5-24-20: Becoming Wise about Anger and Frustration
6:32PM May 24, 2020
So for today's Sunday morning talk, I'm very conscience conscious conscience of the idea that we've been, many of us has been doing shelter in place now for over two months. And it's a long time. And there are plenty of people for whom this time is starting to wear them down. They're starting to be being tired of it, maybe some degree of frustration with it. Maybe even a degree of anger because life has been limited to some of the core fundamental activities over life have been curtailed. Contact with people we love has been limited. Contact with our friends in all kinds of ways and we're familiar with or the activities we do in the world have been severely limited and and it's uh you know it's been long enough now that there's I think I'm noticing and people, some people greater irritation, frustration, even anger and certainly we read I read about in the news a lot of people are angry about restrictions that they still have that they feel they want to finally break loose and have some sense of freedom. One of the principles I guess, or understandings that we have and people who do insight meditation is that the stronger the inner reactivity is, the stronger the emotion No reaction we have to the world of activities, what's going on? the more likely it represents something very deep inside of us that's been touched, that's been activated. And if we remain focused on the externals and what we're frustrated with or upset with or activated by, that we're missing at least half the picture. We're missing the opportunity to go in and connect deeply with what's inside to find out what is it that was touched. And sometimes what's been touched is very important to attend to because it's a valuable thing and itself. And sometimes what's been touched is what's been unresolved in our life. What really some deeper place of, of the needs attention needs, care needs to be worked out needs to be resolved within us. Without. And if we just touch this place of discomfort we might have, by external events to touch this, this place that unresolved place inside. And we keep focusing outwards with our anger or frustration or irritation. We don't then really use the opportunity to have insight to really go deep dive deep inside and see what is this inside? What's the attachment? What's the wound, what's the pain? What's the beliefs, what are the values that I'm operating under, that are the source of this reactivity that I have. So I can well understand that. I can well understand that the you know, the sense of frustration people have these days. And one of the opportunities This practice is a turn around and have insight really go into the subjective experience and what's really going on here for me. And there's a number of things that can happen. One is to understand it, resolve something needs to be resolved, or to get a different perspective on what's happening. So we can operate more from wisdom. It's often been said that, for whatever reason, we're angry, whether it's justified or not. It's often best not to act from the act of anger, not to speak from the anger, if possible, because generally when people are angry, or frustrated or irritated.
They don't have access to the most wisdom that's within them. And so to wait if possible, until the anger has dissipated, and then address the issue, not ignore the issue, but then Maybe you're in a better place to reflect and think and do. And this is one of the great things about meditation practice is that is that we do turn into the subjective experience and settle things down. So that the way we're activated, over activated, over involved with thoughts in such a way that we're actually disconnected with ourselves, or over kind of riding the, the, you know, the, the edge of the wave of some of our difficult emotions, being pushed along with them, I can imagine you know, being being on a surfboard and being caught a wave, a wave of anger and is pushing us along and we're kind of into the end being angry or justify feel justified when I act on it. And we're just allowing yourself to be Push, push, push pushed by the anger. And, and, and, you know, watch out for whatever's in front of us. Meditation is a time to let yourself settle back and come to the backside of the wave to let it all settle down and relax into where it's more peaceful and quiet. So that we can have more wisdom, we can have more clarity. And so some of the frustration and irritation and weariness, maybe boredom and that comes with shelter in place being so long is in fact, a activity of the mind. It's boredom, weariness, this kind of tiredness with Beifuss you know, limitations. Oddly enough, is doing of the mind to like just take board and for example, we're not bored unless the mind is activated, evaluating thinking about things. Comparing it to tip Different ways of being. Boredom is an action of the mind. And in meditation, all the active ways in which the mind is spinning and churning away, have a chance to settle and quiet. And then and then we see with fresh eyes. And some of the wonderful experience of meditation is to no longer be defined, or be pushed around by the waves of particular states that were in the activated states, and be able to kind of become be renewed. It's hard for me to imagine someone doing well in challenging times without a daily meditation practice, to really be able to some degree maybe not renewed, completely renewed, but somehow start to be had the capacity to be renewed each day through meditation. So that when we go into life, we're not carrying with us the baggage of yesterday or the or the momentum of yesterday or the past month or two months. We're not carrying with us our preoccupations, our concerns, attentions that we're building up, we can kind of start fresh and over. And this ability to start fresh and over and see fresh and put down the activity the mind, surprisingly, can put down some of the built up weariness, the built up irritation to build up frustration that we've had. And so so this insight to look into is your subjective experience and see what is going on there to settle it. So some of what goes on at some point is anger. That means that there's anger in all directions in our society. Maybe have more so now than usual. There are people who are angry because other people are angry. There are people who are angry because of their limitations their life is under. There are people who are angry with themselves because they're angry. There are people who are feeling that like things are not fair. And so there's some people taking advantage of the situations of what's going on and, and not cooperating with our societal efforts to try to, you know, limit the transmission of this virus and feeling indignant or feeling upset or feeling you know, in fear about what's going on.
And so how do we live wisely? with anger and frustration? If certainly the study of renewing ourselves every day through meditation can certainly help. But that also doesn't necessarily give Is the wisdom of how to be wisely with things like anger, when it's a wise way How can be be with anger in a good wise way. There's a variety of I think good things to think about or consider. And in this whole field of anger and the first you know, it's interesting to kind of go through a whole list of words, concepts that forms of anger of anger is kind of the umbrella term. What are all the manifestations of subcategories that fit under this general term anger? I have this list here of indignation, annoyance, rage, fury, higher. rap, hate, irritation, sulking grumpy, grouchy, resist resentment, version, hostility There's probably a lot more words as well. The but this word hostility is interesting. Because the primary word in Buddhism that's sometimes translated as anger, but it's not really anger is, is the word is hostility. And it's interesting to distinguish between when anger or frustration might be a form of hostility. And when it isn't, there's no hostility in that strong, powerful, big passionate sense of no or feeling something's not right or even there's injustice or something. ways in which we get kind of activated, sometimes a fiery is there hostility or not? If there's hostility, then and certainly in Buddhism, it's never been seen. To be a useful thing to be hostile. And that is our responsibility to really look deeply and settle the hostility, find out what's going on whatever attachments going on what's happening there, and to find other ways to take care of ourselves, besides being hostile. If the anger has no hostility to it, then hopefully the people around us can be see that and feel that. And I've certainly have had the experience of someone angry with me. I call that clean anger, or white, clean, anger, very clear and clean. And it was the I said something and someone that I think was maybe disrespectful and the person said, right, came back right away and said, guild never say that again. And it was quite intense. But as soon as had been said, it was just crystal clear. The person dropped out completely. There was nothing left over. And I said, Wow, that was so impressive. I got the message. And there was nothing more that, you know, no social friction or tension or problem at all. The person just put it down. It wasn't your disappeared was finished with it. And I felt Boy, that person had no hostility. Today was no hate. There was no judgment of me. It was really about what I had said. And that was kind of that was really inspired by how clean it was. There's a interesting quote from one of the Desert Fathers. So it's a Christian quote, that it's kind of provocative around anger. We need to reclaim anger for its proper purpose. Isn't that great at the proper purpose of anger, so that's certainly not a dismissal of anger. Or suppression of it, but rather reclaiming of it for its proper purpose. It is always a waste of good anger, to get annoyed with other human beings. It's always a waste of good anger, good anger, to get annoyed with other human beings. What the contemplative needs to do is to focus attention on the fact that they are annoyed.
Instead of seeing some other human being angrily, the contemplative tries to see their own anger. They can then begin to overcome it. So, here's this idea that was one of the important that anger is a very important messenger or an important place in our lives. And this particular desert father talks about the need to really use it, to go deeply inside to understand ourselves. Sometimes it's I think it's often useful to see anger, as always a messenger. And don't kill the messenger. Anger is always something Something needs our attention. And it's desert father says it's what's important is to go inside. Sometimes it's a message of something and the world needs attention. And, and focus on and be with thee. But there's a need once but then the messenger doesn't have to be the, the general the messenger doesn't have to be the person who is in charge of how we respond. The messenger system messenger And so then to be able to thank the messenger, and then to figure out what is it that needs attention here? What do I need to look at? Sometimes inside, sometimes we need to see what's going on around us better. Sometimes we need to do both. Sometimes we can see better what's in the world, if we settle the agitation of the anger, so that we can see more clearly perhaps, sometimes if we need to act, because there's something it's not right in the world. My idea is that more often than not, we can act more effectively when we don't act from the anger. Now, one of the most common protests I think I've heard in my 30 years of being a Buddhist teacher, are people who are very quick to protest any discussion of anger, that seems to put a limit on the expression of it. There seems to be a very A powerful desire to justify anger. And, and I find it very curious if that's the case. Now some of it is come, I think is comes for good reason. There's a very painful, very heartbreaking kind of social situation and I think all societies, but certainly you see it the united states that the people who are oppressed are not allowed to express their anger, not allowed to be angry by the people who are not the dominant, the oppressors that be the dominant class of people, often white and white males will, could feel like it's fine for them to be angry but it's not it okay for other people to be angry. And then the other women or people of color who are angry are seen somehow as being, you know, deaths be suppressed, that's not allowed that just proves that they're somehow you know, wrong or something and and this is a you know a store this is a cultural you know many many cultures this phenomena that people who are there who are the subordinates in our society are not allowed to have their anger or express their anger. So, they have to bottle it up, or their or their, or their credit even worse because of it ignored. And the people who are the dominant often can feel like they can express it freely. It's the most natural thing in the world. It's okay for them. And so it creates a very terrible, ugly social situation. The people who are most have the most cause to be angry, have the least ability to express it that gets suppressed It gets frozen, it gets builds up as a kind of resentment and all these things. So we want to be very careful not to limit or repress or or or denounce deny the existence of anger. Anger and other people is also a messenger. It's also a message. There's something that needs attention whenever anybody's angry, something is not right. Exactly what is not right is the art of what we have to discover and where the tension needs to go.
Does it need to go into looking at ourselves into the others into the social situation, what needs our care and our attention? So I think that good approach with anger with annoyance with frustration irritation, is to see it as a messenger and to always respect And to have the capacity to turn inwards to see what we're doing with the anger. It's interesting that there's a common idea that other people can hurt us physically can harm our physical body. But in order for that other people to harm our hearts or minds, our inner life, we have to cooperate. That somehow our inner reactivity is our we contribute to the way in which our heart responds reacts to what's happening around us. And, and this is one of the great values, something like meditation practice, to really begin understanding how our inner life operates, what our reactivity is what we pick up when we get involved and what will react and push away with all that inner movement that gets all snarled up and caught up. And to understand it in some very deep way because we keep coming to sit, keep meditating, keep looking, looking, seeing a whole inner subjective experience, in a deep way, and learning how not to pick anything up. So, we might be angry by what someone does. And it's not necessary to pick up the anger. The anger can be there as its own thing. And we don't have become the angry person. If there's just anger, we don't pick it up. And this ability to make room for our inner life, the different dimensions aspects of our inner life that comes up and let it be their anger, sadness. joy, love, all these things resentment, all these things can bubble up. And the ability to inter learn in meditation, for example, for these things to surface in meditation, and to let go of the thoughts, lack of the involvement, let go the reactivity to it, let go of being for or against it is such a powerful skill, because then we're out in the world in our social world, and people say things and do things that really touch something deep inside and we're angry or irritated or upset or sad. We don't have to disrespect our feeling, but we also don't have to pick it up. We can be bigger than our feeling. We can get more spacious that we're feeling and if we're not, if we're reactive, we could pick up the Anger, then we're hurting ourselves. The one of the teachings of the Buddha is that that anger or hostility that's expressed is like a fire that's burning its own fuel. So the fire of anger is burning its own fuel where the fuel who we are, and, and hostile anger is strong irritation, strong presentation harms ourselves. And it's possible to feel that to really recognize that when people do not have, you know, living a subjective life don't really know themselves well feel themselves well understand what's happening. There can be pleasure and being angry. There can be such an outward movement. of expressing their powerful kind of anger, spite, frustration going outwards. And it can feel like a wonderful release of energy and sense of efficacy and, and a strong sense of self. That's just because certain kind of pleasure and asserting oneself and being. But if that person really feels what's going on deeply inside, doesn't only be outward directed, it's really damaging. It's very painful to feel with inside how anger lives in us.
It's very rare that it's clean anger, certainly, if it's hostility, it's not. So. So we learn to sit and turn our attention to settle our reactivity. But the important thing to understand that's settled Every activity is not meant to be a repression of ourselves. It's not meant to belittle ourselves, or to deny what's happening. But if we can lose things like anger, frustration weariness, for the use fear and sadness is sometimes what's most useful to see it as a messenger. And as a messenger, we want to respect the message. We want to hear the message. We want to ask what is the message here that's really needed. And perhaps we can't really hear the message well, until we've settled down until we've relaxed until we've learned not to be entangled or caught up in the experience. So I find it useful that if I get angry, is to not speak and not the act. If I can, if the situation allows for that. Do my inner work First, find a way to tell I'm no longer caught in the grip of it, no longer being pushed by the wave of it. And then consider what is the wise thing to do? Do I speak up now? Do I point out the issues? Do I come back to someone and say, you know, I'd like to have a conversation with you about something was difficult for me. And the chances are I've seen over and over again, that then the conversation tends to go much, much more productive, that people generally don't respond well, to, to receiving anger. People get defensive, they get reactive, they get angry themselves. And you know, and sometimes if you're strong enough with your anger, powerful enough with it, people will back down. You sometimes you can get your way with strong enough anger. But it's really not a useful way of doing things. Usually counterproductive, it'll come back and bite us. It will create. It's maybe useful in the moment, but not useful over a long period of time. A long period of time. I think we want to figure out, what is it? How is it that we can cooperate with others? How can we create a cooperative world. hukou create a collaborative situation in this world, where we learn how to talk with each other, learn how to be together, learn how to respect each other for all the feelings we have. Learn how we respect other people's angry anger. If other people know we respect their anger, and we're not angry in return or afraid and return, then they can relax. And then they might feel like it's easier to speak up and say what needs to be said. Because we're not treating them we're not, you know, reacting to their anger. We're holding their anger, willing to feel I couldn't be with it in a respectful kind way. So so sometimes I think that one of the most important things that this country could use is a lot of wisdom, about anger, that as a society, it's a societal issue. And so to really kind of do our personal work, to become wise and skillful in our dealing with all the different forms of anger from the mildest irritations to the strongest forms of wrath, to really understand how to be with it and be wise with it. We don't just do that for ourselves. It's its contribution to our society. We're society wise we have to learn to become wise. And if we're wise about it, Then maybe it's easier to do. It's easier to do. What is wise, it's easier to live from our care. Our concern, our love, our compassion for others, we're less likely to be selfish.
And what is if we're not selfish, but instead, we are wish, we wish meaning that we take all of us into account, who we are as a society as a globe. We are in this together. And so, may we all be wish, cooperatively living together, wise about each other's feelings wise about the messengers. Let us listen to each other all Carefully. Let's be wise. And let's figure out, let's meditate every day so that we can start fresh. Each day we can have fresh eyes, new eyes, to engage in the world as he puts it, each day is new. And so we're not building up the frustration, building up tension, day after day. But we've put it down every day. We can start fresh. And then no matter how limited Your life is, it can be glorious. That could be a treasure just to be in your home or in your neighborhood. May this practice of ours help you to live a rich, valuable, meaningful, caring life has very few needs. That can be frustrated. Thank you all and I look forward to being here with you again next Sunday.