Are You Yelling at ME?
My husband, Michael, has been grumpy. He said it was ok to share that with you. He’s been very busy with work, we’ve had a lot of snow days (no school) and we’ve not been able to be outside very much because it’s been very cold.
At first, I tried to ignore it. I was hoping that by giving him some space and time his frame of mind would improve. That tactic didn’t work. I inquired about his moodiness. Is there something wrong? Are you having a bad day at work? Can I help you with anything? He insisted he was fine and that there was nothing I could do…. but he was still very, very grumpy. The more he insisted he was fine, the more irritated I felt.
Eventually I lost my temper and we got into a big ole fight. We both yelled and then we huffed off in opposite directions…me upstairs to bed, him downstairs to his desk. I was really mad and so was he. The next morning I decided I didn’t want to be mad so I gave him a hug and told him I was ready not to be mad anymore. Thankfully he was ready too, and poof…like magic, our anger, which had been so powerful and pervasive the night before, was gone. Or maybe it was transformed…I’m not sure.
In his book, Peace Is Every Step, Thich Nhat Hahn has this to say:
“Expressing anger is not always the best way to deal with it. In expressing anger we might be practicing or rehearsing it, and making it stronger in the depth of our consciousness. Expressing anger to the person we are angry with can cause a lot of damage.
Some of us may prefer to go into our room, lock the door, and punch a pillow…this technique may work temporarily because while pounding the pillow, we expend a lot of energy, and after a while, we are exhausted and we feel better. But the roots of our anger are intact, and if we go out and eat some nourishing food, our energy will be renewed. If the seeds of our anger are watered again, our anger will be reborn, and we have to pound pillow again….
In order to have real transformation, we have to deal with the roots of our anger – looking deeply into its causes…. If we practice mindful living, planting new, healthy, wholesome seeds, they will take care of our anger, and they may transform it without our asking them to do so.
Our mindfulness will take care of everything, as the sunshine takes care of the vegetation. The sunshine does not seem to do much, it just shines on the vegetation, but it transforms everything. …In the same way, mindfulness, if practiced continuously, will provide a kind of transformation within the flower of our anger, and it will open and show us its own nature. When we better understand the nature, the roots, of our anger, we will be freed from it.”
When Mike is upset, he likes to go for a walk. Thich Nhat Hahn includes a walking meditation for when angry. Maybe the next time you find yourself angry, you will try this. I think I will.
When anger arises, we may wish to go outside to practice walking meditation. The fresh air, the green trees, and the plants will help us greatly. We can practice like this:
Breathing in, I know that anger is here.
Breathing out, I know that the anger is me.
Breathing in, I know that anger is unpleasant
Breathing out, I know this feeling will pass
Breathing in, I am calm
Breathing out, I am strong enough to take care of this anger
…as we walk, we recite this verse, and wait until we are calm enough to look directly at the anger. Until then, we can enjoy our breathing, our walking, and the beauties of our environment. After a while, our anger will subside and we will feel stronger. Then we can begin to observe the anger directly and try to understand it.
Perhaps you will not have occasion to use this meditation this week but perhaps you will remember it the next time you are angry. In our house, anger seems to spread. It’s my responsibility to my family to do whatever I can to deal with anger more effectively than I have done in the past. In that way, I can more often pass on peace instead of anger. If you do try this walking meditation, you might record any thoughts about it in your prayer journal.
The peace of Christ be with you,