Dear Still Water Friends,
I am fascinated by the emotion anger: how it manifests, what to do with it, where to put it, its levels, its arc, and finally the point one reaches in transforming it. I think about Annie’s sitting meditation on taking stock on our bodies and the relation each of us has with pain, the types of pain, the levels of pain, our tolerance for pain, our individual struggles with pain, the sometimes pleasurable pain.
I do think that the levels of anger are similar. Anger is everywhere. It permeates our daily existence. We watch the devastating oil spill in the Gulf, and get angry. We watch our President react to it and wonder if he’s angry enough (Spike Lee says that one time he just needs to “Go Off”). And in just our daily lives we get angry at the ones we love the most and sometimes go off, or we suppress it and seriously bite our tongues. We wonder if, as in the general zeitgeist that inundates or world and entertainment media, revenge and retaliation are the right ways to go. It is an amazing emotion.
And all this gets downright personal. I just finished a run of a play, and I had a major role which required a lot of work on top of the regular 9-5 job work. One of the cast members invariably at rehearsals made me repeatedly angry. She was aggressive, a control freak and sometimes obnoxious. I repeatedly bit my tongue and breathed “my heart is now at peace”. But often it did not work. She began to affect my concentration and thus my performance. It was insidious – and I’m not sure if it was my anger or her.
One day in the course of rehearsals I was looking for a piece of paper to write some notes, and the piece of paper I found happened to be something Mitchell had given the working group members from Smiling Like a Buddha chap. 8, it read:
“At each stage of an anger episode, mindfulness practices offers way of transforming the energy of anger and the relationships. Because it is easiest to recognize and mindfully hold the energy of anger the farthest from the stimulating trigger, it is helpful to review the stages in the reverse order. …we have the choice of doing nothing or of looking back at our actions during the episode.”
Well, needless to say this little discovery became more important than my script!
When forced to look at my contribution to the situation and view my antagonist with compassion and consider her suffering – I was transformed. Rather than ignore her or feed off a lot of negative energy, I sent energy her way to cheer her on in her performance – silently without cheering. It worked.
So I invite you all, my brothers and sisters, to join us and sit with us this Thursday to contemplate once again our survival mechanism—anger—and how we might transform it into something wonderful and positive.