This week Annie will facilitate.
I have been thinking a lot about the topic of anger and how to work with it without suppression.
This week, we will consider how we experience and work with our anger, starting with some words from an interview with the zen teacher Rev. Zenju Earthlyn Manuel (full text is part of the training "U Mad" at www.bpf.org)
Well, you know unfortunately Buddhism -- the dharma as Buddhism is new to our culture still, even though a lot of us have been practicing for many years it’s still not understood. So a lot of times the explanation for how to deal with anger comes a lot from the psychological realm or therapeutic processes and so it’s all tangled up in there now with the dharma. So often you might hear well just breathe through it, or don’t express it or take a walk and go to another room, and not to say these things are not good: they are hard to sustain.
In a burst of deep emotion (and most of our anger and rage is very old and passed to us from many generation) when you think about it that way the breath is not gonna quite work. These are definitely good techniques/methods -- a lot of people don’t want to hear about anger or feel it because they feel it might make everyone uncomfortable or “disturb the peace” in the room. Again, not understanding what peace is and what anger is -- because we really can’t disturb peace. Just like oneness, peace is itself, too. And it exists and can be accessed and met in our lives through meditation and stillness as practices.
So, to blame a person for disturbing the peace or creating divisiveness because they are angry leads people to suppressing their anger and then going out and later on down the line imploding or exploding -- a lot of times people of color implode, I think, and that’s what we’re sick and ill and it’s hard to heal. There are so many incidents of rage throughout the day and we’ve gotten to the point where we can’t even count them, how many times we encounter them. So since it’s happening and is part of the oneness and part of the harmony and peace as well, that means we need to understand it. We must not understand it if we don’t think it’s a part of all of these things.
And so to take it out of the understanding or the psychology realm and to bring it back to the indigenous realm and the earth-practice -- which Buddhism is -- the teachings were discovered in the woods. And so to bring it back to the original essence is to see anger as fire, that’s the first element. Without the first element we wouldn't be here. We need the fire to mix with the water to make the earth. When we see anger as fire, and begin to understand what fire is and what we create with fire will create less of a, oh, don’t do that, and instead an understanding that anger is a part of everything.
We burn things in it, we sacrifice a lot of things into it, we burn things in the fire, we cook with it, we do a lot of things with it. So, fire is light like the sun, so that if our anger has light that light in it makes the anger very illuminating -- if we understand fire. But if we don’t understand it and it’s just like a burning away. We’re always burning, our minds, the things we encounter in the world creates a lot of fire, especially now of course.
And we are in a very huge sacred time. I don’t really have to read anything to know that, and I don’t have to call on any other indigenous paths -- it’s obvious that right now things are really up in our faces and that’s how fire feels. A lot of time we want to cool off fast or run the other way, but I think we’re in a powerful time to really make the changes -- and we are, regardless of the other stuff that seems destructive -- because there’s also a destructive fire going while we’re having this rejuvenating fire… so both of them are going at the same time. Which ones do we put our effort in? Maybe we have some things to put in our fire. Not the fuel to destroy -- because that’s a fueling fire going on in the White House -- he’s throwing logs. What our fire has to be is a rejuvenating one -- that fire will last.
The fire with the fuel will be gone as soon as the person who’s been fueling it is gone. As soon as that fire’s gone we want the fire we’ve been building to rejuvenate, to sustain life in the way that we want -- then we will know how to do that, we will tend and attend to it, to our anger, tend to it as our fire. I always say to people it’s our sacred fire, our sun, our illuminating thing to use to help us be fueled toward what is sustaining, not what is destroying. Some things do get destroyed, and then something new happens and it takes a long time. We may not get to experience it, but if there is a future for this planet the next generation will experience it. There are some things burning that we don’t want to burn away, but maybe something else is coming and we don’t know. It hurts to lose, to have lost.
Anyway, what I have been doing has been healing and maybe has been eye-opening and maybe hopefully beneficial to myself and others. But now its burning away some of those authenticities or where the passion is overpowering what else needs to come into my life. To see all that you have to be still. I’ve been afraid to tell people, “now is the time to be still.” It’s just like, “oh no!” but it’s not to be still and do nothing. It’s a time of stillness and I’ve actually put it in a post on Facebook and said right now is the time to be still and allow the stillness that is our nature. When you’re still you really feel yourself. Everything else -- we create that. The calmness will come if you sit still long enough, and who knows how long enough that is for you -- could be years, decades, 10 days. But if you allow the stillness and silence to meet you it will take you like you can ride on that into an action that is more profound than you ever could have imagined.
That’s what I feel as we’re navigating this horrendous environment of hatred, I just got still. It’s not still doing nothing -- not doing everything. Not to negate things are being done, not to say that nothing is going to happen. But also to say that it’s the action coming from the stillness that’s already in you. You don’t have to be a Buddhist, really even meditate necessarily because it’s our nature, allowing it to rise up and then moving from there. Even in my life as I’ve been still, I’m noticing that I’ve been teaching here [makes a gesture of holding space between two hands] and actually there’s here [moves hands much further apart] and actually I’ve been freaked out by it because I feel like “oh, I don’t want to go way out there!” Maybe I’ve been out there all along but I haven’t really awakened to it…
And so in the stillness beginning to push our boundaries, to push Buddhism, whatever that is, push it out, do it differently. In Zen we face the wall when we sit. I thought the other day, “oh snap, it’s time for us to sit up away from the wall and look at each other and have that meditation.” What would it be like to go sit and you’re just looking into the eyes of the person across from you for 30 minutes? It’s time for us -- you see, that just came up out of the stillness. Now I could say, well that’s not Zen and go fall back. But no, that’s what came up out of the stillness: it’s time for us to look at each other and to give each other life force and to cry together, whatever, just feel the interrelationship as an experience, not as a concept or something in our hands because it’ snot in our hands. We were born, we came with it. To see what we came with by just looking at each other in a safe place, not out in the world but with your sangha, community. I think that’s what we’re really needing.
As part of our meditation period, we will do a short practice in pairs, then read together the above text by Rev. Zenju. After that, we will have time to share about our experiences with anger -- both what has come up that evening, but also what we are experiencing in our everyday lives.
I hope to see you then.