My goodness there appears to be a myriad of problems in the world today. For all our spiritual and technological advances, humans still remain rather barbaric, and full of greed, anger and intolerance. *sigh* It seems that we are sitting on the edge of World War III, and this is a very, very uncomfortable and frightening place to be. Day after day, I find the thoughts growing within about whether or not our children will have a healthy, happy planet to inhabit.
No human wants to be unhappy. All humans seek the same thing. Happiness is a human birthright. At this fundamental level, all human beings are totally equal. Only by attaining this happiness can human beings resolve the problems humanity faces. When we feel happy, we are generous, we abide in a love for everything, and we are accepting to even those people and things different from ourselves. Happiness is truly the antidote to all our problems!
Unfortunately, most human beings are still looking outside of themselves for the source of happiness and for solutions to problems. The spiritual teachers, however, point in the opposite direction. They point practitioners to look within for happiness, because that is the only place to find the type of happiness that has the ability to put an end to suffering and therefore solve problems. What the great ones tell us is that the answer to all the world’s problems is within the human being. The real problem is that human beings do not look in the right place for the solution to the problems. In today’s chaotic world, which is full of hatred, racism, war, and great physical suffering, it is more necessary than ever for attention to be given to what the greatest yogis and monks have provided as instructions for how to solve humanity’s problems.
Ramana Maharishi, one of India’s most treasured sages, known worldwide and accepted as an enlightened being, did not talk much. Instead, he sat still, quiet, at peace. His guidance was intended for devotees to turn their gaze inward in order to discover “the Self” which he described as the source from which everything is made manifest. This is a very intriguing concept to contemplate: that the source of which everything is made manifest is within us. Hmmm. For the moment, let us accept this as the truth. The source of which everything is made manifest is within us. And now let’s look at the world around us. Hmmm. Hatred. Anger. Greed. Intolerance. Killing. On the brink of war. Hmmm. The source of everything which is manifested is within each of US. You and me. So what are we doing wrong?
I had an incident a few weeks back that taught me a powerful lesson about what I am doing wrong. My great guru (my 16 year old Siberian Husky Jewel) taught me this. She is ailing as her body ages, and she has a very hard time not falling down and smashing her jaw. I work very diligently to prevent this, and yet it still happens. One day, I had let her out on her own and she was doing fine. I went outside to see her, and when she saw me, she got distracted, and *wham* down she went. I rushed to her with the intention to help, but she hurt too much and anything I did to help only made it worse. So I stopped, turned away and waited. Standing there, the anger built inside me. Not anger at her, anger at the situation, anger at God, anger at the the universe for making this whole thing (not only for Jewel but for elderly beings everywhere) so hard and painful. Eventually I got Jewel inside, and she was okay, but I was not. After getting her inside I went out, closed the door gently behind me so as to no disturb her, and just unleashed my anger at the universe. I screamed “Stop it! Just STOP IT!” My heart was pounding, my blood was rushing through my veins; I was madder than I have been in a very long time. I was ANGRY. Very angry. And I was lashing out at the universe with that anger. I wasn’t just “releasing the emotion” ... I was assaulting the universe with my anger and hatred of this situation.
It only last a couple of minutes, and then, as I stood looking out at my beautiful yard, the giant fir and oak trees, the lush rhododendron bushes, suddenly I could see the life force energy vibrating out there. And suddenly I realized what I, in those few minutes, had just contributed to that universal life force energy: anger, hatred, intolerance. OMG. I’m a “spiritual person” who works very diligently to cultivate inner peace. And look what I was doing! My contribution to the universal life force energy that affects every single being was anger, hatred and intolerance. Uh-oh.
Here I was, using that source within me that makes everything manifest to create the exact opposite of what would bring all humans happiness. It was a brilliant moment for me. To understand very deeply, how acutely aware spiritual practitioners must be, because even the smallest amount of this source energy that is within us is super powerful. And if we choose to be true practitioners, we must get to the most subtle levels. A spiritual person is one who observes the Self carefully and in every moment, always conscious of how that source energy is being used through them. Another name used to describe that “source energy” is God.
My teacher, Grandmaster Choa Kok Sui, the modern founder of Pranic Healing, in his book “The Existence of God is Self Evident” defines God this way: “The Supreme God is the all pervasive energy with consciousness. This all pervasive energy is very subtle and almost imperceptible. It is super stable and at the same time all powerful. It does not have form. This Supreme Being or Universal Pervasive Intelligent Energy is what we call the Supreme God who is formless.” Note that he said almost imperceptible; meaning it IS perceptible if we care enough to look for it.
The great Mahatma Gandhi is famous for his statement “to be the change we wish to see in the world.” There truly is no way to change any other human being; we have a hard enough time to change ourselves. Only by changing ourselves can we have an impact on the world around us. Each individual must change their own thoughts, words and actions. If we want to have less brutality in the world, then we must be more gentle with each of our own actions. If we want less anger and hatred, then we must increase our own good humor and be more loving.
But we cannot make this kind of change if we blindly go through our life unaware of what we are thinking, saying and doing. Mindfulness must be cultivated. We must choose to practice. We must stop looking at what everyone else is doing, and become aware of ourselves and our own behaviors. Ramana Maharishi’s statement “your own Self-realization is the greatest service you can render the world” is a powerful teaching on the absolute necessity of working on oneself. He also reminds us that “no one succeeds without effort. Those who succeed owe their success to perseverance.” Practice, practice, practice.
If you are wondering what to practice, or how to begin, I recommend you start here: “Treat every other being exactly how you would want to be treated.” Really work on that every day for a week. In every thought, every word, every action. Observe, contemplate, and make adjustments. Truly, it will change your life, and in turn, change the world.
When most of us think of anger, we tend to consider it a negative emotion; an emotion best left alone because of its tendencies to create harmful results when engaged. Without mindfulness and awareness, it is true that anger will more often than not cause harm when expressed.
But anger is also power. Anger stirs our inner self when we are poked or confronted with issues that are contrary to our values and beliefs. In this way, anger arising can be a very useful teacher. Anger can point us to what we think and feel, and if we are willing, then we have the chance to explore more deeply those values and beliefs that are important to us; perhaps even discover that they do not need to be so important!
My key to working with anger has been developing the ability to hit the “pause” button when I am triggered. Meditation practice develops our awareness; when we are aware we notice that emotions or thoughts are arising as they arise, so we have the chance to choose our response. The “pause” button, as I like to call it, is what I use when I notice that I’ve been triggered by something and that anger is arising. I notice this, and then “hit the pause button.” Not the “stop” button, mind you; the “pause.” Because stopping cuts me off from any further opportunity for insight and wisdom. But “pause” brings my awareness to being very careful of my very next words and actions. It allows me the time to breathe, and analyze if this anger arising is a friend or foe in that moment. If it’s a friend and I can quickly move to recognizing that so that my next words and actions are kind, then I can hit the “play” button again. If it’s a foe, then I can make the choice to walk away from the situation until I am able to contemplate the appropriate response.
It’s really important to not hit the “delete” button with anger ;-). Keeping it on “pause” so we have time to work through what’s happening is a healthy way to make sure we respond with kindness and compassion. And respond we must. “Delete” will more often than not, just stuff that anger somewhere in your body (like your liver) and it will surface later in a less gentle way, often with physical distress in addition to the emotional and mental distress that arose in the moment.
I read this very good article in Lion’s Roar magazine this morning about anger. I highly recommend it for your morning coffee read. It’s filled with deep insights about aggression versus anger, the benefits of anger to motivate us to action, and wisdom for working with anger to develop compassion and kindness.
“When anger is released from its service to ego,
it ceases to be aggression and simply becomes energy.
The pure energy of anger has wisdom and power. It can even be enlightened.” ~ Melvin McLeod author of the article in Lion's Roar