of how what is happening is unacceptable. When we are cultivating this awareness through acceptance of our present experience, we begin to experience the sense of separation from the energy of anger dissolving, we feel a sense of oneness with the energy itself. This experience of energy being free from all concepts, is the actual reality of our true nature that we share with all beings, and it’s the beginning of sensing the inherent freedom of our true Self.
There is a story about Swami Muktananda entering the kitchen of his ashram. He went into a flying rage at the cook, then promptly stomped out. The kitchen workers were amazed and somewhat alarmed. He then immediately reentered with a big smile on his face exclaiming, “Did you enjoy the show?” This reminds me of my lab Bruno who charges a cat with all his fury and ferociousness, and immediately after wards is cuddling and licking me with total love and devotion. Freedom from anger isn’t freedom from ever expressing anger, it’s freedom right in the midst of fully experiencing anger energy apart from whether we act it out or not. For Bruno and Swami Muktananda, the freedom to fully express their anger left no traces, and is a powerful teaching for those of us on the path.
As contemplation practice gradually allows our self imposed limitations to dissolve, we intuitively begin to sense the vast spaciousness of our true nature. When anger energy arises, we learn to sense it arising within the vast spaciousness of awareness. This frees us to accept and absorb it, and to intuitively sense as well as choose when expressing it to others is harmful or helpful.
Some months ago I had some angry feelings about people I thought were judging me unfairly. It built up for several days, and I thought I was just letting it dissolve. But it kept coming up anyway. Finally I used my cathartic training techniques I had learned many years previously, and just let out a sort of primal scream to release the tension. I immediately felt a surge of energy and a vast sense of blissful expansiveness. This was temporarily beneficial in terms of pure release.
But infinitely more helpful was realizing that I had been putting a lot of energy into suppressing my anger. By doing this I was cutting myself off from fully experiencing the joy of allowing my energy its inherent expansiveness. By becoming aware of how we spend a lot of energy in suppressing our anger, we can become aware of how we’re afraid of its destructive potential to ourselves and others. Of course this fear is beneficial when we don’t have enough space around our anger energy to just let it arise and pass away without being concerned about lashing out at others in potentially harmful ways.
Our ability to allow our anger to be transformed can be severely limited by our fear of fully experiencing our anger. We can’t allow our anger to be transformed if we’re afraid of it. For the process of self realization to be completed, there needs to be an affectionate relationship between our lower and higher self. The infinite light of our inner teacher welcomes our fear with total compassion. She is the mother of all creation, and she is teaching us there is nothing to fear. She is teaching us to love our fear, to love our resistance, and to allow her to reveal she is always dissolving and transforming all of our personal experience. Her love is the absence of fear. We learn that by surrendering to her unconditional acceptance, we are no longer compelled to abide in our resistance to the up and downs of life.