I sat with the Young Dharma meditators group last night on Dolores. Really lovely group there.
We talked about anger and action. There seemed to be a schism in the group, or at least a difference of opinion in the discussion, between those who felt like anger was to be trained away, and those that felt that anger was, in itself, something deserving of our attention.
We ran a little experiment last week at WiG, in which, instead of turning away from anger, or working to transform it into compassion, we ran right at it. For 5 minutes, we worked on opening ourselves up to our anger, and seeing what happened.
You know, we spend so much time avoiding our anger, and from such an early age we are taught to repress it and disguise it as caring, that I was really surprised to see how much was going on in the terrain of anger. I focused on a few relationships that brought up anger for me. I noticed a few things, like how numbing anger was. When I was experiencing anger, I was not feeling other things. I noticed how almost every time, the anger was trying to protect me from feelings of fear.
I also noticed that it felt good. In a cleansing way. Maybe like a fever can wipe out an illness, we need anger to become totally whole and healthy.
Like most aspect of my experience thus for with Zen, I am amazed how little I know about myself. I know my stories, but I am surprisingly unfamiliar with the actual contours of my soul as they really are. Anger practice was fascinating.
Now, none of this is to recommend acting in anger, though of course, we do. It was the subject of the first Zen dharma talk I ever heard, given by Josh Bartok of Boundless Way , and I remember Josh saying, "Acting in anger is like throwing coals at your enemy...you might hit that person, but you are definitely going to burn your hand".
I guess though making a turn toward your anger, showing it and you compassion and acceptance as it is, is important to me. Somehow when you look right at it, and open your arms to that wayward child, I notice a softening, and a little space into which other emotions can move and be heard. And when I turn into anger, I can hear its story, its justifications, its validations, and once they are heard, I notice they dont mind giving way and fading.
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