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Lions Roar : September 2014
a CCordInG to buddhISt PSyCholoGy, anger is one of the six root kleshas, the conflicting emotions that cause our suffering. Its companions are greed, ignorance, passion, envy, and pride. Anger can be white hot or freezing cold. Anger can be turned outward to other people, to a particular situation you are stuck with, or to life in general. It can be turned inward, in the form of self-hatred, resentment, or rejection of those parts of your- self that embarrass you or make you feel vulnerable. Anger can cause you to kill; it can lead you to commit suicide. Anger is fueled by the impulse to reject, to push away, to destroy. It is associated with the hell realm, a state of intense pain and claustrophobia. That quality of claustrophobia or being squeezed into a corner is also reflected in the origins of the Eng- lish word anger, whose root means “narrow” or “constricted.” Anger can be extremely energetic. You feel threatened and claustrophobic, and that painful feeling intensifies until you lash out like a cornered rat. Or it can manifest as a subtle simmering of resentment that you carry along with you always, like a chip on your shoulder. like the other kleshas, anger is a part of our makeup. We all have it, but we deal with it very differently, both as individuals and culturally. Because the experience of anger is so potent, we usually try to get rid of it somehow. One way we try to get rid of it is to stuff it or suppress it, because we are embarrassed to acknowledge or accept that we could be feeling that way. Another way we try to get rid of our anger is by impulsively acting out through violent words or actions, but that only feeds more anger. Since anger is a natural part of us, we cannot really get rid of it, no matter how hard we try. However, we can change how we relate to it. When we do, we begin to glimpse a quality hidden within this destructive force that is sane and valuable. We can save the baby while we throw out the bathwater. In Buddhism there are many strategies and practices for deal- ing with anger. The overall approach is to start with meditation. In the context of formal sitting practice we can begin to understand the energy of anger, as well as the other kleshas, and to make a new relationship with it. On that basis, we can begin to apply this insight in the more challenging environment of day-to-day living. how mindfulness undermines aggression The formal practice of mindfulness is the foundation for exploring the powerful energy of anger. It is hard to deal with anger once it has exploded, which is why meditation practice is such a helpful tool. By slowing down, and by refining our observational powers, we can catch the arising of anger at an earlier stage, before it has a chance to overtake us completely. The practice of sitting still, breathing naturally, and looking attentively at one’s moment-by- moment experience is in and of itself an antidote to aggression. This is true because anger and other emotional outbursts thrive on being unseen. They thrive on the ability to lurk below the surface of our awareness and pop up whenever they please. So extending the boundary of your awareness takes away the natural habitat that sustains the kleshas. Through meditation, we learn to tune in to what we are feeling and observe that experience with dispassion and sympathy. The more we can do that in formal Buddhist teacher judy Lief is the author of Making Friends with Death and the editor of many works by her teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, including the recent Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma. SHAMBHALA SUN SepteMBer 2014 49