April 15, 2011

How To Relate to Anger

Sharon Salzberg, from the second talk, "The Five Hindrances: Desire and Aversion," of her Tricycle Retreat:

When we step back and re-vision our understanding of life then we don't need to get so lost in our anger. When we look at anger as it arises, what's important is to look at the very feeling, flavor, and texture of anger. We don't say, "This is wrong," "This is bad," "I shouldn't have this anger." Just pay attention to the feeling.

Once I was sitting at the Insight Meditation Society, the center I cofounded in Massachusetts, and one of my teachers, Munindra, who was visiting from India was guiding us. I was very upset at this moment. Anger had come into my mind and I was thinking, "I've been practicing for four years, I shouldn't be angry anymore but I am. What's this still doing here?!" Munindra could hear how disgruntled I was, how dismayed I was, and he said, "Imagine that a spaceship has landed on the front lawn and these martians have come out and come up to you and asked, 'What is anger?' That's how you should relate to anger."

You don't think "I'm righteous. I'm going to do this or that, get revenge, etc." You just ask, "What is anger?" "What's it like in my body?" "What are the layers of this mood?" "How much sadness is there in it? How much fear?"

In Tibetan Buddhist practice it is taught that anger is something we pick up when we feel weak, because we think it will make us strong. But does it? What's the nature of that strength? How supple is it? How brittle is it? So we just take a look. That's what is so powerful and interesting, to really come close to these feelings without getting lost in them and without struggling against them, and to use them as the basis for very great insight.


To take part in this retreat, please become a Tricycle Community Supporting or Sustaining Member.

Sharon Salzberg's new book Real Happiness is available to Tricycle Community members for the month of April with a 20% discount, free shipping in the US, and free e-book for instant download.

Image by Mike + Doug Starn. Available in the Tricycle Gallery

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andapeterson's picture

Hi Sharon, What a thrill to communicate with you after having read your work and read you quoted in ohter works, like Jack Kornfield. I'm a new member of Trricyle. What you say about the attachment to what we don't have is extrememly helpful for me. This form of attachment has been a noose around my neck for years. I grew up a child of factory workers (both of whom were also both alcholics and immigrant). There was much it seemed I didn't have--love, money. I'm 63 now and have found much spiritual sustenance to replace my "losses." Now I'm doing an experiment in non-attachment by blogging about that--letting go is my "retirement plan." It's working so far! But I am still stuck with this attachment---I have little money and no way to ever fully stop working. I'm going to write about your reminder of this form of attachemt and I think by investigating it I'll move toward freedom. Thank you so much. BTW my blog is walkswithyogi.wordpress.com if you or anyone here would like to stop by--would love to "see" you!