Friday, October 4, 2013

Flipping a Lid. Blowing a Gasket.

Firey. Hot. Irritated. Annoyed. Indignant. Exasperated. Vexed. Peeved. Irked. Unhappy. 

All of these words describe a negative and unpleasant emotion characterized by terse responses, sharp looks and overall crankiness.

Yep - that's me at the moment. And yes, yogis can get angry. But what exactly IS anger? What causes anger?

Big energy. Stuck energy. It builds up without anywhere to go, like a kink in a water hose or a blockage in an line. The release of this energy often comes in the form of an explosion, hitting anyone in the vicinity - usually the ones closest to us.
The impact can be devastating or traumatizing to those in its path.
Most of the time the consquences are unintended and the person at fault is sorry.

So what else can be done with this "anger?"

One of the things I have found most helpful when dealing with this type energy is to relabel it. "Anger" is negative. Nobody likes to be someone who is angry. Nobody likes to be on the receiving end of anger. We can rename "anger" to help us more equanimously put this feeling into a different perspective. My teacher calls it "big energy."

This is going to seem like a giant segue into a completely different subject, but bear with me for a moment. I recently had the opportunity to take my kids to a steam threshers reunion. We saw giant machines - tractors, diggers, train engines, saw mills and giant pumps - all powered by steam. Steam, as we all know, is the result of boiling water that rises into the air. When channeled aimlessly, it can burn anyone unfortunate enough to be in its way. When left unattended it can flip a lid - like when a pot boils over. BUT when channeled in the right direction it is

Industrious. Assiduous. Unflagging. Tireless. Steady.

We can channel our big energy in a more positive direction to get something done! We can cultivate awareness around the sensation of energy rising up or bubbling over. Then, rather than blowing off this steam, we direct it to a positive end. But how?

Cultivate mindfulness around this feeling of anger, starting with the breath (always the breath!). Breathing in - I feel big energy rising. Breathing out - I will take care of this energy. Then, focus. Concentrate. And direct this energy to a more useful cause.

I like the article by Thich Naht Hanh that likens anger to a crying baby. What do we do when babies cry? We cradle them in our arms and give them love and compassion. Do this with your anger. Redirect this energy in you towards a task of compassion. 

Breath by breath, direct this big energy and let it transform you into something else. Something bigger. With love and compassion.

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