فصل 9کتاب: خرد تسلط بر خشم / فصل 10
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EMBRACING ANGER WITH MINDFULNESS
The Knots of Anger
In our consciousness there are blocks of pain, anger, and frustration called internal formations. They are also called knots because they tie us up and obstruct our freedom.
When someone insults us, or does something unkind to us, an internal formation is created in our consciousness. If you don’t know how to undo the internal knot and transform it, the knot will stay there for a long time. And the next time someone says something or does something to you of the same nature, that internal formation will grow stronger. As knots or blocks of pain in us, our internal formations have the power to push us, to dictate our behavior.
After a while, it becomes very difficult for us to transform, to undo the knots, and we cannot ease the constriction of this crystallized formation. The Sanskrit word for internal formation is samyojana. It means “to crystallize.” Every one of us has internal formations that we need to take care of. With the practice of meditation we can undo these knots and experience transformation and healing.
Not all internal formations are unpleasant. There are also pleasant internal formations, but they can still make us suffer.
When you taste, hear, or see something pleasant, then that pleasure can become a strong internal knot. When the object of your pleasure disappears, you miss it and you begin searching for it. You spend a lot of time and energy trying to experience it again. If you smoke marijuana or drink alcohol, and begin to like it, then it becomes an internal formation in your body and in your mind. You cannot get it off your mind.
You will always look for more. The strength of the internal knot is pushing you and controlling you. So internal formations deprive us of our freedom.
Falling in love is a big internal formation. Once you are in love, you think only of the other person. You are not free anymore. You cannot do anything; you cannot study, you cannot work, you cannot enjoy the sunshine or the beauty of nature around you. You can think only of the object of your love. That is why we speak about it as a kind of accident, “falling in love.”You fall down. You are not stable anymore because you have gotten into an accident. So love can also be an internal knot.
Pleasant or unpleasant, both kinds of knots take away our liberty. That is why we should guard our body and our mind very carefully, to prevent these knots from taking root in us. Drugs, alcohol, and tobacco can create internal formations in our body. And anger, craving, jealousy, despair can create internal formations in our mind.
Anger is an internal formation, and since it makes us suffer, we try our best to get rid of it. Psychologists like the expression “getting it out of your system.” And they speak about venting anger, like ventilating a room filled with smoke. Some psychologists say that when the energy of anger arises in you, you should ventilate it by hitting a pillow, kicking something, or by going into the forest to yell and shout.
As a kid you were not supposed to say certain swear words. Your parents may not have allowed you to say these words, because they are harmful, they damage relationships.
So you went into the woods or to an isolated place and shouted these words very clearly, very strongly, in order to relieve the feeling of oppression. This is also venting.
People who use venting techniques like hitting a pillow or shouting are actually rehearsing anger. When someone is angry and vents their anger by hitting a pillow, they are learning a dangerous habit. They are training in aggression. Instead, we generate the energy of mindfulness and embrace anger every time it manifests.
Treating Anger with Tenderness
Mindfulness does not fight anger or despair. Mindfulness is there in order to recognize. To be mindful of something is to recognize that something is there in the present moment.
Mindfulness is the capacity of being aware of what is going on in the present moment. “Breathing in I know that anger has manifested in me; breathing out I smile towards my anger.”This is not an act of suppression or of fighting. It is an act of recognizing. Once we recognize our anger, we embrace it with a lot of awareness, a lot of tenderness.
When it is cold in your room, you turn on the heater, and the heater begins to send out waves of hot air. The cold air doesn’t have to leave the room for the room to become warm.
The cold air is embraced by the hot air and becomes warm— there’s no fighting at all between them. We practice taking care of our anger in the same way.
Mindfulness recognizes anger, is aware of its presence, accepts and allows it to be there. Mindfulness is like a big brother who does not suppress his younger brother’s suffering. He simply says, “Dear brother, I’m here for you.”You take your younger brother in your arms and you comfort him. This is exactly our practice.
Imagine a mother getting angry with her baby and hitting him when he cries. That mother does not know that she and her baby are one. We are mothers of our anger, and we have to help our baby, our anger, not fight and destroy it. Our anger is us, and our compassion is also us. To meditate does not mean to fight. In Buddhism, the practice of meditation should be the practice of embracing and transforming, not of fighting.
Using Anger, Using Suffering
To grow the tree of enlightenment, we must make good use of our afflictions, our suffering. It is like growing lotus flowers; we cannot grow a lotus on marble. We cannot grow a lotus without mud.
Practitioners of meditation do not discriminate against or reject their internal formations. We do not transform ourselves into a battlefield, good fighting evil. We treat our afflictions, our anger, our jealousy with a lot of tenderness.
When anger comes up in us, we should begin to practice mindful breathing right away: “Breathing in, I know that anger is in me. Breathing out, I am taking good care of my anger.”We behave exactly like a mother: “Breathing in, I know that my child is crying. Breathing out, I will take good care of my child.”This is the practice of compassion.
If you don’t know how to treat yourself with compassion, how can you treat another person with compassion? When anger arises, continue to practice mindful breathing and mindful walking to generate the energy of mindfulness. Continue to tenderly embrace the energy of anger within you.
Anger may continue to be there for some time, but you are safe, because the Buddha is in you, helping you to take good care of your anger. The energy of mindfulness is the energy of the Buddha. When you practice mindful breathing and embracing your anger, you are under the protection of the Buddha. There is no doubt about it: the Buddha is embracing you and your anger with a lot of compassion.
Giving and Receiving Mindfulness Energy When you are angry, when you feel despair, you practice mindful breathing and mindful walking, to generate the energy of mindfulness. This energy allows you to recognize and embrace your painful feelings. And if your mindfulness is not strong enough, you ask a brother or a sister in the practice to sit close to you, to breathe with you, to walk with you in order to support you with his or her mindfulness energy.
Practicing mindfulness does not mean that you have to do everything on your own. You can practice with the support of your friends. They can generate enough mindfulness energy to help you take care of your strong emotions.
We can also support others with our mindfulness when they are in difficulty. When our child is drowning in a strong emotion, we can hold his or her hand and say, “My dear one, breathe. Breathe in and out with Mommy, with Daddy.”We can also invite our child to do walking meditation with us, gently taking her hand and helping her calm down, with each step. When you give your child some of your mindfulness energy, she will be able to calm down very quickly and embrace her emotions.
Recognizing, Embracing, Relieving the Suffering of Anger
The first function of mindfulness is to recognize, not to fight. “Breathing in, I know that anger has manifested in me.
Hello, my little anger.” And breathing out, “I will take good care of you.”
Once we have recognized our anger, we embrace it. This is the second function of mindfulness, and it is a very pleasant practice. Instead of fighting, we are taking good care of our emotion. If you know how to embrace your anger, something will change.
We have said many times that it is like cooking potatoes.
You cover the pot and then the water will begin to boil. You must keep the stove on for at least twenty minutes for the potatoes to cook. Your anger is a kind of potato and you cannot eat a raw potato.
Mindfulness is like the fire cooking the potatoes of anger.
The first few minutes of recognizing and embracing your anger with tenderness can bring results. You get some relief.
Anger is still there, but you do not suffer so much anymore, because you know how to take care of your baby. So the third function of mindfulness is soothing, relieving. Anger is there, but it is being taken care of. The situation is no longer in chaos, with the crying baby left all alone. The mother is there to take care of the baby and the situation is under control.
Keeping Mindfulness Alive
And who is this mother? The mother is the living Buddha.
The capacity of being mindful, the capacity of being understanding, loving, and caring is the Buddha in us. Every time we are capable of generating mindfulness, it makes the Buddha in us a reality. With the Buddha in you, you have nothing to worry about anymore. Everything will be fine if you know how to keep the Buddha within you alive.
It is important to recognize that we always have the Buddha in us. Even if we are angry, unkind, or in despair, the Buddha is always within us. This means we always have the potential to be mindful, to be understanding, to be loving.
We need to practice mindful breathing or walking in order to touch the Buddha within us. When you touch the seed of mindfulness that lies in your consciousness, the Buddha will manifest in your mind consciousness and embrace your anger. You don’t have to worry, just continue to practice breathing or walking to keep the Buddha alive. Then everything will be fine. The Buddha recognizes. The Buddha embraces.
The Buddha relieves, and the Buddha looks deeply into the nature of anger. The Buddha understands. And this understanding will bring about transformation.
The energy of mindfulness contains the energy of concentration as well as the energy of insight. Concentration helps you to focus on just one thing. With concentration, the energy of looking becomes more powerful. Because of that, it can make a breakthrough that is insight. Insight always has the power of liberating you. If mindfulness is there, and you know how to keep mindfulness alive, concentration will be there, too. And if you know how to keep concentration alive, insight will also come. So mindfulness recognizes, embraces, and relieves. Mindfulness helps us look deeply in order to gain insight. Insight is the liberating factor. It is what frees us and allows transformation to happen. This is the Buddhist practice of taking care of anger.
The Basement and the Living Room
Let us use a house to represent our consciousness. We can identify two parts: the basement is the store consciousness and the living area is mind consciousness. Internal formations, like anger, rest in the store consciousness—in the basement—in the form of a seed, until you hear, see, read, or think of something that touches your seed of anger. Then it comes up and manifests on the level of your mind consciousness, your living room. It manifests as a zone of energy that makes the atmosphere in your living room heavy and unpleasant. When the energy of anger comes up, we suffer.
Whenever anger manifests, the practitioner immediately invites the energy of mindfulness to manifest also, through the practice of mindful walking and mindful breathing. This way, another zone of energy—the energy of mindfulness— is created. It is so important to learn how to practice walking and breathing mindfully, how to practice cleaning and working mindfully, how to practice mindfulness in our daily life. Then, every time a negative energy manifests, we will know how to generate the energy of mindfulness in order to embrace it and take care of it.
The Mind Needs Good Circulation, Too There are toxins in our body and, if our blood does not circulate well, these toxins will accumulate in certain places. In order to remain healthy, our organism has to expel these toxins.
Massaging will stimulate the blood circulation. When the blood circulates well, it can nourish organs like the kidneys, the liver, and the lungs so that they can expel toxins from the body. Therefore it is important to have good blood circulation. Drinking a lot of water and practicing deep breathing can also help expel toxins from the body, through the skin, lungs, urine, and excrement. All practices that help eliminate toxins from our system are very important.
Now suppose I have a very painful spot in my body, because a lot of toxins have accumulated there. Every time I touch this spot, it hurts; this is equivalent to touching an internal knot in the mind. The energy of mindfulness, the practice of mindfulness, is like the practice of massaging an internal formation. You may have a block of suffering, pain, sorrow, or despair in you and this is a poison, a toxin in your consciousness. You have to practice mindfulness in order to embrace and transform the toxin.
Embracing your pain and sorrow with the energy of mindfulness is exactly the practice of massaging, not our body, but our consciousness. Our consciousness may be in a situation of bad circulation. When the blood does not circulate well, then our organs cannot function properly and we get sick. When our psyche does not circulate well, then our mind will become sick. Mindfulness is an energy that stimulates and accelerates circulation throughout blocks of pain.
Occupying the Living Room
Our blocks of pain, sorrow, anger, and despair always want to come up into our mind consciousness, into our living room, because they have grown big and need our attention. They want to emerge, but we don’t want them to come up because they are painful to look at. So we try to block their way. We want them to stay asleep down in the basement. Because we do not want to face them, our habit is to fill our living room with other guests. But whenever we have ten or fifteen minutes of free time, and we don’t know what to do, these internal knots will come up and make a mess in the living room.
To avoid this, we pick up a book, we turn on the television, we go for a drive, we do anything to keep our living room occupied.
When the living room is occupied, these unpleasant internal formations will not come up.
All mental formations need to circulate, but we don’t want them to come up because we don’t want to feel the pain. We want them to stay locked away. We are very afraid, because we believe that if we allow them to come up, we will suffer a lot.
That is why our daily habit is to fill up the living room with guests, like television, books, magazines, and conversations, in order to keep these internal formations from surfacing. When we continue to do this, we create bad circulation in our psyche, and symptoms of mental illness and depression begin to appear. They may manifest in our body or in our mind.
Sometimes when we have a headache, we take aspirin, but our headache does not go away. This kind of headache can be a symptom of mental illness. Sometimes we have allergies. We think that it is a physical problem, but allergies can also be a symptom of mental illness. We are advised by doctors to take drugs, and so we continue to suppress our internal formations, making our sickness worse.
Making Your Unwanted Guests Feel at Home When you remove the embargo and the blocks of pain come up, you will have to suffer a bit. There is no way to avoid it.
And that is why the Buddha said that you have to learn how to embrace this pain. It is for this reason that the practice of mindfulness is so important. You generate a strong source of energy so that you can recognize, embrace, and take care of these negative energies. And since the Buddha is in you as the energy of mindfulness, you invite Buddha to come up and help you embrace the internal knots. If they don’t want to come up, you coax them to come up. After being embraced for some time, they will return back to the basement and become seeds again.
For instance, the Buddha said that all of us have the seed of fear, but most of us suppress it and keep it locked in the dark. To help us identify, embrace, and look deeply at the seeds of fear, he offered us the practice of the Five Remembrances: • I am of the nature to grow old. I cannot escape old age.
• I am of the nature to have ill health. I cannot escape ill health.
• I am of the nature to die. I cannot escape dying.
• All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them. I cannot keep anything. I come here empty-handed, and I go empty-handed.
• My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.
Every day we have to practice like this, taking a few moments to contemplate each exercise as we follow our breathing.
We practice the Five Remembrances so that the seed of fear can circulate. We must invite it up to be recognized, to be embraced. And then when it goes back down again, it becomes smaller.
When we invite our seed of fear up like this, we will be better equipped to take care of our anger. Fear gives life to anger. You don’t have peace when fear is there, so it becomes the soil on which anger can grow. Fear is based on ignorance, and this lack of understanding is also a primary cause of anger.
Every time you give your internal formations a bath of mindfulness, the blocks of pain in you become lighter and less dangerous. So give your anger, your despair, your fear a bath of mindfulness every day—that is your practice. If mindfulness is not there, it is very unpleasant to have these seeds come up. But if you know how to generate the energy of mindfulness, it is very healing to invite them up every day and embrace them. And after several days or weeks of bringing them up daily and helping them go back down again, you create good circulation in your psyche, and the symptoms of mental illness will begin to disappear.
Mindfulness does the work of massaging your internal formations, your blocks of suffering. You have to allow them to circulate, and this is possible only if you are not afraid of them. If you learn not to fear your knots of suffering, you can learn how to embrace them with the energy of mindfulness and to transform them.
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