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Lions Roar : July 2016
VE FOUND IT DIFFICULT to make any headway on the Buddhist path without encountering and working with difficult, agitating emotions—sadness, disgust, fear, and especially anger. Anger is an agitated state of mind that can easily lead to hatred and violence if unchecked. Yet I don’t believe it’s possible to get rid of anger; it is a universal emotion deeply rooted in ingrained survival reactions. My goal is to live with anger—as well as other difficult emotions—in a skillful way so it doesn’t cause harm. How do I practice with anger in order to achieve that? There are many types of anger. For example, there’s the anger I feel after watching or reading about social injustice. The energy of this type of anger can be helpful. Taking action requires expe- riencing enough outrage that I’m compelled to volunteer, protest, or support the causes that address social injustice—without allowing my indignation to erupt into violence. Another type of anger is made up of grudges that camou- flage grief. I mentor many people who carry around unending resentments at those who’ve abandoned them, whether lovers, spouses, partners, parents, or family members. What I find is that harboring such resentment creates the illusion that we can protect ourselves from ever being abandoned again. Our underlying belief is that if we replay the events often enough in our minds, we’ll be safe. But believe me, it’s very possible to be wounded by others while being filled with resentments—that was the gist of my twenty years of alcohol dependence. As the son of an alcoholic father, I lived with my share of bitterness, which only blocked me from processing the deeper emotions of grief and sadness that needed care and attention. Fortunately I learned to work past the “unfairness of it all” through Buddhist therapy and Insight Meditation prac- tice, in which I practiced recognizing the deeper, more painful, emotions. Then there is the type of anger that erupts when we expe- rience small indignities in daily life. Here are two examples of situations like that in which I failed, at first, to process anger in a skillful way. A little while ago, I was riding my bike over the Williamsburg Bridge. There was only one person ahead of me on the Brook- lyn-bound bike lane, and he was a good distance ahead. At one point I looked away from the path, and in the time it took for metodoso,hehadgottenoffhisbikeandputitdowninaway that completely blocked the path. He was now less than ten feet away from me. I screeched to a stop and inadvertently yelled, “Damn!” (which in Brooklynese is like saying a friendly hello). Maybe I gave him a quizzical look as I pedaled past, but nothing more. A moment later he yelled out in my direction, in the most sarcastic voice you can imagine, “I’m sorry if I ruined your night... asshole! ” I continued over the bridge in an agitated state—my shoulders almost touching my ears, my jaw locked, my thoughts caught in a self-righteous spiral. You see, when I experience some form of poor treatment, my mind provides, free of charge, an inner law- JOSH KORDA is the presiding teacher at Dharma Punx NYC + Brooklyn. You Can’t Get Rid of Your Anger— And That’s OK Denying anger or giving in to it only makes things worse. The middle way, says JOSH KORDA, is to live with your difficult emotions skillfully so you don’t harm yourself and others. PHOTOBYMIRZAMOHLBERG I’ LION’S ROAR | JULY 2016 52