A Fierce Flame
Anger is hate energy. It is like an acetylene flame. You can use it to cut through steel or to weld things together or to start a fire that will burn your house down. Life is full of possibilities.
Generally we get frightened when anger appears. Anger is very infectious. It shows up in one person and soon everybody is feeling it. The fear and the anger are like an alternating current switching back and forth - now rage, now fear, now rage, now fear, now… When it is strong it can bring out a sweat.
It is a rather acute energy - short and sharp. It can disappear as quickly as it appears, but in that short time it can do an awful lot of damage if you are not careful. When you have an acetylene torch, you need to know how to use it, or you can get badly hurt.
Of course, this is true of most tools. If you use them badly you can hurt yourself. The torch is just another tool. On the one hand, it pays not to be fool-hardy, waving it about randomly as if it were nothing. On the other hand, you don’t need to be afraid of it if you have a steady hand and a clear purpose.
There is a story about a samurai warrior wandering into a Buddhist temple. He sees the monk and challenges him. He says, "What use are you priests? And what is all this rubbish about heaven and hell that you confuse people with?" The monk looks at him and, with some animation, says, ""You? You call yourself a soldier! Huh. You are a disorderly wimp, that's what you are." The samurai's hand goes to the hilt of his sword and he is just starting to draw it. The monk changes his manner completely and with great calm and kindness says, "Here open the gates of hell." The samurai, sensing the monks more friendly manner and lack of fear, relaxes. The sword drops back into its scabbard. "And here open the gates of heaven," says the monk. "Now that we have met one another, can I offer you some refreshment?"
Clear purpose means knowing what your life is dedicated to. The human lifespan is not that long so it pays to make the most of it. Choose a path that is not going to leave you full of regret in later years. Do something with your life that is intrinsically worthwhile. You may have to try a few things in order to refine your choice. In my own life I have progressed through being an accountant to working for a charity to becoming a social worker to being a therapist to being a priest. Yet all the time, my inspiration was the truly wise sages - the Buddhas of all times. I had a spiritual vision from my earliest years - the challenge has been both to find how to apply it and then to have the courage to just go for it.
How do you get a steady hand? Practice and experience. Handling anger is very intense experience. Sometimes you feel as though you are going to explode into a million pieces. You don’t, of course, but blood pressure and body temperature may well rise. You can use physical symptoms like that to gauge what is happening.
Maybe somebody is taunting you, needling the things you value, running down your reputation, threatening, or actually damaging things you love and need for your purpose. You can feel your body getting hot. Fever. Pressure. Physically your organism is getting ready for fight or flight.
Now because we are half-way civilised, we have learnt various strategies for not just doing the thing that nature has prepared us for which might be homicide or running away as fast as your legs can go. However, it is important to respect these gifts of nature, even if we have learnt prudence and restraint in using them. If we start from a position of thinking that the natural instinct is “bad” or “evil” we are condemning the very stuff that we are made of.
This might mean having a conscious awareness of feeling violent - that’s powerful - or it might not have any cognitive content, just feeling the feeling. Really what is needed at this point is not personal mastery. What is needed is a truly spiritual act - something deep - which is to make oneself into an offering. It is like turning to the the Buddhas and saying “This is what I’ve got. It’s just arrived and its burning hot. I hope you like it.” That is a kind of prayer and you might say it but actually there is no need to say anything - it is the act of turning and offering that matters, that and being willing to accept what comes.
This requires faith. It may seem crazy but Buddha can bless even the most searing rage and in that blessing there is nothing but pure love. When you feel it, the fire of hell becomes the light that illuminates heaven.
The story of the samurai is beautiful. But there is something about anger... My anger always seems to vanish in fear and pain. I am not very familiar with anger, accept that I can feel fear for this emotions. I am to afraid for anger I suppose. Or maybe it is hidden somewhere in the basement... Sometimes I think it is more healthy to feel anger, but is it? Maybe anger is for me one of the most complex emotions...
I often get a confusing conflict when I feel anger, torn between the various methods that I've learned along the way, which seem to contradict each other. For a while I worked with the ''anger is a crying baby that needs to be held'' approach, which seemed to serve me quite well in that stage. Then I progressed to the''let it be what it is'' stage, which actually requires more skill so that other people don't get dragged into my drama but the anger does get some space and an expression. This is not as easy as it might sound, but when it happens and i give it the attention that it needs, I come away feeling satisfied and fulfilled! Anger is always secondary for me...that is, it always conceals a deeper cause, which usually becomes apparent after the tantrum. Anger is fear in action, the protective front which guards layers of profound vulnerability...well for me anyway!!( ; Namo Amida Bu!
I think this emotion was much more present when I was younger. I do not know if its decreasing depends on having been with it many times or simply it is a question of age…
I usually identify it quite easily, sometimes as a flash of lighting, full of rising energy and others much more subtle manifesting along hours as a certain irritability which makes me find obstacles everywhere and also makes more difficult to spend time with me.
This energy is also very strong but quite blind. It tends to destroy things around or to cause harm to others, but it looks for destruction as a way of defence. It is like a blind warrior, whose quest consists of showing a personal message for oneself. In most cases, when this happen to me I know I need to be alone, to retire for a while in order to listen to that message, because when I ignore it gets musty inside, getting darker and more dangerous. It needs to go up to show me the space it was protecting.
As Adam says there are many methods and ways for dealing with anger which seem to be contradictory. I think that all of them are good but none of them is The Method, at least for me. It is by staying alone with it I feel the way it needs to be liberated, if really it needs to do so. Many times it only needs to be transformed in peaceful strong energy to carry out an important or difficult action and anger brings me the impulse I need.
But, anyway, not always has the same language for me. Sometimes needs movement, and speaking or shouting and others need silence, quietness and cuddles from the beginning. Each time is unique, but the good experience is that entering anger in a way or another I usually experience I am exhausting defence and war and this provides me the way for connecting again with vulnerability and surrender.
I find unspoken, unadmitted anger in others often more frightening than anger expressed at me and I have come to know that when I repress my anger it shows in how I move and the tone I use if I speak. Learning to see my own anger and how it rises has helped me to be a less scary person. However most useful has been when the anger I have felt on the treatment of others has spurred me into positive actions. I would say that anger is perhaps not all bad
Thank you, Modgala - yes, I think the unexpressed can be more contagious and unsettling sometimes. I agree with Nati and Adam that there is not just one thing that always has to be deal with the same way - often it requires more reflection, but, of course, when one is angry one is not so reflective.