Lotus of the Heart > Path of Spirit > Anger and Spirituality


Transforming Anger

Insight and Practice

Dec 11, 2009

Saying For Today: The problem is when we hold on to anger. Then anger poisons us and we pour that poison on other persons around us.

Welcome to OneLife Ministries. This site is designed to lead you prayerfully into a heart experience of Divine Presence, Who is Love. While it focuses on Christian teaching, I hope persons of varied faiths will find inspiration here. Indeed, "God" can be whatever image helps us trust in the Sacred, by whatever means Grace touches us each. Please share this ministry with others, and please return soon. There is a new offering daily. And to be placed on the daily OneLife email list, to request notifications of new writings or submit prayer requests, write to briankwilcox@yahoo.com .

Brian Kenneth Wilcox MDiv, MFT, PhD
Interspiritual Pastor-Teacher, Author, Workshop Leader, Spiritual Counselor, and Chaplain.

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Today's Scripture

3One day, Cain gave part of his harvest to the LORD, 4and Abel also gave an offering to the LORD. He killed the first-born lamb from one of his sheep and gave the LORD the best parts of it. The LORD was pleased with Abel and his offering, 5but not with Cain and his offering. This made Cain so angry that he could not hide his feelings.

6The LORD said to Cain:

What's wrong with you? Why do you have such an angry look on your face? 7If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling. But you did the wrong thing, and now sin is waiting to attack you like a lion. Sin wants to destroy you, but don't let it! 8Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go for a walk." And when they were out in a field, Cain killed him.
*Genesis 4.3-8, CEV

Spiritual Teaching

The myth of the first family in Jewish and Christian Scripture shows the potential destructiveness to oneself and relationships posed by anger. Cain gets angry over a religious matter – and anger and religion are always sadly linked in an odd, miserable marriage. Persons, when it comes to religion, seem so often, so ready to fight, literally, for their beliefs or rights, even if such means hurting or destroying another person or a whole group of persons.

Anger is a common challenge among us all. Indeed, our culture is pervaded by anger. Simply notice persons angry on the highways, at checkout lines, at sports events, toward politicians, and husbands and wives raging at each other, … We are a society saturated with anger, an anger grounded in selfishness and the frustrations of daily life in a society that is losing its relational and public civility, social cohesion, family closeness, and the will to delay gratification.

I myself was raised in an anger family. We loved each other dearly. Yet, we lacked the emotional and relational skills to know how to process well our feelings. Thankfully, over time anger dissipated in our family system; yet, for many years I was a person calm on the outside but ready to explode at any moment from the inside. Also, I often carried a silent anger within me. And I used to stay angry over something for long periods of time, anger that now I usually can dissolve, or transform, in a matter of seconds to minutes.

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The spiritual paths speak to the potential harm of anger. For example, in Buddhism anger is called a poison or demon. Just imagine drinking poison, filling your mind-heart with toxicity. That is what we do when we seethe with anger, or we are aggressively wrathful toward others.

Christians have referred to anger as one of the seven deadly sins and, also, as a demon. So, think upon that word deadly. Anger kills the human spirit, rage destroys the beauty of the soul. Notice the face and eyes of a person who is habitually angry. You see death.

The seriousness of anger in spiritual practice is shown in the title of a chapter by Tibetan Lama, Christie McNally. She titles a chapter in her The Tibetan Book of Meditation, “The Biggest Demon of Meditation.” While spiritual practice gives rise to the arising of anger repressed within a person, meditation will finally be blocked if anger is not dissolved, or transformed.

Yet, possibly, McNally is overconfident in the power of insight, as is many spiritual teachers. She writes, “So all we have to do is to fill our minds with wisdom – understanding how things are really coming to us – and we won't ever have to get angry again.”

Certainly, insight into the nature of anger, indeed all phenomena, can aid in addressing the poison of anger. Sadly, experience shows us that usually more is needed than insight; insight might be often only the beginning of dealing with anger – even though an important beginning.

Likewise, likely no one among us will never get angry, regardless of how much insight or spiritual maturity we get. Yet, anger is an energy that can flow through us, if we let it. The problem is when we hold on to anger. Then anger poisons us and we pour that poison on other persons around us.

Anger in itself is neither good nor bad, yet anger is dangerous, for anger can lead to many unkind thoughts, acts, and words. So, we need to be honest when we feel anger. Then, we need to work to dissipate it quickly.

Christian Scripture, in Ephesians 4.26, addresses this danger of anger and need to dissolve it, or transform it, soon: “When angry, do not then act on it to be harmful; and do not let the sun set with you still angry.” So, we admit the anger is our anger - not the fault of someone else -, and we process it, so not to remain angry. If we do not move beyond the anger, soon we become an angry person; we become like the demon of anger ourselves.

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Anger will arise in relationships. What if this happens? Beyond the points already made, in a close relationship create the safety for each to admit feelings of upsetness and anger.

Once, I was in a close relationship and the other person blamed me for not wanting to understand the person. I did want to understand. Yet, the anger, rage, and hurtful blaming directed at me, and at times yelling, did not allow a safe space to listen. So, I began retreating, with the instruction that I would listen when the yelling, accusations, blaming, ... allowed a safe space. My posture was to remain calm. Very few persons will seek to understand you, if you do not allow a safe place for them to listen.

If a person, furthermore, feels the other person judges him or her for feeling angry, this can actually help create more anger. Yet, the relationship will be helped if both are free to share such feelings, in kindness and asking for help from the other to process through and let go of the anger. And one can say, too, to the other, “It appears you may be upset. If so, help me understand how you feel.” That is much better than judging a person for having these feelings.

And, remember, under the anger is always hurt. Love is ultimately the antidote to such hurt and anger.

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Last, we each must decide how important it is to be seen to be right. Is trying to prove you are in the right to one you care about worth risking the anger and hurt that can destroy the relationship?

Recently, I asked a friend to forgive me. She said that I had done nothing to ask forgiveness for. Yet, even asking for forgiveness, whether are not one feels he or she is wrong about something, is a loving act. Such says, "Our closeness is what is important to me, not that I am wrong or right." So, in Love, we can transcend together right and wrong, in Pure and Godly Love.

Spiritual Practice: Transforming Anger

Different spiritual practices can be engaged to address anger. I will share one, from McNally. She calls this meditation “Killing Our Anger.” I prefer a nonviolent word or words in dealing with Anger, like transforming, dissolving, or letting go of. I adapt the practice somewhat, but the essential outline remains the same.

1)Get into a comfortable position, then relax your body into stillness.

2)Let your eyes fall closed and, then, focus on your breath for a few moments, to get the mind settled.

3)Now call to mind the last time you got upset, or angry. Replay the event in your mind, so that it is as if you were right there again.

4)Watch yourself from a distance then, and check into your mind. Find the wrong view you were holding onto that allowed the anger to arise – watch yourself blaming someone else for something unpleasant happening to you.

5)Here is the crucial moment: now, call to mind a pure view, and remember how everything you are experiencing comes from seeds of experience planted in your heart-mind from the past. Many past experiences add up to the anger of the moment toward an event or person in the moment. See this pure view.

6)See in the past a similar situation where you were hurt. See how you got angry. See how you acted out or repressed that anger. See more than one of these times, if you wish. See how past experience contributed to your present anger.

7)Put yourself back in the scenario, but with these pure thoughts in mind – thoughts of insight, nonblaming, patience, kindness; then, let the scene unfold differently – watch yourself not getting angry this time.

8)Feel a sense of true power, that you know many past seeds grew up into poisonous heart-mind weeds to lead to this anger, and in the future you know how to change it. You are no longer a victim of outside events, you are growing to be more prepared to respond without anger.

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*OneLife Ministries is a ministry of Brian Kenneth Wilcox, SW Florida. Brian lives a vowed life and with his two dogs, Bandit Ty and St. Francis. While within the Christian path, he is an ecumenical-interspiritual teacher, author, and chaplain. He is Senior Chaplain for the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, Punta Gorda, FL.

*Brian welcomes responses to his writings at briankwilcox@yahoo.com . Also, Brian is on Facebook: search Brian Kenneth Wilcox.

*You can order his book An Ache for Union from major booksellers.


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