Anger is big. Anger is monumental. Anger is, well, explosive! The common myth is that we often think the more spiritually evolved we become that anger just shouldn’t arise in us. But this won’t ever be the case. Whatever your comfort or discomfort level in feeling it, we all must and will experience anger in our lives. It is totally basic and totally human. The tricky thing about anger is that as a standalone feeling it is quite remarkable, awe-inspiring even, but when gone unchecked it gets us into massive trouble.
Sometimes the reality of our lives is painful. Sometimes there’s not a lot we can do to fix it or make it go away. Sometimes standing up, facing, and being with that painful reality is the only option. And this is gutsy; it takes courage, it takes ferocity, it is HARD. When life is a struggle and the things that get me are up in my face, when I can only sit with and behold what is the most difficult, I often support myself by looking to a teacher—a wise owl as I might call him or her. One of my go-to guys for this is Shunryu Suzuki Roshi.
I’ve suffered a lot in my life. From a young age, I was so busy figuring out how to survive, that looking compassionately—with love, warmth, and kindness—upon myself was simply too hard to come by. When I was introduced to Buddhism at 16, I began in my brain to grapple with healing from within, and started to believe, intellectually at least, in the power of compassion to soothe life’s hurts.
Many kids say, “My mom is crazy!” Usually it’s a joke—and about something pretty mild in the grand scheme of things—like her freaking out about a B minus on a test, or not putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket. In my case, my mother—literally—was crazy, meaning she was psychotic and un-medicated. My childhood, instead of being fancy-free, was troubled, burdened, and weighted by unadulterated amounts of pain and fear. While other little girls were going to ballet and playing with Barbie dolls, I was terrified and ashamed of my life.
We all ultimately wish for peace. The trouble is that we are taught to believe that battles need to be fought and won to earn it. But what if our steps towards peace were instead steps of studying and dismantling those battles? To do this, it is best to start with the most intimate ones we know and the ones we least want to address, the burning and entangled battles within ourselves. What are yours? Conversely, how are you stepping toward inner peace?
How about we reflect on our relationship to fear? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to reform our vision and understanding of it, by contemplating this very moment how it frightens us? The ultimate bully, fear is a hotbed for suffering. Chronic or acute, always sneaky, and masterful at hitching rides on as many instances and thoughts as it can, this feeling really gets around. Ironically, in its frenzied travels, fear brings our innate capacity for movement and growth to a heaving halt. It is too, so powerful at times, that it can flash forth from the dead, like an enormous flame teeming out of a seemingly burnt out heap. This is how sensitive and refined fear can be, how self-resuscitating.
What is spiritual practice? Furthermore, do you have one? Simply put, I define spiritual practice as something you do every single day that draws you deeper into who you really are by connecting you with your divine self. Please don't be put off by the word spiritual here! Spiritual doesn't have to entail -- though it often does -- meditation cushions, prayer beads, chant books, yoga mats or any other such paraphernalia. A spiritual practice might be baking, gardening, running, knitting, playing piano, painting, hiking, meditating, golfing, doing yoga, tai chi or calligraphy. It is not so much about the form but about the profound and connective quality of the time spent within it.
What does it mean to listen deeply? How does deep listening steer us towards a truer expression of who we really are? We have, as a culture, grown increasingly deaf to our inner selves. With frenzied minds, surface attachments, and noise levels on the rise, we are moving ever further from tuning in to the temples of our bodies. In response to this loss, I’d like to make a counter plea for the cultivation of deep listening, as an act of dropping the brain, sinking into a subtle quiet place, and awakening receptive awareness.