Woven into the fabric of our humanity are various colors of emotions. Anger is one of these emotions. As we progress along the spiritual path, anger will continue to rise time to time. We can experience it flaring up when we are in traffic, have a disagreement with a loved one, see something disturbing in the news, or move through a personal tragedy.
The key is to bring mindfulness and compassion to this strong force of anger. In yoga, they sometimes compare anger to a cobra because it can attack you, but it can also be tamed and trained. By bringing awareness to our emotions we can hold it with spaciousness so that we don’t become so consumed by it. We realize that like the weather our emotions come and go, and are impermanent.
If we hold onto the anger guess who it hurts the most? ………… YOU! In fact, many forms of energy medicine attribute multiple diseases to the accumulation of toxic emotions like anger.
A Zen master was walking through a field with their students when suddenly, he stopped and pointed to a very large boulder. He asked his students, “is that boulder over there heavy?” The students looked at their master as if he was crazy and said, “of course that boulder is heavy!” With a sly smile on his face the master replied, “Not if you don’t pick it up!”
So, the question is what unnecessary boulders are you picking up, what unnecessary baggage from your past are you holding to? Who are you still angry at from way back when?
There was a woman who experienced one of biggest tragedies a mother can face. Her son was murdered ruthlessly by some gang members. As you can imagine her anger was uncontrollable. After many years of holding on to this rage she realized that she couldn’t continue to live her life this way. She knew deep inside, that to heal her trauma, she would have to move through the challenging process of forgiveness.
She decided to go to a prison and visit with inmates that had committed similar crimes as her son’s killers. As you can imagine the prison visits shook her to her core. But over time something magnificent began to happen. As she met with these men, she saw that underneath their masks and armor, were these beautiful young men, not unlike her son. Unfortunately, they were victims of their environment. As her immense pain began to soften, the hardness of the gang members also began to soften, and for both, their original goodness began to shine.
After many months of visiting the prison, the woman showed up on the anniversary of her son’s death. When she arrived, she was presented with a gift from the inmates. They gave her a large tapestry made of sewn together pieces of cloth from prison shirts, pants, bed sheets, and pillow cases. On each square cloth was written a special word, message, or the name of her son. Through her deep act of courage and forgiveness, she had given them a most cherished gift, the gift of redemption. In return, as a gesture of gratitude, the men did what they could, they gave her a quilt that would forever honor the precious life of her son.
This previous story speaks to the power of letting go of our anger. It doesn’t mean that we have to forget when somebody has done something wrong. But, it does show us that we all have the power, when the time is right, to forgive. By releasing this anger, we heal our own hearts, let go of suffering, and show ourselves and the world what the human spirt truly is capable of!
Practice Tip: Take some time to journal about any unresolved anger. This can be anger towards another person, anger towards a situation, or even anger towards yourself. Then, connecting to your highest self, find a way to let go of this anger by expressing forgiveness. This can be speaking directly to another, but it can also be a written letter (up to you whether you send it or not), or even practicing a forgiveness meditation. As you release this repressed anger observe how this feels in your body, mind, heart and life.
Current Reading – “No Time Like the Present” by Jack Kornfield