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Transforming Anger

By Nikhil Gangoli

All of us feel anger and hatred from time to time. Eastern meditation and mindfulness techniques can help us mange and transform our anger so that the energy contained in the anger benefits us instead of spreading misery in others and ourselves.

It is important to note that although anger causes us pain we should not reject it or disown it. Suppose your stomach or legs or some other part of your body grew diseased and caused you pain. Would you for that reason try to get rid of your stomach or your legs? Of course you would not. Anger can be transformed and the energy contained in it can be of much use to us. The story is told of Angulimala - a famous armed robber who had murdered 999 people. Yet a meeting with the Buddha changed him and transformed the anger within him. If a legendary criminal can transform his anger then surely so can we.

Think of your anger as a farmer would regard organic fertilizer. A farmer with garbage and organic waste knows that he can use it to grow nutritious fruits and vegetables. So also we can use the anger within us to grow spiritually and become awakened.

We can care for and transform our anger the way a mother cares for her baby - by practicing mindfulness whenever we are angry. The effect mindfulness has on anger can be compared with the way flowers respond to sunlight. At sunrise the rays from the sun reach the flower. The photons contained in the sun rays penetrate the flower. After 15 to 20 minutes the flower can no longer resist and she opens herself to the sun rays.

In a similar manner we need to practice mindfulness at all times and especially when we are angry. Observe the breath entering or leaving the body when you are angry. At the same time observe the anger within you without judging or condemning or rejecting it in any way. After some minutes the anger will open itself to you and fade away. The cause of the anger will be revealed and the energy contained in the anger will be available for your use.

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese poet and Zen Buddhist master, says that we need to care for our anger the way a mother cares for her newborn baby. The mother may be cooking in the kitchen and yet the moment the baby cries out she immediately goes to see what is wrong. Because she is a skillful mother she soon finds out what is wrong - whether it is that the baby is hungry or the nappy is too tight or whatever may be the case.

In the same way, the moment we feel angry we need to care for it by practicing mindfulness. We can observe the breath. We can go out for a walk and make the act of walking our meditation practice. Observe the sensations in the feet as they land on the ground one after the other. At the same time observe your breath. You will soon know how many steps you take for each in breath and out breath. Walk in this mindful manner for 20 minutes to half an hour and your anger will open itself to you and be transformed.

Anger, left uncared for, spread a lot of pain and misery not only in ourselves but also in other that we come in contact. There is a natural tendency to lash out at others when we are angry and this has the result of spreading misery. If we practice transforming anger through mindfulness we will not only be much happier and more peaceful ourselves but we can also care for others and share our happiness and peace. In this way our meditation practice will help in making the world a better place.

Thich Nhat Hanh has written a very insightful book on this subject - "Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames." Many effective ways of dealing with anger are explained.

Copyright © 2005 Nikhil Gangoli
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