Looking Deeply into Our Anger

Looking Deeply into Our Anger

Discussion date: Thu, Dec 08, 2022 at our weekly Thursday evening practice
Thursday Evening Online Program
December 8, 2022, 7:00 to 8:30 pm Eastern time
followed by mindfulness trainings preparatory class 8:30 to 9:00 pm

Dear Still Water Friends,

This Thursday Evening we will explore the Fourth Mindfulness Training, Loving Speech and Deep Listening:

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.

After years of limited social contact, I have cautiously been attending larger gatherings, especially during the holidays. At a recent party I caught up with an acquaintance who knows my family. He asked after my mother, and I explained that she now has dementia and lives in a memory care facility. He had clearly been drinking and made facetious comments about her that I thought were rude and inappropriate. I was too shocked to respond coherently. After the party, I reflected on the acquaintance’s casual disrespect of my mother, which I found to be especially disturbing after I had told him about her condition. I pondered whether or not to express my anger to this person.

As I considered, I thought about a sentence from the Fourth Mindfulness Training:

I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.

I decided to explore Thay’s perspective on Right Diligence. This quote from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching clarified the teaching for me.

The four practices usually associated with Right Diligence are:

(l) preventing unwholesome seeds in our store consciousness that have not yet arisen from arising

(2) helping the unwholesome seeds that have already arisen to return to our store consciousness,

(3) finding ways to water the wholesome seeds in our store consciousness that have not yet arisen and asking our friends to do the same, and

(4) nourishing the wholesome seeds that have already arisen so that they will stay present in our mind consciousness and grow stronger.

This is called the Fourfold Right Diligence.”Unwholesome” means not conducive to liberation or the Path. In our store consciousness there are many seeds that are not beneficial for our transformation, and if those seeds are watered, they will grow stronger. When greed, hatred, ignorance, and wrong views arise, if we embrace them with Right Mindfulness, sooner or later they will lose their strength and return to our store consciousness.

When wholesome seeds have not yet arisen, we can water them and help them come into our conscious mind. The seeds of happiness, love, loyalty, and reconciliation need watering every day. If we water them, we will feel joyful, and this will encourage them to stay longer. Keeping wholesome mental formations in our mind consciousness is the fourth practice of Right Diligence.

The Fourfold Right Diligence is nourished by joy and interest. If your practice does not bring you joy, you are not practicing correctly.

I found this explanation helpful in encouraging me where to look for the seed of my anger. I walked and sat mindfully with the intention to open to what is in my store consciousness. As I sat, I found that part of my anger came from the unexpectedness of his comments. I realized that I expected my acquaintance to respond a certain way, with heartfelt empathy, and he did not. Instead, his comments brought up old uncomfortable feelings.

As I sat with these feelings, I realized that I didn’t need to say anything to our acquaintance, but that I wanted to focus instead on identifying and acknowledging my anger and sadness about my mother.

The conversation brought home to me how I, and all of us, may easily miss emotional subtexts. In this specific interaction, I shut down and felt defensive rather than curious about my acquaintance’s response. Perhaps I missed an opportunity for deeper connection or a new understanding about my mother.

This Thursday evening, after our sitting meditation, we will begin our exploration of the Fourth Mindfulness Training with  these questions:

  • What in the Fourth Training on Loving Speech and Deep Listening especially resonates with you? Why?
  • What aspects of the training are most difficult for you?
  • How do you recognize and work with your seeds of anger?

You are warmly invited to join us!

Two additional excerpts on Right Speech by Thich Nhat Hanh follow the Still Water announcements below.


Eliza King

Two Excerpts on Right Speech from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings by Thich Nhat Hanh

Deep listening is at the foundation of Right Speech. If we cannot listen mindfully, we cannot practice Right Speech. No matter what we say, it will not be mindful, because we’ll be speaking only our own ideas and not in response to the other person. In the Lotus Sutra, we are advised to look and listen with the eyes of compassion. Compassionate listening brings about healing. When someone listens to us this way, we feel some relief right away. A good therapist always practices deep, compassionate listening. We have to learn to do the same in order to heal the people we love and restore communication with them.

When communication is cut off, we all suffer. When no one listens to us or understands us, we become like a bomb ready to explode. Restoring communication is an urgent task. Sometimes only ten minutes of deep listening can transform us and bring a smile back to our lips. The Bodhisattva Kwan Yin is the one who hears the cries of the world. She has the quality of listening deeply, without judging or reacting. When we listen with our whole being, we can defuse a lot of bombs. If the other person feels that we are critical of what they are saying, their suffering will not be relieved. When psychotherapists practice Right Listening, their patients have the courage to say things they have never been able to tell anyone before. Deep listening nourishes both speaker and listener.

Many of us have lost our capacity for listening and using loving speech in our families. It may be that no one is capable of listening to anyone else. So we feel very lonely even within our own families. That is why we have to go to a therapist, hoping that she is able to listen to us. But many therapists also have deep suffering within. Sometimes they cannot listen as deeply as they would like. So if you really love someone, train yourself to be a listener. Be a therapist. You may be the best therapist for the person you love if you know how to train yourself in the art of deep, compassionate listening. You must also use loving speech. We have lost our capacity to say things calmly. We get irritated too easily. Every time we open our mouths, our speech becomes sour or bitter. We know it’s true. We have lost our capacity for speaking with kindness. This is the Fourth Mindfulness Training. This is so crucial to restoring peaceful and loving relationships. If you fail in this training, you cannot succeed in restoring harmony, love, and happiness. That is why practicing the Fourth Mindfulness Training is a great gift.


Sometimes we speak clumsily and create internal knots in others. Then we say, “I was just telling the truth.” It may be the truth, but if our way of speaking causes unnecessary suffering, it is not Right Speech. The truth must be presented in ways that others can accept. Words that damage or destroy are not Right Speech. Before you speak, understand the person you are speaking to. Consider each word carefully before you say anything, so that your speech is “Right” in both form and content. The Fourth Mindfulness Training also has to do with loving speech. You have the right to tell another everything in your heart with the condition that you use only loving speech. If you are not able to speak calmly, then don’t speak that day. “Sorry, my dear, allow me to tell you tomorrow or the next day. I am not at my best today. I’m afraid I’ll say things that are unkind. Allow me to tell you about this another day.” Open your mouth and speak only when you are sure you can use calm and loving speech. You have to train yourself to be able to do so.

In the Lotus Sutra, a bodhisattva named Wondrous Sound was able to speak to each person in his or her own language. For someone who needed the language of music, he used music. For those who understood the language of drugs, he spoke in terms of drugs. Every word the Bodhisattva Wondrous Sound said opened up communication and helped others transform. We can do the same, but it takes determination and skillfulness.

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Dec 08, 2022


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