فصل 2کتاب: خرد تسلط بر خشم / فصل 3
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PUTTING OUT THE FIRE OF ANGER
Saving Your House
When someone says or does something that makes us angry, we suffer. We tend to say or do something back to make the other suffer, with the hope that we will suffer less. We think, “I want to punish you, I want to make you suffer because you have made me suffer. And when I see you suffer a lot, I will feel better.”
Many of us are inclined to believe in such a childish practice.
The fact is that when you make the other suffer, he will try to find relief by making you suffer more. The result is an escalation of suffering on both sides. Both of you need compassion and help. Neither of you needs punishment.
When you get angry, go back to yourself, and take very good care of your anger. And when someone makes you suffer, go back and take care of your suffering, your anger. Do not say or do anything. Whatever you say or do in a state of anger may cause more damage in your relationship.
Most of us don’t do that. We don’t want to go back to ourselves. We want to follow the other person in order to punish him or her.
If your house is on fire, the most urgent thing to do is to go back and try to put out the fire, not to run after the person you believe to be the arsonist. If you run after the person you suspect has burned your house, your house will burn down while you are chasing him or her. That is not wise. You must go back and put out the fire. So when you are angry, if you continue to interact with or argue with the other person, if you try to punish her, you are acting exactly like someone who runs after the arsonist while everything goes up in flames.
Tools for Cooling the Flames
The Buddha gave us very effective instruments to put out the fire in us: the method of mindful breathing, the method of mindful walking, the method of embracing our anger, the method of looking deeply into the nature of our perceptions, and the method of looking deeply into the other person to realize that she also suffers a lot and needs help. These methods are very practical, and they come directly from Buddha.
To breathe in consciously is to know that the air is entering your body, and to breathe out consciously is to know that your body is exchanging air. Thus, you are in contact with the air and with your body, and because your mind is being attentive to all this, you are in contact with your mind, too; just as it is. It needs only one conscious breath to be back in contact with yourself and everything around you, and three conscious breaths to maintain the contact.
Whenever you are not standing, sitting, or lying down, you are going. But where are you going? You have already arrived.
With every step, you can arrive in the present moment, you can step into the Pure Land or into the Kingdom of God. When you are walking from one side of the room to the other, or from one building to another, be aware of the contact of your feet with the earth and be aware of the contact of the air as it enters your body. It may help you to discover how many steps you can make comfortably during an inbreath and how many during an out-breath. As you breathe in, you can say “in,” and as you breathe out, you can say “out.” Then you are practicing walking meditation all day long. It is a practice, which is constantly possible and therefore has the power to transform our everyday life.
Many people like to read books about different spiritual traditions or to perform rituals but don’t want to practice their teachings very much. The teachings can transform us no matter what religion or spiritual tradition we belong to, if we are only willing to practice. We will transform from a sea of fire into a refreshing lake. Then, not only do we stop suffering, but we also become a source of joy and happiness for many people around us.
What Do We Look Like When We’re Angry?
Whenever anger comes up, take out a mirror and look at yourself.
When you are angry, you are not very beautiful, you are not presentable. Hundreds of muscles on your face become very tense.Your face looks like a bomb ready to explode. Look at someone who is angry.When you see the tension in her, you become frightened.The bomb in her may explode any minute.
So it is very helpful to see yourself in moments when you are angry. It is a bell of mindfulness.When you see yourself like that, you are motivated to do something to change it. You know what to do to look more beautiful.You don’t need any cosmetics. You need only to breathe peacefully, calmly, and smile mindfully. If you can do that one or two times, you will look much better. Just look in the mirror, breathing in calmly, breathing out smiling, and you will feel relief.
Anger is a mental, psychological phenomenon, yet it is closely linked to biological and biochemical elements. Anger makes you tense your muscles, but when you know how to smile, you begin to relax and your anger will decrease. Smiling allows the energy of mindfulness to be born in you, helping you to embrace your anger.
In old times, servants of kings and queens always had to have a mirror, because whenever anyone was presented to the emperor, they had to be perfect in their appearance. So for the sake of formal etiquette, people would carry a pouch with a small mirror inside. Try it. Carry a mirror with you and look at it to see what state you are in. After you have breathed in and out a few times, smiling at yourself, the tension will be gone, and you will obtain some relief.
Embracing Anger with the Sunshine of Mindfulness
Anger is like a howling baby, suffering and crying. The baby needs his mother to embrace him. You are the mother for your baby, your anger. The moment you begin to practice breathing mindfully in and out, you have the energy of a mother, to cradle and embrace the baby. Just embracing your anger, just breathing in and breathing out, that is good enough. The baby will feel relief right away.
All plants are nourished by sunshine. All of them are sensitive to it. Any vegetation that is embraced by the sunshine will undergo a transformation. In the morning, the flowers have not yet opened. But when the sun comes out, the sunshine embraces the flowers and tries to penetrate them. The sunshine is made of tiny particles, photons. The photons gradually penetrate the flower one by one until there are a lot of them inside. At that point the flower cannot resist any longer and has to open herself to the sunshine.
In the same way, all mental formations and all physiological formations in us are sensitive to mindfulness. If mindfulness is there, embracing your body, your body will transform. If mindfulness is there, embracing your anger or despair, then they, too, will be transformed. According to the Buddha and according to our experience, anything embraced by the energy of mindfulness will undergo a transformation.
Your anger is like a flower. In the beginning you may not understand the nature of your anger, or why it has come up.
But if you know how to embrace it with the energy of mindfulness, it will begin to open. You may be sitting, following your breathing, or you may be practicing walking meditation to generate the energy of mindfulness and embrace your anger. After ten or twenty minutes your anger will have to open herself to you, and suddenly, you will see the true nature of your anger. It may have arisen just because of a wrong perception or the lack of skillfulness.
You need to sustain your mindfulness for a certain amount of time in order for the flower of anger to open herself. It’s like when you cook potatoes; you put the potatoes in the pot, cover it, and put it on the fire. But even with a very high flame, if you turn the fire off after five minutes, the potatoes will not be cooked. You have to keep the fire burning for at least fifteen or twenty minutes in order for the potatoes to cook. After that, you open the lid, and you smell the wonderful aroma of cooked potatoes.
Your anger is like that—it needs to be cooked. In the beginning it is raw. You cannot eat raw potatoes. Your anger is very difficult to enjoy, but if you know how to take care of it, to cook it, then the negative energy of your anger will become the positive energy of understanding and compassion.
You can do it. It is not something only a Great Being can do. You can do it, too. You can transform the garbage of anger into the flower of compassion. Many of us can do this in just fifteen minutes. The secret is to continue the practice of mindful breathing, the practice of mindful walking, generating the energy of mindfulness in order to embrace your anger.
Embrace your anger with a lot of tenderness. Your anger is not your enemy, your anger is your baby. It’s like your stomach or your lungs. Every time you have some trouble in your lungs or your stomach, you don’t think of throwing them away. The same is true with your anger. You accept your anger because you know you can take care of it; you can transform it into positive energy.
Turning Garbage Into Flowers
The organic gardener does not think of throwing away the garbage. She knows that she needs the garbage. She is capable of transforming the garbage into compost, so that the compost can turn into lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, and flowers again. As a practitioner, you are a kind of gardener, an organic gardener.
Anger and love are both of an organic nature, and that means they both can change. Love can be transformed into hate. You know this very well. Many of us begin a relationship with great love, very intense love. So intense that we believe that, without our partner, we cannot survive. Yet if we do not practice mindfulness, it takes only one or two years for our love to be transformed into hatred. Then, in our partner’s presence we have the opposite feeling, we feel terrible. It becomes impossible to live together anymore, so divorce is the only way. Love has been transformed into hatred; our flower has become garbage. But with the energy of mindfulness, you can look into the garbage and say, “I am not afraid. I am capable of transforming the garbage back into love.”
If you see elements of garbage in you, like fear, despair, and hatred, don’t panic. As a good organic gardener, a good practitioner, you can face this: “I recognize that there is garbage in me. I am going to transform this garbage into nourishing compost that can make love reappear.”
Those who have confidence in the practice don’t think of running away from a difficult relationship. When you know the techniques of mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful sitting, and mindful eating, you can generate the energy of mindfulness and embrace your anger or your despair. Just embracing it will give you relief. Then as you continue embracing, you can practice looking deeply into the nature of your anger.
So the practice has two phases. The first phase is embracing and recognizing: “My dear anger, I know you are there, I am taking good care of you.”The second phase is to look deeply into the nature of your anger to see how it has come about.
Caring for Your Baby, Anger
You have to be like a mother listening for the cries of her baby. If a mother is working in the kitchen and hears her baby crying, she puts down whatever she is doing, and goes to comfort her baby. She may be making a very good soup; the soup is important, but it’s much less important than the suffering of her baby. She has to put down the soup, and go the baby’s room. Her appearance in the room is like sunshine because the mother is full of warmth, concern, and tenderness.
The first thing she does is pick up the baby and embrace him tenderly. When the mother embraces her baby, her energy penetrates him and soothes him. This is exactly what you have to learn to do when anger begins to surface. You have to abandon everything that you are doing, because your most important task is to go back to yourself and take care of your baby, your anger. Nothing is more urgent than taking good care of your baby.
Remember when you were a little child and you had a fever, although they gave you aspirin or other medicine, you didn’t feel better until your mother came and put her hand on your burning forehead? That felt so good! Her hand was like the hand of a goddess. When she touched you with her hand, a lot of freshness, love, and compassion penetrated into your body. The hand of your mother is your own hand. Her hand is still alive in yours, if you know how to breathe in and out, to be mindful. Then, touching your forehead with your very own hand, you will see that your mother’s hand is still there, touching your forehead. You will have the same energy of love and tenderness for yourself.
The mother holds her baby with mindfulness, fully concentrated on him. The baby feels some relief because he is being held tenderly by his mother, like the flower embraced by the sunshine. She holds the baby not only for the sake of holding the baby, but also to find out what is wrong with him.
Because she is a true mother, and very talented, she can find out what is wrong with her baby very quickly. She is a baby specialist.
As practitioners, we have to be anger specialists. We have to attend to our anger; we have to practice until we understand the roots of our anger and how it works.
Holding Your Baby
Holding the baby mindfully, the mother quickly discovers the cause of his suffering.Then it is very easy for her to correct the situation. If the baby has a fever, then she will give him medicine to help the fever go down. If he is hungry, she will feed him warm milk. If the diaper is too tight, she will loosen it.
As practitioners, we do exactly like this. We hold our baby of anger in mindfulness so that we get relief. We continue the practice of mindful breathing and mindful walking, as a lullaby for our anger. The energy of mindfulness penetrates into the energy of anger, exactly like the energy of the mother penetrates into the energy of the baby. There’s no difference at all. If you know how to practice mindful breathing, smiling, and walking meditation, it is certain that you will find relief in five, ten, or fifteen minutes.
Discovering the True Nature of Your Anger
At the moment you become angry, you tend to believe that your misery has been created by another person. You blame him or her for all your suffering. But by looking deeply, you may realize that the seed of anger in you is the main cause of your suffering. Many other people, confronted with the same situation, would not get angry like you. They hear the same words, they see the same situation, and yet they are able to stay calm and not be carried away. Why do you get angry so easily? You may get angry very easily because your seed of anger is too strong. And because you have not practiced the methods for taking good care of your anger, the seed of anger has been watered too often in the past.
All of us have a seed of anger in the depth of our consciousness.
But in some of us, that seed of anger is bigger than our other seeds—like love or compassion. The seed of anger may be bigger because we have not practiced in the past. When we begin to cultivate the energy of mindfulness, the first insight we have is that the main cause of our suffering, of our misery, is not the other person—it is the seed of anger in us. Then we will stop blaming the other person for causing all our suffering. We realize she or he is only a secondary cause.
You get a lot of relief when you have this kind of insight, and you begin to feel much better. But the other person still may be in hell because she does not know how to practice.
Once you have taken care of your anger, you become aware that she is still suffering. So now you can focus your attention on the other person.
Helping Not Punishing
When someone does not know how to handle his own suffering, he allows it to spill all over the people around him.
When you suffer, you make people around you suffer. That’s very natural. This is why we have to learn how to handle our suffering, so we won’t spread it everywhere.
When you are the head of a family, for instance, you know that the well-being of your family members is very important.
Because you have compassion, you do not allow your suffering to harm those around you. You practice to learn how to handle your suffering because you know that your suffering is not an individual matter, your happiness is not an individual matter.
When someone is angry, and doesn’t know how to handle her anger, she is helpless, she suffers. She also makes the people around her suffer. At first, you feel that she deserves punishment. You want to punish her because she has made you suffer. But after ten or fifteen minutes of walking meditation and mindful looking, you realize that what she needs is help and not punishment. This is a good insight.
This person may be someone very close to you—she may be your wife, he may be your husband. If you don’t help him or her, who will?
Because you know how to embrace your anger, you now feel much better, but you see that the other person continues to suffer. This insight motivates you to go back to him. No one can help, except you. Now you are filled with the desire to return and help. It is a completely different kind of thinking—there is no more wish to punish. Your anger has been transformed into compassion.
The practice of mindfulness leads to concentration and insight. Insight is the fruit of the practice, which can help us to forgive, to love. In a period of fifteen minutes, or half an hour, the practice of mindfulness, concentration, and insight can liberate you from your anger and turn you into a loving person. That is the strength of the dharma, the miracle of the dharma.
Stopping the Cycle of Anger
There was a twelve-year-old boy who used to come to Plum Village every summer to practice with other young people. He had a problem with his father because every time he made a mistake or fell and hurt himself, instead of helping, his father would shout at him and call him all sorts of names: “You stupid boy! How can you do something like that to yourself ?” This would happen just because the boy would fall down and get hurt. So he didn’t see his father as a loving father, as a good father. He promised himself that when he grew up, got married, and had children, he would not treat his children like that. If his son was playing and got hurt and bled, he would not shout at him. He would embrace his son and try to help him.
The second year he was in Plum Village, he came with his younger sister. His sister was playing with other girls on the hammock, and suddenly she fell off. She hit her head on a piece of rock, and blood began to stream down her face. Suddenly the young man felt the energy of anger coming up. He was about to shout at his younger sister: “You stupid girl!
How could you do something like that to yourself ?” He was about to do the same thing that his father had done to him.
But because he had practiced in Plum Village for two summers, he was able to stop himself. Instead of shouting, he began to practice mindful walking and mindful breathing while others helped his sister. In just five minutes he experienced a moment of enlightenment. He saw that his reaction,
his anger, was a kind of habit energy that had been transmitted to him by his father. He had become exactly like his father, the continuation of his father. He did not want to treat his sister like that, but the energy transmitted to him by his father was so strong that he almost did exactly what his father had done to him.
For a twelve-year-old boy, that is quite an awakening. He continued his walking, and suddenly he was filled with the desire to practice in order to transform this habit energy, so that he would not transmit it to his children. He knew that only the practice of mindfulness could help him to stop this cycle of suffering.
The boy was also able to see that his father was a victim of the transmission of anger as well. His father might not have wanted to treat him like that, but he had done so because the habit energy in him was too strong. The moment this insight came to him, that his father was also a victim of transmission, all of his anger toward his father vanished. A few minutes later, he suddenly had the desire to go back home and invite his father to practice with him. As a young man of twelve years old, that was quite a realization.
A Good Gardener
When you understand the suffering of the other person, you are able to transform your desire to punish, and then you want only to help him or her. At that moment, you know that your practice has succeeded. You are a good gardener.
Inside every one of us is a garden, and each practitioner has to go back to it and take care of it. Maybe in the past, you left it untended for a long time. You should know exactly what is going on in your own garden, and try to put everything in order. Restore the beauty; restore the harmony in your garden. Many people will enjoy your garden, if it is well tended.
Taking Care of Yourself, Taking Care of the Other
As children, our fathers and our mothers taught us how to breathe, how to walk, how to sit, how to eat, and how to speak. But when we come to the practice, we are reborn, as spiritual beings. So we have to learn how to breathe again, mindfully. We learn how to walk again, mindfully. We want to learn how to listen again, mindfully and with compassion.
We want to learn how to speak again, with the language of love, to honor our original commitment. “Darling, I suffer. I am angry. I want you to know it.”This expresses faithfulness to your commitment. “Darling, I am doing my best. I am taking good care of my anger. For me and for you also. I don’t want to explode, to destroy myself and destroy you. I am doing my best. I am putting into practice what I have learned from my teacher, from my sangha.”This faithfulness will inspire respect and confidence in the other party. And lastly, “Darling, I need your help.”This is a very strong statement, because usually when you’re angry, you have the tendency to say, “I don’t need you.”
If you can say these three sentences with sincerity, from your heart, a transformation will take place in the other person.
You cannot doubt the effect of such a practice. You influence the other person to start practicing, too, just by your behavior. She will think, “He is faithful to me. He is keeping his commitment. He is trying to do his best. I must do the same.”
So in taking good care of yourself, you take good care of your beloved one. Self-love is the foundation for your capacity to love the other person. If you don’t take good care of yourself, if you are not happy, if you are not peaceful, you cannot make the other person happy.You cannot help the other person; you cannot love. Your capacity for loving another person depends entirely on your capacity for loving yourself, for taking care of yourself.
Healing the Wounded Child Within
Many of us still have a wounded child alive within us. Our wounds may have been caused by our father or our mother.
Our father may have been wounded when he was a child. Our mother may have been wounded as a little girl, too. Because they did not know how to heal the wounds from their childhood, they have transmitted their wounds to us. If we do not know how to transform and heal the wounds in ourselves, we are going to transmit them to our children and grandchildren.
This is why we have to go back to the wounded child in us, to help him or her heal.
Sometimes the wounded child in us needs all of our attention.
That little child might emerge from the depths of our consciousness, and ask for our attention. If you are mindful, you will hear his or her voice calling for help. At that moment, instead of contemplating the beautiful sunrise, you go back and tenderly embrace the wounded child within you.
“Breathing in, I go back to my wounded child; breathing out, I will take good care of my wounded child.”
To take good care of ourselves, we must go back and take care of the wounded child inside of us. You have to practice going back to your wounded child every day. You have to embrace him or her tenderly, like a big brother or a big sister. You have to talk to him, talk to her. And you can write a letter to the little child in you, of two or three pages, to say that you recognize his or her presence and you will do everything you can to heal his or her wounds.
When we speak of listening with compassion, we usually think of listening to someone else. But we must also listen to the wounded child inside of us. The wounded child in us is here in the present moment. And we can heal him or her right now. “My dear little wounded child, I’m here for you, ready to listen to you. Please tell me all your suffering, all your pain. I am here, really listening.” And if you know how to go back to her, to him, and listen like that every day for five or ten minutes, healing will take place. When you climb a beautiful mountain, invite your little child within to climb with you. When you contemplate the beautiful sunset, invite him or her to enjoy it with you. If you do that for a few weeks or a few months, the wounded child in you will be healed.
Mindfulness is the energy that can help us do this.
Becoming a Free Person
One minute of practice is one minute of generating the energy of mindfulness. It doesn’t come from outside of you; it comes from within. The energy of mindfulness is the kind of energy that helps us to be here, to be fully present in the here and the now. When you drink tea in mindfulness, your body and your mind are perfectly united. You are real, and the tea you drink also becomes real. When you sit in a café, with a lot of music in the background and a lot of projects in your head, you’re not really drinking your coffee or your tea. You’re drinking your projects, you’re drinking your worries. You are not real, and the coffee is not real either. Your tea or your coffee can only reveal itself to you as a reality when you go back to your self, and produce your true presence, freeing yourself from the past, the future, and from your worries. When you are real, the tea also becomes real and the encounter between you and the tea is real. This is genuine tea drinking.
You can organize a tea meditation to provide an opportunity for your friends to practice being truly present in order to enjoy a cup of tea and each other’s presence. Tea meditation is a practice. It is a practice to help us be free. If you are still bound and haunted by the past, if you are still afraid of the future, if you are carried away by your projects, your fear, your anxiety, and your anger, you are not a free person. You are not fully present in the here and the now, so life is not really available to you. The tea, the other person, the blue sky, the flower, is not available to you. In order to be really alive, in order to touch life deeply, you have to become a free person. Cultivating mindfulness can help you to be free.
The energy of mindfulness is the energy of being present.
Body and mind united. When you practice mindful breathing or mindful walking, you become free of the past, free of the future, free of your projects, and you become totally alive and present again. Freedom is the basic condition for you to touch life, to touch the blue sky, the trees, the birds, the tea, and the other person. This is why mindfulness practice is very important. Yet it is not something that you have to train yourself for many months to be able to do. One hour of practice can help you to be more mindful. Train yourself to drink your tea mindfully, to become a free person while drinking tea. Train yourself to be a free person while you make breakfast. Any moment of the day is an opportunity for you to train yourself in mindfulness and to generate this energy.
“Darling, I Know You Are There, and I Am Very Happy”
With mindfulness, you can recognize what is there in the present moment, including the person you love. When you can tell your beloved, “Darling, I know you are there, and I am very happy,” it proves that you are a free person. It proves that you have mindfulness, you have the capacity to cherish, to appreciate what is happening in the present moment. What is happening in the present moment is life. You are still alive and the person you love is still there, alive, in front of you.
The amount of mindfulness you cultivate in yourself is very important. You embrace the other person with this energy of mindfulness. You look at her or him lovingly and you say, “Darling, it is wonderful that you are here, alive. It makes me very happy.” Not only are you happy, but the other person is happy, too, because she or he has been embraced by your mindfulness. When you can be with the other person in this way, the chances of getting angry are already much smaller.
Anyone can practice this; and you do not have to practice eight months in order to do it. You need only one or two minutes of mindful breathing or mindful walking, in order to reestablish yourself in the here and the now, to be alive again.
Then you go to the other person, you look into his eyes, you smile, and you make this declaration, “Darling, it is so wonderful that you are here, alive. It makes me very happy.”
Mindfulness makes you and the other person happy and free. The other person may be caught in her worries, anger, and forgetfulness, but with mindfulness you can save her and yourself. Mindfulness is the energy of the Buddha, the energy of enlightenment. The Buddha is present whenever you are mindful, embracing both of you in his loving arms.
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