July 14, 2009

Harnessing Anger at the Checkout Line

Last Sunday, Tricycle Community member and magazine contributor Rev. Danny Fisher blogged about a recent unnerving experience in the checkout line of a grocery store. What could have been simply an unpleasant encounter turned into a larger learning experience when Fisher reflected on his own retaliatory response after being provoked by a rude customer. Fisher writes:

As I left the store, I wondered about my reaction. What else, if anything, should I have done? Should I have said something more directly? Was there any virue in my snarky response, or was it just snark, plain and simple? Eventually, I found myself thinking about anger and Buddhism, and I remembered a teaching of Lama Surya Das' that I read once:

Ultimately, I believe that anger is just an emotion. We needn't be afraid of it or judge it too harshly. Emotions occur quickly; moods linger longer. These temporary states of mind are conditioned, and therefore can be reconditioned. Through self-discipline and practice, negativity can be transformed into positivity and freedom and self-mastery achieved.

A clue to anger is that a lot of it stems from fear, and it manifests in the primitive "fight or flight" response. I have noticed that when I am feeling angry, asking myself, "Where and how do I hurt? What am I afraid of?" helps clarify things and mitigate my tempestuous reaction. After cooling down, I ask myself, "What would Buddha do; What would Love do in this situation?" This helps me soothe my passions, be more creative and proactive instead of reactive. In that state, I can transcend blame, resentment, and bitterness.

Fisher's post explores our ability to effect the anger in others by harnessing our own anger and turning it into positive energy. Has anyone out there had an experience in which you chose to be proactive rather than reactive? Did it bring about a change in those around you?

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Mumon's picture

Sometimes you can speak past another's anger; you should keep in mind that their anger -and yours arises from the same place, and just like your anger arising during meditation, the same techniques can be used to attempt to "relax" the anger of another.

It might not be effective, it might not work - after all, you cannot open another's mind.

But there is something that can be done.

The Grocery Checkout and Practicing with Anger | elephant jo's picture

[...] at the Tricycle Editors’ Blog, Rachel Hiles kindly posted on a recent post of mine about contemplating anger at the grocery [...]