The Ninth Zen Precept: Not Being Angry
Practice: Working with Anger
To make the practice of working with anger personal and precise, it is useful to explore the following kinds of questions. (This can be done as a solo inquiry, or with another person asking you the questions, then silently holding the space while you answer.)
First, find out on what kinds of occasions you get angry:
• When do I get angry?
• What makes me angry?
• Do I get angry when I’m criticized? Ignored? Not getting my way? Do I get angry at someone who treats others badly?
• Do I ever displace my anger onto the wrong person, or take anger at myself out on someone else?
• What happens when I get angry? Does angry language pop out of me?
Next, inquire into the flavor of your anger:
• How do I typically get angry? Is my anger hot or cold? Is it quickly discharged or a slow burn?
• Is my anger suppressed, denied, or hidden?
• Do I walk around with simmering resentments day after day?
• How is my private anger different from my anger at public figures or institutions?
If you have difficulty expressing anger or even recognizing that you’re angry, ask yourself:
• When do I have difficulty expressing anger?
• With which sorts of people am I reluctant to express anger? Family members? Friends? Men? Women? Employers? Authority figures?
Finally, ask yourself about any old angers you’ve been carrying around for a long time. (Sometimes we have to dig deep to uncover them.)