Just as with desire, we need not judge our fear, anger, frustration, contraction, irritation, annoyance, or the many other forms of aversion we experience. We simply note the moments of ill will, disappointment, or indignation as they arise. We keep noting these feelings, even labeling them—“anger, anger”—and watching our tone so that we’re not noting in an angry way. We simply take note of our experience as a means of recognition and acceptance.
As an experiment, you might see how many notes it takes until the feelings of anger or aversion dissipate. Five notes, ten notes, a hundred notes? As you investigate, you’ll be able to reinforce the understanding that these feelings, like all others, are impermanent. They’re going to change. You don’t need to be caught up in them. You don’t need to be driven by them. You can create the space in yourself to simply be aware.
Recognition without judgment—that’s the first way of working. The second way of working is to look at the associated feelings that may be feeding the anger or the ill will. For example, anger is often associated with a feeling of self-righteousness, which feeds it like an underground spring. You might find yourself saying, “Well, I’m perfectly right and I should be angry. You may notice the anger, but if you’re not also noticing the self-righteousness, the anger will continue to grow. It’s being fed in a way that you’re not seeing. Remember to investigate the associated feelings in just the same way as before, without judgment or condemnation. We simply see, simply notice.
In case of anger, people sometimes feel that to give it up is to relinquish a source of power and energy for changing the world. But there is a greater source of power that harms neither ourselves nor others, and this is the power of compassion. Later, we’ll discuss and investigate the nature of compassion, and how it works in our practice and our lives.
Adapted from Insight Meditation: A Step-by-Step Course on How to Meditate with Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein, an interactive learning program from Sounds True.