I recently watched a video of Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk and peace activist, beautifully answering a question about anger from a little girl:
Little girl: When I get angry, how do I let my anger out?
Thich Nhat Hanh: Do you think that your anger comes from the outside in and now you want to let it out again?
Little girl: Yes.
Thich Nhat Hanh: Are you sure that the anger is coming from the outside?
Anger is not something pleasant. It’s like the mud. But without the mud we cannot grow the lotus flowers. So the mud is useful, somehow. Your anger is useful, somehow. So maybe you should not get it out. Maybe you should not throw it away. If you know how to make good use of your anger, you can grow the lotus of peace, of joy, of forgiveness.
Anger comes “up”- not from the outside, but from the inside. Because we do not understand and that is why we cannot love. If we look deeply and listen deeply we’ll be able to understand. And when we understand, there is love. And when there is love, anger just transforms itself. You don’t have to take anger and throw it away. In fact, anger is something that you can use. If you hold that anger in understanding and compassion then that anger becomes something like love, like compassion.
I will give you an example. Someone said something unkind to you and you suffer and anger is coming up. If you are not a good practitioner you want to give that girl or boy a punch. Punish her or him. That is anger in us. That anger is a kind of mud that will smear everything. We need to be aware that we must handle the mud and not let the mud smear us and smear the other person.
So you may want to breath in calmly and mindfully, and look at the girl or boy. What do you see in her or him? You see there is a violence in him anger and suffering. If he was happy he would not have said something mean or violent like that. But he does not have the happiness in him. He is suffering and wants to get that suffering out by saying something mean to you or doing something unkind to you. And he thinks that by doing that he will suffer less. That is not very intelligent.
So you see the boy is unhappy. There is an anger and violence in him and he does not know how to handle the violence and unhappiness in him. That’s why he suffers. When he suffers like that, it’s natural that he makes people around him suffer. When you see the anger in him and you understand that anger, you are no longer angry at him.You think, “Poor boy. He suffers. I don’t want to punish him. To make him suffer more. I want to make him suffer less.” And you smile at him, breathing in and out, you say “Dear friend, I know that you suffer. I am not angry even though you said something like that to me because you suffer a lot. So I don’t blame you. I understand you. That is why I am not angry at you. I do not suffer.”
I think Richard Rohr, Franciscan priest and spiritual author, sums this up wonderfully in this quote: “If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it…Consider the analogy of energy circuits: Most of us are relay stations; only a minority are transformers - people who actually change the electrical charge that passes through us.
If we want to live in a more peaceful world, we need to create more peace in our lives.
How do we create more peace? Stop smearing the mud of anger. Breathe. Look deeply. Listen deeply. Seek to understand. Be a transformer and grow a lotus flower.
Am I a relay station, or am I a transformer?
Here’s to conquering stress.
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