When I was much younger I was quick to anger. I found it easy to lash out with words which were meant to hurt. Often this was in response to feelings I had of being hurt by others or maybe this was my perception that I was being hurt. Today I see most people are unaware of their shortcomings, their difficulty seeing their pain and definitely not wanting to identify and manage that pain usually because it has been projected onto others.
Unfortunately, this does not work. It is an ineffective tool. If we are wishing to increase symptoms of depression and anxiety, then these become very effective tools.
My practice of Zen meditation over the years has helped me see the harm I was causing myself, my family and those around me.
One of my favorite sayings is “It is what it is.” I have been told this is a copout. I don’t agree. There are few things in life, in my life over which I have any amount of control. This I did learn early on. Of course, it did not stop me from tying. I became sick and tired of being sick and tired of running headlong into a wall, wondering why my head hurt and pushing others around me away because I chose to blame my actions on them. Of course this did not work and of course, it did not stop me from continuing this practice.
There is a wonderful Zen story of a monk who one day decided to meditate alone away from the monastery where he had been living. He got into a boat and towed out into the middle of the lake, throws out the anchor, closes his eyes and begins to meditate. After a long period of undisturbed silence, he suddenly feels the bump of another boat colliding with his own. With his eyes closed, he feels his anger rising. He asks, “How could someone be so rude and inconsiderate?” By the time the monk opens his eyes, he is furious and ready to berate the person who disturbed his meditation. When he does open his eyes, he sees an empty boat which probably broke free from its mooring and drifted to the middle of the lake. At that moment the monk understands the anger within him which only needed the bump of the boat to provoke it out of him. I recalled this story this morning when walking my dog, I watched individual plow snow from his property onto that of a neighbor who had just finished clearing the snow from his own property. The snow was also pushed over the sidewalk making an insurmountable barrier for those attempting to navigate the sidewalk. I was able to remind myself that its “just an empty boat. The anger is within me.
Anger is like a mask covering sadness, hurt or fear. I was able to see my sadness and fear were connected to the senior residence immediately adjacent to the business plowing snow over the top of the sidewalk. I realize the pain which I feel is associated with my father’s diagnosis of polio and now post-polio syndrome. My meditation practice has allowed me to more skillfully identify and manage those feelings. That is not to say that I no longer give the finger or mutter disparaging words beneath my breath, but I have been more successful navigating that space between stimulus and response. The peace I now find in my understanding is seen by others and felt deeply by myself. No longer does my blood pressure rise to dangerous levels or is my stomach upset or do I carry around the weight of the world. No longer do I allow my anger to turn into hatred and rage. The joy I now feel is the ongoing motivation to continue my meditation practice.