Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cure Your Anger

Patience is The Antidote

This is the third and final blog in the series on Anger

Patience, the practice of patient acceptance, is the antidote for faulty frustrated desires (greed, the I-wants and shoulda-hads) and unwanted occurrences (negative greed: the I-shouldn’ta gottens, shouldn’t bes). We need to make the perfection of patience an omnipresent practice; not just a fallback position to use in desperation.

Patience is a mind that is able to accept fully whatever occurs. It is much more than just gritting our teeth and putting up with things, that’s the tolerance/intolerance thing. Being patient means to welcome wholeheartedly whatever arises, having given up the idea that things should be other than what they are.

When patience is present in our mind it is impossible for anger to gain a foothold. As we know from the cushion, since we can only have one thought at a time, if there is patience there cannot be anger.

It is always possible to be patient; there is no situation so bad that it cannot be accepted patiently, with an open, accommodating, and peaceful heart.

We start training ourselves to be patient on the cushion when we teach ourselves how to be patient with our thoughts and feelings as they arise. Then we take it off the cushion and practice patience by learning to accept the small everyday difficulties and hardships that arise. Gradually our patient mindstate increases and we remain peaceful in the face of our imagined adversities. There are many examples of people who have managed to practice patience even in the most extreme circumstances––Empty Cloud, for example, when he was being tortured. or those in the final stages of cancer, who, although their bodies are ravaged, maintain peaceful minds.

·       If we practice the patience of voluntarily accepting suffering (which is all imagined and unreal), we can maintain a peaceful mind even when experiencing suffering and pain.

·       If we maintain this peaceful and positive state of mind through the force of mindfulness, angry minds will have no opportunity to arise. (You’re always breathing, so you can always return to your breath, even when someone is screaming at you). On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to dwell in aversive thoughts there will be no way for us to prevent anger from arising.

·       By training our mind to look at frustrating situations in a more realistic manner, we can free ourselves from anger and a lot of other unnecessary mental suffering: If there is a way to remedy an unpleasant situation, what point is there in being angry? On the other hand, if it is completely impossible to remedy the situation there is also no reason to get upset either. This line of reasoning is very useful, for we can apply it when we feel ourselves becoming angry.

Being patient doesn’t necessarily mean that we shouldn’t do something to improve the situation. If it is possible to remedy the situation, then of course we should; but to do this we do not need to become angry. Simple awareness will do. For example, when we have a headache take a pain reliever, but until the tablet takes effect just accept whatever discomfort there is with a calm and patient mind.

As long as we are in samsara we cannot avoid unpleasant, difficult situations and a certain amount of physical discomfort, but by training our mind to look at frustrating, anger-producing situations in a more realistic manner, we can free ourselves from a lot of unnecessary suffering.

Instead of reacting blindly through the force of emotional habit (anger), we should examine the situation. We should not become angry just because things do not go our way. We must break that old habit of ours if we are to progress past anger and move meaningfully forward on the Path.

In reality most of our problems are nothing more than a failure to accept things as they are – in which case it is patient acceptance, rather than attempting to change externals, that is the solution.

Lessening and managing the anger is not the point on which we practice. The point is to patiently accept things are they are and to let go of all our fabrications about how they oughta be/shoulda be.

Problems do not exist outside our mind, so when we stop seeing other people and things as problems they stop being problems. No anger.

The Three Patiences

There are three kinds of situation in which we need to learn to be patient:

·       When we are experiencing suffering, hardship, or disappointment
·       When we are practicing Dharma
·       When we are harmed or criticized by others

Correspondingly, there are three types of patience:

·       The patience to deal with our perceived suffering in each moment – we do this when we realize that we are the source (it’s our past actions) of all our suffering and that if we are patient with the suffering it will cease
·       The patience not to retaliate – we learn not to retaliate when we combine patience with compassion (and further when we realize we are the real source of the suffering, so why retaliate against someone or something else
·       The patience required to practice the Dharma – this is using our understanding of emptiness and dependent arising to lessen attachment and increase patience, which may be the only way we have of eradicating our delusions and suffering

These three types of patience can liberate our mind from anger, one of our strongest and most obsessive delusions.

Right Speech Helps Allay Anger

The main root of harsh speech is aversion, assuming the form of anger. Harsh speech is speech uttered in anger, intended to cause the hearer pain. Such speech can assume different forms, of which we might mention three. One is abusive speech: scolding, reviling, or reproving another angrily with bitter words. A second is insult: hurting another by ascribing to him some offensive quality that detracts from his dignity. A third is sarcasm: speaking to someone in a way that ostensibly lauds him, but with such a tone or twist of phrasing that the ironic intent becomes clear and causes pain.

Harsh speech is an unwholesome action with disagreeable results for oneself and others, both now and in the future, so it has to be restrained. The ideal antidote is patience — learning to tolerate blame and criticism from others, to sympathize with their shortcomings, to respect differences in viewpoint, to endure abuse without feeling compelled to retaliate. The Buddha calls for patience even under the most trying conditions:

Even if, monks, robbers and murderers saw through your limbs and joints, whosoever should give way to anger thereat would not be following my advice. For thus ought you to train yourselves: "Undisturbed shall our mind remain, with heart full of love, and free from any hidden malice; and that person shall we penetrate with loving thoughts, wide, deep, boundless, freed from anger and hatred."

But while the main practice for eliminating anger is patience, holding wisdom in mind and speaking calmly and with lovingkindness and compassion in your heart can play a big part in holding you stable and in allaying anger.

Anger In Personal and Business Relationships

Anger is particularly destructive in relationships. When we live in close personal or business contact with someone, it is easy for us to become critical and short-tempered with our partner and to blame them for our faulty sense of discomfort. Unless we make a continuous effort to deal with this anger as it arises, our relationships will suffer. In relationships where there is continuous fighting, the anger eventually trumps the love––being stronger and more karmically active. Eventually there will come a point when before they have recovered from one row the next has already begun.

To prevent the build-up of bad feelings we need to deal with anger as soon as it begins to arise in our mind.

We clean our houses, so why not our minds? We clear away the dishes after every meal rather than waiting until the end of the month, because we do not want to live in a dirty house nor be faced with a huge, unpleasant job. In the same way, we need to make the effort to clear away the mess in our mind as soon as it appears, for if we allow it to accumulate it will become more and more difficult to deal with, and will endanger our lives and our relationship.

We should remember that every opportunity to develop anger is also an opportunity to develop patience. It is opportunity to erode away our self-cherishing and self-grasping, which are the real sources of all our problems. We do this by practicing with patience.

It is through our anger and hatred that we transform people into enemies. We generally assume that anger arises when we encounter a disagreeable person, but actually it is the anger already within us that transforms the person we meet into our imagined foe. Someone controlled by their anger lives within a paranoid view of the world, surrounded by enemies of his or her own creation. This false belief feeds the anger and makes us the victim of our own delusions and fantasies.