February 13 Dealing with the Knots of Anger

This Monday Bea will facilitate.  

She shares:


This week I would like to share with you some thoughts about anger. Lately I have been experiencing a lot of anger and this is starting to wear me down. I have been angry at someone I consider a close friend because she does engage politically the way I want her to engage. She does not read the news, does not call her members of Congress, does not write letters to denounce what is happening, and does not seem bothered by what I am perceive to be a direct attack on our individual and collective rights. I have also been angry at some of my co-workers because they do not understand the challenging position I am in and make it worse by micromanaging me. I have felt anger towards my daughter because her grades are not where I think they should be, and at my new dentist because I have been having a toothache ever since she replaced a filling. I am also angry at Metro because my daily commute is a nightmare, prices keep going up and service gets worse. The list could go on and on. So you see? This is quite exhausting. I am tired of being angry and of justifying my anger by passing judgment on others. All I want to do is sleep and make the anger and the suffering that comes from it go away...


Thich Nhat Hanh talks about loosening the knots of anger through mindful practice. As I was perusing the Lion's Roar website, I came across an article on this very subject. Thay talks about transforming the pain within ourselves as a necessary step to find happiness. According to the Buddha's teachings, he writes, the most basic condition for happiness is freedom. Freedom from the mental formations of anger, despair, jealousy and delusion. These mental formations are described by the Buddha as poisons. As long as these poisons are in our heart, happiness cannot be possible.


Thay gives us concrete instructions on how to transform the craving, anger and confusion within us. He talks about Knots of Anger and says that,


"In our consciousness there are blocks of pain, anger and frustration called internal formations. They are also called knots because they tie us up and obstruct our freedom. When someone insults us or does something unkind to us, an internal formation is created in our consciousness. If you don't know how to undo the internal knot and transform it, the knot will stay there for a long time. And the next time someone says something or does something to you of the same nature, that internal formation will grow stronger. As knots or blocks of pain in us, our internal formations have the power to push us, to dictate our behavior.


After a while, it becomes very difficult for us to transform, to undo the knots, and we cannot ease the constriction of this crystallized formation. The Sanskrit word for internal formation is samyojana. It means "to crystallize." Every one of us has internal formations that we need to take care of. With the practice of meditation, we can undo these knots and experience transformation and healing. Not all internal formations are unpleasant. There are also pleasant internal formations, but they can still make us suffer. When you taste, hear or see something pleasant, then that pleasure can become a strong internal knot. When the object of your pleasure disappears, you miss it and you begin searching for it.

Pleasant or unpleasant, both kinds of knots take away our liberty. That is why we should guard our body and our mind very carefully, to prevent these knots from taking root in us."


Thay says that we need to treat anger with tenderness...


"Mindfulness does not fight anger or despair. Mindfulness is there in order to recognize. To be mindful of something is to recognize that something is there in the present moment. Mindfulness is the capacity of being aware of what is going on in the present moment. "Breathing in, I know that anger has manifested in me; breathing out, I smile towards my anger." This is not an act of suppression or of fighting. It is an act of recognizing. Once we recognize our anger, we embrace it with a lot of awareness, a lot of tenderness.


When it is cold in your room, you turn on the heater, and the heater begins to send out waves of hot air. The cold air doesn't have to leave the room for the room to become warm. The cold air is embraced by the hot air and becomes warm-there's no fighting at all between them.


We practice taking care of our anger in the same way. Mindfulness recognizes anger, is aware of its presence, accepts and allows it to be there. Mindfulness is like a big brother who does not suppress his younger brother's suffering. He simply says, "Dear brother, I'm here for you." You take your younger brother in your arms and you comfort him. This is exactly our practice.


To grow the tree of enlightenment, we must make good use of our afflictions, our suffering. Practitioners of meditation do not discriminate against or reject their internal formations. We do not transform ourselves into a battle field, good fighting evil. We treat our afflictions, our anger, our jealousy with a lot of tenderness. When anger comes up in us, we should begin to practice mindful breathing right away: "Breathing in, I know that anger is in me. Breathing out, I am taking good care of my anger." We behave exactly like a mother: "Breathing in, I know that my child is crying. Breathing out, I will take good care of my child." This is the practice of compassion.


If you don't know how to treat yourself with compassion, how can you treat another person with compassion? When anger arises, continue to practice mindful breathing and mindful walking to generate the energy of mindfulness. Continue to embrace tenderly the energy of anger within you. Anger may continue to be there for sometime, but you are safe, because the Buddha is in you, helping you to take good care of your anger. The energy of mindfulness is the energy of the Buddha. When you practice mindful breathing, and embrace your anger, you are under the protection of the Buddha. There is no doubt about it: The Buddha is embracing you and your anger with a lot of compassion.


When you are angry, when you feel despair, you practice mindful breathing, mindful walking, to generate the energy of mindfulness. This energy allows you to recognize and embrace your painful feelings. And if your mindfulness is not strong enough, you ask a brother or a sister in the practice to sit close to you, to breathe with you, to walk with you in order to support you with his or her mindfulness energy. Practicing mindfulness does not mean that you have to do everything on your own. You can practice with the support of your friends. They can generate enough mindfulness energy to help you take care of your strong emotions."


See you Monday evening.