(This is one in a series of essays about meditation. I hope you enjoy and benefit from these ideas and I invite you to share this with friends. I also want to invite you to attend the next full-day Tree of Life Meditations retreat focused on Agni Yoga. Agni Yoga is a unique form of meditation practice with which you can transform negative psychological and physical patterns.)
One thing is for sure, Meditation will not stop you from feeling anger. I say this with some certainty, not only because I’ve been meditating daily for over 45 years and still get angry…It’s also that I’ve known and listened to the statements of meditation masters from a wide range of traditions who share the same experience with anger. Anger happens. It’s how often it happens, how long it lasts, and how it effects our behavior that changes with meditation.
Anger appears to be hard-wired into us. It’s part of a survival mechanism of the human body/mind organism. Anger arises when “I” am threatened and mobilizes fight or flight energy. The key word here is “I.” Whatever my mind attaches the sense of self to, whatever “I” identifies with, becomes part of what I experience as “me.” If I am attached to certain beliefs and they are challenged, I become angry because “I” feel threatened. If I identify with a certain group and that group is criticized, I get angry for the same reason. If I am attached to the results of a plan, if I have an expectation, I get frustrated or angry when that plan is imperiled. The anger reflex, designed to help us survive, gets highjacked by the mind to defend things that have no bearing on our survival.
Attachment and identification, the sense of what is mine and who “I” am, changes with meditation and so does our experience with anger. We loosen or let go of attachments and shift the sense of our identity from the ego towards the true nature of our being, free of clinging or holding on. We recognize that thoughts are thoughts, they are not who “I” am. We don’t need to believe them, much less defend them. Challenges to the thoughts we consider to be true are not threats to who we are. If anger arises due to our egoic attachment, we know how to accept that energy and return to the awareness that is inner peace.
Yet, not identifying or attaching our sense of self with beliefs or projects or groups is easier said than done. (Consider the last political discussion you had.) It takes practice, but returning to your true nature and to peace, can become what Thich Nhat Hanh calls a “good habit,” or “the habit of happiness.” As we develop the ability to return to beingness, the tendency to react with frustration, annoyance or anger diminishes, whether towards others, ourselves, or the Universe, Life, God. We then are more able to appreciate the wonderful gifts that life truly brings.
Tree of Life Meditations Retreat
June 11th, 10 AM – 5 PM
Tomkins Cove – $100