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It was only a few years ago that I realized just how angry I was. I had been immersed in Buddhist practice for some time, but was in the habit of glossing over the token “Anger” chapter in Buddhist practice literature. In Tricycle’s “Dealing with Anger”-type articles I would maybe read the pull quotes and move on to the next piece. I would acknowledge a point well made, but operated under the entrenched assumption that it didn’t really apply to me, or that if it did, it wasn’t the main area I needed to focus on; there were other qualities and realizations and mental states that required development and my immediate, unwavering attention.
It took a kind of hapless breakthrough, one in which I became so consumed by anger that it threatened to destroy me, to recognize it as a real problem—not just at that time but a recurring issue, sometimes only tucked away subtly in the background. When I finally realized, I was astonished that I could have made such a huge oversight. How could I have for so long neglected to acknowledge a mental state and habit so intimately bound up with my being? And to think I had barely been skimming the “The practice of patience” (antidote to anger) chapter in the Bodhicaryavatara—probably one of the most powerful in the masterwork, one that’s saved my ass from the fiery pits of temporary psychic hell a number of times. I had been wandering blindly in a treasure cove, fingering gold coins and tossing them away, dismissing them as pennies.
The aspect of anger that I find myself ruminating over is how anger toward one person or two people creates suffering for innocents around me. Despite how discerning my anger might be, pointed and sharpened toward its object for specific, finely tuned righteous reasons, its expression remains indiscriminate. Because a distant friend wrongs me, the guy who accidentally bumps me on the subway has to field my contemptuous glare and my roommate is forced to tolerate my backhanded comments.
Mindfulness exercises have been helpful in acknowledging anger in my mental continuum—a prerequisite for applying the practice of patience. Rejecting feelings of anger never got me anywhere. With the development of reliable ways to disarm anger, it is best for to recognize the emotion as soon as it arises. I still get pissed off, it just doesn’t overtake me so easily or for so long.
—Alex Caring-Lobel, Editorial Assistant
Image: Faith McClure, Birth Hour, Monoprint collage and mixed media, 2010.