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Does It Ever Pay To Be Angry?

By Ed and Deb Shapiro

No one can really enjoy getting angry. Getting angry is like drinking poison or being stuck in glue; it can arise out of nowhere and often overstays its welcome. Anger can make enemies out of friends or family, and depression is often its bedfellow. Our physical body gets tight, breath shortens, while mind and emotions get twisted. Anger is an unwanted guest that moves into our house leaving us unable to carry on with life as normal, constantly appearing and reappearing in our heads.

Anger is a single match that can burn an entire forest. It hurts, causes pain and anguish, it can leave people feeling like they've been run over by a truck. It creates an immediate separation, as egos pull back and rear their heads like cobras. Even justified anger is full of venom.

So how do we deal with this intruder, this thief in the night that steals our sanity? How do we let anger know that this is not the way we want to live, that enough is enough? It's not as if we can just stop anger — it's usually way too powerful and arises quickly, in a flash, out of nowhere. There's no point in repressing or denying it as it'll just make itself known in another way and will gain strength.

There are occasional times when anger can be used consciously, without the accompanying emotional turmoil. As Sri Swami Satchidananda says: "Keep your emotions in your pocket and use them when appropriate." But such times are rare. More often it is a reaction of the ego-mind demanding immediate release.

If expressing anger causes all this angst then is it possible to turn it around? Can we say hello to anger, hello my friend, what are you here to teach me? Can we invite it in for a cup of tea? Can we turn shit into gold, or grow roses out of the roiling mud?

Perhaps the best way is by staying fully present and aware of whatever is being felt. This means seeing it, naming it, breathing into it, while keeping the heart open and the belly soft. Repeat: soft belly, soft belly, soft belly. Pay attention and see if the anger is actually a cry for help or love, and keep breathing. Through meditation we learn to just watch and not react.

Mindfulness invites us to make friends with the whole of ourselves just as we are, which includes witnessing and knowing anger. It grounds us in basic sanity so we can be aware of our feelings and not get swept away by them. There is a half way place between expressing anger and repressing it, a place where we can rest in awareness and mindfulness. That way we make friends with any arising feelings and have a breath's pause before the urgent need to express them also arises.

When we lose connectedness with each other there is a deep longing to reconnect, to come back to our meeting place, whether we are aware of it or not. This is important, as the alternative is being overcome with rejection, grief, or loneliness. But the reconnection needed is really to ourselves, to the truth of who we are, and to our heart.

For us, there's no more appropriate way to initiate this awareness than with the exquisiteness of meditation, where we sit quietly, breathe, and are aware of feelings, stories, and justifications, followed by a deepening quiet and stillness.

Ed and Deb Shapiro are the authors of sixteen books on personal development, meditation and social action, many published in over seventeen languages; they have led meditation retreats and personal development programs worldwide for over 25 years. For more information: www.edanddebshapiro.com.

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