Of all the human feelings possible, anger is probably the most disagreeable to both the individual as well as to society as a whole. In fact, I would argue that anger and resentment might just possibly be the number one killer of human life. A feeling, that when repressed, can lead to all sorts of diseases and conditions. And while many use meditation to learn to calm down and shift perspective on their experience, others use the practice to side-step anger all together.
Martin Boroson discusses anger and meditation in this recent Reality Sandwich post, acknowledging how destructive repressed anger can be to a person’s psyche and soul. According to Boroson, one problem that we all face is our collective agreement that somehow anger is bad and must be pushed away. As a solution, he offers a 4 step anger meditation to help people to begin to change their relationship with this seemingly “bad” feeling.
The Anger Meditation
You must first pledge not to express or act on your anger for the duration of this exercise, and for a little while afterward. The reason for this is that this technique might make you feel even angrier for a while. It helps you to become more conscious of your anger, and this means that the anger is coming a bit closer to the surface.
Here are the steps:
1. Forget about the content of the anger, i.e. what or who you think has ’caused’ you to be angry. Just focus on the underlying feeling of anger.
2. Anger usually has a physical component or expression in your body. So now identify where, in your body, you feel the anger most. It usually feels hot, though sometimes it can be an absence of feeling, or a feeling of “going cold.”
3. Now, as you inhale, try to bring your breath to meet that angry feeling. At first, you might just make the most tentative contact. But keep doing this, one breath at a time. Gradually there will be less and less separation between your anger and your breathing: your awareness will embrace them both.
4. Keep doing this until you feel a bit more stable with your anger — that you can handle it better. You are befriending it and welcoming it as part of you. The Anger Meditation is a bit like learning how to drive in a skid. When your car starts to skid, although the natural impulse might be to turn away from the skid, this just makes the skidding worse. The better way to handle a skid is to turn into it, not out of it. In other words, working against what is happening seems to make things worse, but going with what is happening helps you regain appropriate control. So with the Anger Meditation, you turn toward your anger. You go with it, respectfully, rather than fighting against it. While doing the Anger Meditation, you might also suddenly gain clarity about what the trigger for the anger was, how you contributed to the situation, or how to express what you’re feeling to the right person at the right time in the right way. Or you might just feel more accepting of being angry for the time being.
Read more about Boroson and his anger meditation here.