Instructions for Anger

Instructions for Anger

05-18-2019

Easter 2019

 

It has been an interesting eleven days.  Two students carried weapons into their school and created chaos.  One wondered what drove these two with no prior histories of trouble to such an act.  One student died saving his fellow classmates and others were injured.  All at the school, their parents, their community and the world experienced concern, pain, and anger at this act.

 

This week, in what should be a good thing in supposedly trying to reduce the infant mortality rate in their state, two governors signed legislation regarding abortion.  On both sides voices were raised in anger.  IN each case, the governors acknowledged that the laws they had just signed were unenforceable, causing even more anger.

 

Whether we are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Agnostic, Atheist, or somewhere in-between any of the above, we all experience anger.  I think anger can sometimes be a positive emotion.  The patient who is angry that a disease like cancer seems to think it can beat them will get angry and often, fight harder to survive.  But what about that deep anger that destroys us from the inside out?

 

Thich Nhat Hanh describes happiness as “not suffering”.  This Buddhist teacher and spiritualist reminds us that true happiness comes from within ourselves and not from material things or social standing.  Regardless of how it may seem, reality shows like “the Kardashians” are not about people who have it all but rather about people who struggle with an impossible race to reach happiness through impossible means.  The one emotion that drives such programs and thinking is anger.

 

Nhat Hanh explains:  “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.”

 

It has become popular to “vent” one’s anger.  Sometimes people hit pillows but does this really release the anger?  As a parent I taught my kids to do jumping jacks, that exercise where you spread your arms wide over your hard and spread your feet accordingly while you jump back to a standing position.  For small children, this gives them a sense of being in control as they dictate what their body is doing and are no longer captive to their feelings of anger.

 

For adults, Nhat Hanh offers this advice.  “Whenever you feel yourself becoming angry, start practicing mindfulness.  Think of that one thing that makes you happy.  Visualize yourself in your most favorite spot doing something you enjoy doing.  Recall the feelings of happiness that that activity and that location bring to you and let yourself experience happiness.  To be happy, to me, is to suffer less. If we were not capable of transforming the pain within ourselves, happiness would not be possible.  Many people look for happiness outside themselves, but true happiness must come from inside of us.

 

“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.”

 

We are going to feel anger.  It is an inevitable part of life.  It is up to us to decide whether to use it, embrace it, or to let it eat us up and destroy us.  Nhat Hanh suggests this analogy:  “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.

 

“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”, ourselves.

 

When we use our anger mindfully, we are showing compassion, not only to another but also to ourselves.  We must learn to do this because without it, we will not truly show compassion to others.  Nhat Hanh offers this very important piece of advice regarding life, its messiness and its inevitable feels of anger.  “To grow the tree of enlightenment, we must make good use of our afflictions, our suffering. It is like growing lotus flowers; we cannot grow a lotus on marble. We cannot grow a lotus without mud.” 

 

Anger will be a part of our lives.  We can either choose to let it be the medium through which we grow or something that drags us down like quick sand, destroying all within its reach..   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructions for Anger

Instructions for Anger

Easter 22-23

 

Whether we are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Agnostic, Atheist, or somewhere in-between any of the above, we all experience anger.  I think anger can sometimes be a positive emotion.  The patient who is angry that a disease like cancer seems to think it can beat them will get angry and often, fight harder to survive.  But what about that deep anger that destroys us from the inside out?

 

Thich Nhat Hanh describes happiness as not suffering.  This Buddhist teacher and spiritualist reminds us that true happiness comes from within ourselves and not from material things or social standing.  Regardless of how it may seem, reality shows like “the Kardashians” are not about people who have it all but rather about people who struggle with an impossible race to reach happiness through impossible means.  The one emotion that drives such programs and thinking is anger.

 

Nhat Hanh explains:  “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.”

 

It has become popular to “vent” one’s anger.  Sometimes people hit pillows but does this really release the anger?  As a parent I taught my kids to do jumping jacks, that exercise where you spread your arms wide over your hard and spread your feet accordingly while you jump back to a standing position.  For small children, this gives them a sense of being in control as they dictate what their body is doing and are no longer captive to their feelings of anger.

 

For adults, Nhat Hanh offers this advice.  “Whenever you feel yourself becoming angry, start practicing mindfulness.  Think of that one thing that makes you happy.  Visualize yourself in your most favorite spot doing something you enjoy doing.  Recall the feelings of happiness that that activity and that location bring to you and let yourself experience happiness.  To be happy, to me, is to suffer less. If we were not capable of transforming the pain within ourselves, happiness would not be possible.  Many people look for happiness outside themselves, but true happiness must come from inside of us.

 

“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.”

 

We are going to feel anger.  It is an inevitable part of life.  It is up to us to decide whether to use it, embrace it, or to let it eat us up and destroy us.  Nhat Hanh suggests this analogy:  “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.

 

“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”, ourselves.

 

When we use our anger mindfully, we are showing compassion, not only to another but also to ourselves.  We must learn to do this because without it, we will not truly show compassion to others.  Nhat Hanh offers this very important piece of advice regarding life, its messiness and its inevitable feels of anger.  “To grow the tree of enlightenment, we must make good use of our afflictions, our suffering. It is like growing lotus flowers; we cannot grow a lotus on marble. We cannot grow a lotus without mud.”  Anger will be a part of our lives.  We can either choose to let it be the medium through which we grow or something that drags us down like quick sand.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Time is Now!

The Time is Now!

Pentecost 184

 

I was in a hurry the day I stopped in my local library.  I went to the bookshelf with the hold and got my book that had come in but then, I saw a nonfiction shelf and thought I perhaps had time to quickly peruse to see if any new titles had arrived.  It was then I spotted a book that someone had taken off the shelf and then haphazardly placed on another.

 

In a hurry I registered that the book was a religious title and then saw the author’s name.  “Wait,” I thought.  “This has to be a mistake.  That or someone had a warped sense of humor.  Why would someone use a pseudonym of a location popular in religious stories of many religions?”  Habits die hard and as a former librarian, I quickly went to reshelf the book correctly.  Again, though I stopped.  “Catchy pseudonym,” I realized.  “It caught my eye for sure and now I am holding this book which is, of course, the goal of any author.  That pseudonym made me pick up the book.”

 

Curious I decided to just check the book out since I really was on a time crunch.  Fortunately the library had a self-checkout machine and I was quickly on my way.  Later, like two days later, I remembered my happenchance checkout and picked the book up…again.  Apparently the author’s real given name was that location that I thought to be a practical and clever joke. Then I realized the book was of a subject I was particularly interested in and I began to read it.

 

My accidental checkout led me to a wonderful read and I not only read the book, I purchased it online.  It now holds a spot of honor on my overloaded bookcases and I even had a book club read it.  The book is not the typical nonfiction how-to manual nor is it even one that claims to have all the answers.  It is a diary of sorts about one woman’s interactions with strangers, interactions based upon a faith she did not she had born out of a fear she knew all too well.

 

We each have things that impact us and how we respond tells more about us than any identification cards we carry.  Our anger might be well deserved and understandable but is the negativity it can create?  Usually it is not.  Fear is something we all experience but allowing it to cripple us is also useless.  Through the interactions she had with strangers, River Jordan tells the story of connections, of faith, and of discovery.  In short, it is the story of living life in the here and now and of making a difference. 

 

In her book “Praying for Strangers”, River Jordan states:  “I can be a woman who prays for strangers but remains completely blind to their bruises.”  How many people did you pass today?  Now, answer me this:  How many people did you really see?  With all the sensory overload our busy lives, we often become indifferent to the people around us, the people the inhabit our living. 

 

In the final minutes of their lives, people often report that it is not the material things they have in their lives that matter,; what matters are the people.  The very people we often take for granted or simply seem to not see often give our life definition. People we may have ignored or simply have not really seen might just be the one thing that helps define our living.

 

We need to step out of our busy lives to really live.  We need to share our living with others.  Our blindness to those around us translates into inaction on our part in giving of our selves.  What we forget is that by giving of ourselves, we give them the most precious thing – our attention.  Writer Kathleen Norris talks about our lives having a liturgy of their own and that each life has a sacred rhythm unique to each of us.  Far too often we go through our lives with the mute button pressed down when it comes to hearing the rhythm of those we love and care about.

 

Too many people go through their daily living with blinders on, not really seeing the person standing next to them.  We share common ground and yet act as if we are alone.  We should connect with those around us. Such a connection creates a web in our lives that unites us with the rest of mankind.  It is not just about the person we are praying for or the actions we undertake.  Ultimately these actions benefit most the person who does them.  Such action opens our eyes so that we see not only the need but the pain.  It acknowledges the want without blame or guilt. 

 

We all make decisions about action every hour.  What will I wear?  What will I eat?  Where will I go?  How will I do this task?  It is time to think outside the box of our own being and ask ourselves what action can and should we do today to help another.  We need to take action and move forward. 

Easter Forty-Nine

Easter Forty – Nine
June 7, 2014

To err is human, to forgive….nigh on impossible!

Sometimes life sucks. We fall down and it hurts. George Bernard Shaw once wrote: “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than doing nothing.” So we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves and start all over again and then we … fall or fail or, in the very least, do not achieve our objective. “It is not because the truth is too difficult to see that we make mistakes”, says Alexander Solzhenitsyn; “we make mistakes because the easiest and most comfortable course for us is to seek insight where it accords with our emotions – especially selfish ones.”

Pijl Zieber of the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada wrote a dissertation on how mistakes are managed in nursing education. He presented evidence-based solutions for reducing the negative effects mistakes have on students and subsequent experience. “Clinical is where nursing students really put everything together. How we prepare students in theory classes is important, but theory is much different than actual practice. We need to support students in ways that give them confidence in a clinical setting.”

Reality often proves much more difficult than any of us imagined when dreaming of becoming adults. As children it seems that the adult has access to everything and can do whatever he or she wants. The reality check comes when we discover what responsibility is and the cost of our choices. An anonymous quote states that “if you commit the same mistake more than once, it is no longer a mistake; it is a conscious decision.”

Aristotle defined philosophy as the science of truth. Mario Livio wrote a book entitled “Brilliant Blunders”. As the five scientists he writes about embarked on their journey to discover truth and science, the made mistakes. Charles Darwin, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Linus Pauling, Fred Hoyle, and Albert Einstein were all brilliant scientists. Each made groundbreaking contributions to his field—but each also stumbled badly. Darwin’s theory of natural selection shouldn’t have worked, according to the prevailing beliefs of his time. Not until Gregor Mendel’s work was known would there be a mechanism to explain natural selection. How could Darwin be both wrong and right? Lord Kelvin, Britain’s leading scientific intellect at the time, gravely miscalculated the age of the earth.

Linus Pauling, the world’s premier chemist (who would win the Nobel Prize in chemistry) constructed an erroneous model for DNA in his haste to beat the competition to publication. Astrophysicist Fred Hoyle dismissed the idea of a “Big Bang” origin to the universe (ironically, the caustic name he gave to this event endured long after his erroneous objections were disproven).

Albert Einstein, whose name is synonymous with genius, speculated incorrectly about the forces that hold the universe in equilibrium—and that speculation opened the door to brilliant conceptual leaps. These five scientists expanded our knowledge of life on earth, the evolution of the earth itself, and the evolution of the universe, despite and because of their errors. As Mario Livio luminously explains, the scientific process advances through error. Mistakes are essential to progress.

Yet, how do we move beyond the mistake? How do we forgive when someone makes a mistake that affects us? There is no one correct definitive answer but however we do, it says much more about us than it does about the mistake or the person making it. A great deal of empirical evidence has been gathered regarding compassion and the results have offered new insights into behavior. Compassion is an emotional response that recognizes suffering in another and a sincere desire when perceiving such to help.

Dacher Keltner at the University of California, Berkeley, maintains that all animals, including man, have a “compassionate instinct” and that it has ensured our survival through the ages. Although accredited to Charles Darwin, the terminology “survival of the fittest” was actually first used by Herbert Spencer. IN the “descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex”, Darwin spoke of “survival of the kindest”. He stated that “the greater strength of the social or maternal instincts” were stronger than any other instinct or motive. He concluded that compassionate communities, those with the greatest number of sympathetic members, would achieve more and raise the greatest number of offspring.

Studies such as those done by Steve Cole at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Barbara L. Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as well as that done at the University of Buffalo all result in findings that illustrate the health and longevity advantages of being compassionate. Thinking of others and not ourselves makes us feel better, live stronger and longer.

The Mayo Clinic defines forgiveness as a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. According to their website, the advantages of forgiving someone include healthier relationships, greater spiritual and psychological well-being, less anxiety, less stress and hostility, lower blood pressure, and fewer symptoms of depression. They offer tips for forgiving others. Most importantly, the state, the one who forgives no longer defines his or her life by the pain or hurt experienced.

A spirit of compassion, a spirit of forgiveness makes a body whole, really whole. When the Spirit falls on someone, that spirit of kindness which Darwin addressed, then we have a future. Such a spirit heals and fulfills and can build the future…. one mistake at a time.