Friday, January 15, 2010


I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world. (YI, 15-9-1920, p6)

There is a heat
white hot and burning
that surges
too hot to hold
it leaves me
eager to burn
to scorch
begins with a pinprick
at the base of my spine
vigilance is needed
to save
to change
turn it from white
to rosy hues
from hate
to love

A horn honks behind me on the Ross Island bridge.  It keeps blaring out its indictment of the driver at the front of our long procession to enter the bridge that takes us to SE Portland.  I begin to feel a tingle deep within me.  It rises so quickly - maybe only a few nanoseconds later my own voice begins to mutter some unpleasant words for the person whose hand continues to pound on the car horn.  A scene flashes in my head of me getting out of the car and going back to tell him what I thought of his rudeness.  I even visualize his reaction if I carried a gun in my hand as I walk back to his vehicle.  Awareness of these fleeting violent thoughts give me pause and I call my mantra to my mind, make it hold the OM longer than usual.  I repeat it until I release my hold on these negative images and stories that I've created about the man behind me.  I stop thinking of his action as an affront to my sense of what is right behavior in this situation.  What if he really has an emergency?  Maybe his wife needs him at home because labor pains have started?  Maybe his boss was particularly hard on him today and he's carrying that stress home with him? Or maybe he really is just an ass?  But I recognize that his action need not create and equally negative reaction in me.  Whatever his reality, one thing I realized with certainty, he was suffering.  He was not at peace with himself, or with us or likely with the rest of the world which he perceived as working entirely against him, keeping him from the bridge and life.  Once I could see him as one suffering my compassion arose.  My anger transformed into something else, something better for the world. 

Being in the car bought me extra time for awareness.  It provided a buffer zone, allowing the poison of anger time to transform before striking its intended target.  As a parent my opportunities to practice in transforming my anger have multiplied.  I recall the harrowing thoughts that flashed in my mind when my newborn infant would cry incessantly from the pains of colic.  With so little sleep and support from others, I began to understand why so many infants become victims of their primary care givers, their mothers.  I also began to realize the tragedy of isolation.  My Latina friends live in multi-generational homes where their mother and often even grandmother are there to support them at these times.  As I sat with my crying infant my mind reflected on how much we've lost, how much women have lost, when the concept of the nuclear family was formed.  A woman today is expected to shoulder a career while still meeting the needs of her child or children and don't forget the husband or partner, they also have needs and they're to do this without the help of other women.  It is when we are so focused and driven that we are easily irritated when someone else's need steps in and demands our attention, whether a honking horn or crying child. 

Learning to deal with anger is another important skill for the nonviolent warrior.  We must learn to see a persons action without immediately making a judgment about the action.  At this moment there is a train horn calling out a warning as it nears the intersections where cars might be present.  I feel no attachment of resentment of that sound, or the actions of the train engineer in blowing it.  Someone else in the neighborhood, still trying to sleep at 6am, might be having a more negative reaction because they tell themselves that the engineer is doing it just to annoy or waken them.  Certainly when a child cries it's because the child has no other language yet with which to get it's needs met, not because the child wants to interrupt your important thought or work that you're doing.  My experience is that when my anger arises it's a big red flag that I've become too self-centered on my own needs.  I use it as a warning sign to step back and reevaluate my priorities.  Is the work I'm doing at that moment so important that I can't take time to care for my child's need?  Rarely is the answer yes.

Practicing with aversion is a Buddhist meditation practice.  It means to hold your meditation regardless of the mosquito biting you, the heat prickling your skin, or the noise out in the street.  It's about being in the world, taking each moment as it arises, then letting it pass without attaching labels or spinning out stories about it.  It is a practice that we should all take into our daily waking lives.

1 comment:

Mikel said...

Certainly an important lesson to remember. Thanks for the reminder :)