فصل 4کتاب: خرد تسلط بر خشم / فصل 5
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Zones of Energy
We know that when anger is present in us we should refrain from reacting, namely from speaking, or doing anything. To say something, to do something while you are angry is not wise. We are urged to go back to ourselves in order to take good care of our anger.
Anger is a zone of energy in us. It is part of us. It is a suffering baby that we have to take care of. The best way to do this is to generate another zone of energy that can embrace and take care of our anger. The second zone of energy is the energy of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the energy of the Buddha.
It is available to us, and we are capable of generating it through mindful breathing and mindful walking. The Buddha within is not a mere concept. The Buddha within is not a theory or a notion. It is a reality, because all of us are capable of generating the energy of mindfulness.
Mindfulness means to be present, to be aware of what is going on. This energy is very crucial for the practice. The energy of mindfulness is like a big brother, big sister, or a mother, holding the younger one in her arms, taking good care of the suffering baby, which is our anger, despair, or jealousy.
Energy Zone One is anger, and Energy Zone Two is mindfulness. The practice is to use the energy of mindfulness to recognize and embrace the energy of anger. You have to do it tenderly, without violence. This is not an act of suppressing our anger. Mindfulness is you and anger is also you, so you shouldn’t transform yourself into a battlefield, one side fighting the other. You should not believe that mindfulness is good and correct, while anger is evil and wrong. You should not think like that. You only need to recognize that anger is a negative energy and that mindfulness is a positive one. Then you can use the positive energy in order to take care of the negative one.
Our practice is based on the insight of non-duality. Both our negative feelings and positive feelings are organic and belong to the same reality. So there is no need to fight; we only need to embrace and take care. Therefore, in the Buddhist tradition, meditation does not mean you transform yourself into a battlefield, with the good fighting the evil. This is very important.
You may think that you have to combat evil and chase it out of your heart and mind. But this is wrong. The practice is to transform yourself. If you don’t have garbage, you have nothing to use in order to make compost. And if you have no compost, you have nothing to nourish the flower in you. You need the suffering, the afflictions in you. Since they are organic, you know that you can transform them and make good use of them.
The Insight of Inter-Being
Our method of practice should be non-violent. Non-violence can be born only from the insight of non-duality, of interbeing.
This is the insight that everything is interconnected and nothing can exist by itself alone. Doing violence to others is doing violence to yourself. If you do not have the insight of non-duality, you will still be violent. You will still want to punish, to suppress, and to destroy. But once you have penetrated the reality of non-duality, you will smile at both the flower and garbage in you, you will embrace both. This insight is the ground for your non-violent action.
When you have the insight of non-duality and interbeing, you take care of your body in the most non-violent way possible. You take care of your mental formations, including your anger, with non-violence. You take care of your brother, your sister, your father, your mother, your community, and your society, with utmost tenderness. No violence can be born from this kind of attitude. You won’t regard anyone as an enemy when you have penetrated the reality of inter-being.
The foundation of our practice is the insight of nonduality, the insight of non-violence. This insight teaches us how to treat our body with tenderness. We must treat our anger and our despair with tenderness. Anger has roots in non-anger elements. It has roots in the way we live our daily life. If we take good care of everything in us, without discrimination, we prevent our negative energies from dominating.
We reduce the strength of our negative seeds so that they won’t overwhelm us.
Expressing Anger Wisely
When anger manifests in us, we must recognize and accept that anger is there and that it needs to be tended to. At this moment we are advised not to say anything, not to do anything out of anger. We immediately return to ourselves and invite the energy of mindfulness to manifest also, in order to embrace, recognize, and take good care of our anger.
But we are advised to tell the other person that we are angry, that we suffer. “Darling, I suffer, I’m angry, and I want you to know it.” Then if you are a good practitioner, you also add, “I’m doing my best to take care of my anger.” And you can conclude with the third sentence, “Please, do help me,” because he or she is still very intimate, very close to you.
You still need him or her. Expressing your anger in this way is extremely wise. It is very truthful, very faithful because in the beginning of your relationship, you made a vow with your partner that you would share everything, positive or negative.
This kind of language, this kind of communication will inspire respect, and motivate the other person to look back and to practice like you. He or she will see that you respect yourself. You demonstrate that when you are angry, you know how to take care of your anger. You are doing your best in order to embrace it, and so you no longer consider your partner as an enemy to be punished. You see him or her as an ally who is still there to support you. These three sentences are very positive things to say.
Remember that you have to tell him or her within twentyfour hours. The Buddha said that a monk has the right to be angry, but not for more than one night. It’s not healthy to keep your anger inside for too long. Do not keep your suffering or your anger to yourself for more than one day. You have to say these three things in a calm, loving way, and you must train yourself to do so. If you are not calm enough to express your anger and the deadline is drawing close, then you have to write the three sentences down on a piece of paper and deliver it to him or her. “Darling, I am angry, I suffer. I don’t know why you have done this to me, why you have said this to me. I want you to know that I suffer. I am doing my best to practice taking care of my anger. Darling, I need you to help me.”You have to deliver this kind of peace note to him and make sure that he will get it. The moment you tell him or deliver the note to him, you will already feel some relief.
An Appointment for Friday Evening You may like to add something to your three sentences, to your peace note: “Let us sit down Friday evening and look deeply together.” Perhaps you say this on Monday or Tuesday, so you still have another three or four days to practice. During this time, both of you will have a chance to look back and understand better what caused the conflict. You can come together any time, but Friday evening is good because if you can reconcile, if you can sort it out, then you will have a wonderful weekend together.
Until Friday evening comes, you practice mindful breathing and looking deeply to understand the roots of your anger.
Whether you are driving, walking, cooking, or washing, you continue to embrace your anger with mindfulness. By doing so, you have a chance to look deeply into the nature of your anger. You discover that the main cause of your suffering is the seed of anger in you, because it has been watered too often, by yourself and by other people.
Anger is in us in the form of a seed. The seeds of love and compassion are also there. In our consciousness, there are many negative seeds and also many positive seeds. The practice is to avoid watering the negative seeds, and to identify and water the positive seeds every day. This is the practice of love.
You have to protect yourself and your beloved ones by practicing selectivewatering.You say, “Darling, if you really care for me, if you really love me, please do notwater the negative seeds in me every day. If you do, I’ll be very unhappy, and if I’m unhappy, I’ll make you unhappy. So please, please don’t water the seeds of anger, intolerance, irritation, or despair in me. And I promise not to water these seeds in you. I know that you also have negative seeds, and I’ll be very careful not to water these seeds in you, because I know if I do, you’ll be very unhappy.
And then I will suffer also. I vowonly towater the positive seeds in you—the seeds of love, compassion, and understanding.” In Plum Village, we call this the practice of selective watering.
If you get angry very easily, it is because your seed of anger has been watered frequently over many years. You have allowed it to be watered. You have not signed a contract with the people around you, agreeing to water only the good seeds.
You have not practiced protecting yourself. If you don’t protect yourself, you don’t protect those you love.
When we embrace anger and take good care of our anger, we obtain relief. We can look deeply into it and gain many insights.
The first insight may be that the seed of anger in us has grown a little too big, and it is the main cause of our misery. As we begin to see this fact, we realize that the other person is only a secondary cause. The other person is not the main cause of our anger.
If we continue to look deeply, we see that the other person suffers a great deal. Someone who suffers a lot always makes the people around him or her suffer. He does not know how to manage his suffering, how to embrace and transform it. So his suffering continues to grow every day. In the past, we have not helped him. We have not practiced selective watering. If we had practiced watering the positive seeds in him every day, he would not be the way he is today.
The practice of selective watering is very effective. Just one hour of practice can make a big difference. One hour of watering the flower in the other person can make him or her begin to bloom. It is not so difficult to do.
Some years ago, a couple from Bordeaux came to PlumVillage to attend a dharma talk.We were celebrating the Buddha’s birthday, and I was giving a talk on selective watering, flower watering. I noticed that the wife was crying silently during the dharma talk. Afterwards, I approached the husband and said, “Your flower needs to be watered.” He understood immediately what I meant and on the way back home, he began to water his wife’s positive seeds. The journey took only one hour and ten minutes. When they arrived home, the children were very surprised to see their mother so fresh and happy, because she had not been like that for a long time.
She had many wonderful seeds in her, but her husband had not recognized them. He had not watered them. He had watered only her negative seeds because he did not practice.
It’s not that he was unable to water the positive seeds in her.
He was very capable of flower watering, but he needed to come to Plum Village and be reminded of this practice. He needed his teacher to urge him to do it. This is why having a community of practice is so important. You need the sangha; you need a brother, sister, or friend to remind you of what you already know. The dharma is in you, but it also needs to be watered, in order to manifest and become a reality. If you had really practiced watering the positive seeds in your beloved, then he or she would not cause you so much suffering today. So you are partly responsible for your suffering.
Going Back to Help
Until your appointment on Friday, practice looking deeply in order to identify your part in the conflict. Don’t blame everything on the other person. Recognize first that the main cause of your suffering is the seed of anger in you, and that the other person is only a secondary cause.
When you begin to understand your role in the conflict, you feel even more relieved. Because you are capable of breathing mindfully, of embracing your anger, and releasing your negative energy, you feel much better after fifteen minutes of practice.
But the other person may still be in hell. She may still be suffering a lot. Your beloved one is your flower, you are responsible for her. You have made a vow to take care of him.
You know you are also partly responsible for the way he or she is now because you have not practiced, you have not taken care of your flower. You feel compassion for her and suddenly you are motivated by the desire to go back and help her. The other person may be someone very dear to you. If you don’t help, who will?
The moment you are motivated by the desire to return to the other and help, you know that all the energy of anger has been transformed into the energy of compassion. Your practice has born fruit. The compost, the garbage, has been transformed back into a flower. It may take fifteen minutes, half an hour, or one hour. It depends on your level of concentration, your level of mindfulness. It depends on the amount of wisdom and insight you gain during your practice.
It may be only Tuesday and you still have three days before your scheduled meeting on Friday. You don’t want the other person to worry and to suffer anymore. So after you have identified your responsibility, you immediately pick up the phone and call him. “Darling, I feel much, much better right now. I have been the victim of a wrong perception. I see clearly how I caused both of us to suffer. Please don’t worry about Friday night.”You do this out of love.
Most of the time, anger is born from a wrong perception. If, when looking into the cause of your suffering, you find out that your anger was born from a wrong perception, you have to tell the other person right away. He didn’t want to make you suffer, he didn’t want to destroy you, but somehow you believed he did. Every one of us must practice looking deeply into our perceptions, whether we are a father, mother, child, or partner.
Are You Sure You’re Right?
A man once had to leave home for a long time. Before he left, his wife got pregnant, but he didn’t know it. When he returned, his wife had given birth to a child. He suspected that the little boy was not his, and believed that he was the son of a neighbor who used to come and work for the family. He looked at the little boy with suspicion. He hated him. He saw the neighbor’s face in the little boy’s face. Then one day the man’s brother came to visit for the first time. When he saw the little boy, he said to the father, “He looks just like you. He’s your exact duplicate.”The brother’s visit was a happy event, because it helped the father to get rid of his wrong perception.
But the wrong perception had controlled this man’s life for twelve years. It made the father suffer deeply. It made his wife suffer deeply, and, of course, the little boy suffered from that kind of hatred.
We act on the basis of wrong perceptions all the time. We should not be sure of any perception we have.When you look at the beautiful sunset, you may be quite sure that you are seeing the sun as it is in that moment, but a scientist will tell you that the image of the sun that you see is the image of the sun from eight minutes ago. Sunlight takes eight minutes to reach the earth from such a long distance. Also, when you see a star, you think that the star is there, but the star may have disappeared already, one, two, or ten thousand years before.
We have to be very careful with our perceptions, otherwise we will suffer. It is very helpful to write on a piece of paper, “Are you sure?” and hang it up in your room. In medical clinics and hospitals, they are beginning to hang up these kinds of signs: “Even if you are sure, check again.” It is a caution that if a disease is not detected early, then it will be very difficult to heal. The medical doctors are not thinking in terms of mental formations. They are thinking in terms of a hidden disease. But we can also make use of this slogan— “Even if you are sure, check again.”We have made ourselves suffer, we made a hell for ourselves and our beloved ones because of our perceptions. Are you sure of your perception?
There are people who suffer from a wrong perception for ten or twenty years. They are sure the other person has betrayed them or hates them, even though the other person has only good intentions. A person who is the victim of a wrong perception makes himself and the people around him suffer a lot.
When you are angry, and you suffer, please go back and inspect very deeply the content, the nature of your perceptions.
If you are capable of removing the wrong perception, peace and happiness will be restored in you, and you will be able to love the other person again.
Looking Into Anger Together
When the other person knows that you are doing your best, looking into the cause of your anger, she also is motivated to practice. While driving, while cooking, she will ask herself, “What have I done? What have I said to make him suffer that much?” And she also will have a chance to practice looking deeply. She knows that in the past, she has reacted in ways that made you suffer. She begins to question her belief that she is not responsible for your suffering. If she finds out that she was unskillful when saying or doing something, then she has to call or fax you to tell you that she is sorry.
So if both of you get some insight during the week, you don’t need to wait for Friday. Friday evening can then become a very joyful time when both of you sit together and enjoy a nice meal, or perhaps a cup of tea and a piece of cake. You can celebrate your love and your relationship.
Sharing Everything, Even When It’s Difficult
If neither of you has succeeded in the practice, then Friday is a time for you to practice deep listening and loving speech.
The one who is angry has the right to tell the other what is in his heart. If it is your partner who is angry, you just listen, because you have made the promise to listen and not to react.
You do your best to practice compassionate listening. You listen not for the purpose of judging, criticizing, or analyzing.
You listen only to help the other person to express himself and find some relief from his suffering.
When you share your suffering, you have the right to say everything in your heart—it is your duty to do so, because the other person has the right to know everything. You have made a commitment to each other. You should tell him everything that is in your heart, with only one condition—you must use calm and loving speech. The moment irritation manifests, the moment you think that you are going to lose your calm, your serenity, please stop. “Darling, I cannot continue now, may we meet another time? I need to practice more mindful walking and breathing. I’m not at my best right now, so I do not think I can succeed in the practice of loving speech.”The other person will agree to postpone the session until later, perhaps next Friday.
If you are the one who listens, you also practice mindful breathing. Practice mindful breathing to empty yourself of any ideas or notions, in order to listen. Listen with compassion, and be there with your whole being to give the other person relief. You do have the seed of compassion within you, and it will manifest when you see that the other person suffers so much. Therefore you vow to be the Bodhisattva, the
Great Being of deep listening. This Bodhisattva of Great Compassion must be a real person, and not just an idea.
With Compassion You Don’t
You can make a mistake only when you forget that the other person suffers. You tend to believe that you are the only one who suffers, and that the other person is enjoying your suffering.
You will say and do mean and cruel things when you believe that you are the only one who suffers and that the other person does not suffer at all. The awareness that the other person suffers very much will help you to play the role of the Bodhisattva of deep listening. Compassion becomes possible, and you can keep compassion alive during the whole time of listening. You’ll be the best therapist for him or her.
During the time the other person speaks, he may be very judgmental, only blaming and punishing. He may be very bitter and cynical. Yet, because compassion is still in you, this does not affect you. The nectar of compassion is so wonderful.
If you are committed to keeping it alive, then you are protected. What the other person says will not touch off the anger and irritation in you, because compassion is the real antidote for anger. Nothing can heal anger except compassion. This is why the practice of compassion is a very wonderful practice.
Compassion is possible only when understanding is there. Understanding what? Understanding that the other person suffers and that I must help. If I don’t help, who is going to help? When listening, you may notice a lot of wrong perceptions in the other person’s speech. Still, you remain compassionate, because you know she is a victim of wrong perception. If you try to correct her, you may cut her off, preventing her from speaking out and fully expressing herself. So just sit and listen with all your attention, with your best intentions, and this will be very healing.
If you want to help correct her wrong perception, you have to wait until the moment is right. While listening, your only aim is to give her a chance to speak out and share what is in her heart. You don’t say anything. This Friday evening is entirely for her to speak. You just listen. Then, perhaps a few days later, when she feels much better, you try to give her the information that she needs to correct her perception. “Darling, the other day you said something, but that is not really what happened. What happened is . . .” Use loving speech when you correct her. If necessary, ask a friend who knows what really happened to help the other person understand the true situation so that she can be freed from her wrong perceptions.
Patience Is the Mark of True Love
Anger is a living thing. It comes up, and it needs time to go back down. Even if you have clear evidence to convince someone that his anger is entirely based on a wrong perception, please don’t interfere right away. Like craving, jealousy, and all afflictions, anger needs time to die down. This is the case even after the other person realizes that he or she misunderstood the situation. When you turn off a fan, it continues to spin a few thousand times before stopping. Anger is like that.
Don’t expect the other person to stop being angry right away. That’s not realistic. You have to allow anger to die down slowly. So don’t rush.
Patience is the mark of true love. A father has to be patient in order to show his love for his son or daughter. A mother, a son, and a daughter also. If you want to love, you must learn to be patient. If you are not patient, you cannot help the other person.
You must also be patient with yourself. The practice of embracing your anger takes time. But just five minutes of mindful breathing, mindful walking, and embracing your anger can be effective. If five minutes is not enough, take ten minutes, and if ten minutes is not enough, take fifteen minutes. Give yourself as much time as you need. The practices of mindful breathing and mindful walking outdoors are wonderful ways to embrace your anger. Even the practice of jogging is very helpful. Just like when you cook potatoes, you need to keep the fire going for at least fifteen or twenty minutes.
You cannot eat raw potatoes. You have to cook your anger on the fire of mindfulness. It may take ten or twenty minutes. It may take more.
Gaining a Victory
While cooking your potatoes, you have to cover the pot in order to prevent heat from escaping. That is concentration. So while you practice walking or breathing to take care of your anger, don’t do anything else. Don’t listen to the radio, don’t watch television, don’t read a book. Cover the pot and just do one thing. Just practice deep walking meditation, deep mindful breathing, and use one hundred percent of yourself in order to embrace your anger, exactly like you would take good care of a baby.
After some time of embracing and looking deeply, insight will come and your anger will diminish. You’ll feel much better, and you’ll be motivated to go back and help the other person. When you remove the lid of the pot, the potatoes will smell wonderful. Your anger will have been transformed into the energy of loving-kindness.
This is possible. It is like the tulips. When the energy of the sun is strong enough, the tulip has to open herself and show her heart to the sun. Your anger is a kind of flower. You have to embrace it with the sunshine of mindfulness. Let the energy of mindfulness penetrate into the energy of anger. After five or ten minutes of mindfulness, your anger will be transformed.
Every mental formation—anger, jealousy, despair, etc.— is sensitive to mindfulness the way all vegetation is sensitive to sunshine. By cultivating the energy of mindfulness, you can heal your body and your consciousness, because mindfulness is the energy of the Buddha. In Christianity, it is said that Jesus has the energy of God, of the Holy Spirit, within him. That is why he is able to heal many people. His healing energy is called the Holy Spirit. In Buddhist language, that energy is the energy of the Buddha, the energy of mindfulness.
Mindfulness contains the energy of concentration, understanding, and compassion. Thus, the practice of Buddhist meditation is the practice of generating the energy that will offer us concentration, compassion, understanding, love, and happiness. Everyone in a practice center is doing just that, so together we offer a powerful, collective zone of energy that embraces and protects us and the people who come to stay with us.
Even after one session of practice, we notice that we are very capable of taking care of our anger. We have gained a victory for ourselves and for our beloved ones. When we lose, we and our beloved ones lose. But when we win a victory, we win for the other person as well. So, even if the other person does not know the practice, we can practice for both ourselves and him or her. Don’t wait for the other person to practice in order to start practicing. You can do it for both of you.
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