This is a short introduction to an entirely new way of working with anger. By “new” I mean it is new for Westerners. However, this special view and the model itself are thousands of years old.
This knowledge may appeal to spiritually inclined people struggling with uninhibited anger, aggression, low self-esteem, and those who lack empathy. It will also be helpful to those who are coping with chronically angry and abusive people in their lives.
Perhaps you may be wondering why this advice comes in the form of secrets. There are two reasons.
Some of this knowledge has been passed down for ages in a very careful manner from teacher to student and was hidden from the so called “uninitiated” ones. “Hidden” not because someone was not worthy but because that someone wasn’t ready or capable to internalize it. It is somewhat like telling the most hilarious joke to a friend without any sense of humor. The ensuing silence makes both people feel uncomfortable. The joke owner makes an internal vow to never tell that joke again.
Another reason some of these points are called “secret” is because they’ve been beyond the reach of an ordinary worldly person. Lost in religious dogmas and rigid understanding of phenomenon, Western societies have long hibernated in a deep spiritual coma. Therefore, when the Indian Jones types finally discover Himalayan region’s spiritual traditions many feel as if they’ve discovered a secret treasure trove of wisdom.
Due to our increasing abilities in abstract thinking and critical analysis, there is a growing hunger to understand the world on a much deeper level than that which is offered by the theistic religions. It is for this reason that Westerners are slowly opening their hearts to wisdom traditions of the East.
However, the teachers, lamas and gurus would only pass this knowledge along to students who met the following criteria: they were seeking it, they asked for it, and they would be able to understand it.
Humbly, I remain confident that you meet all the mentioned criteria and stand as a proper vessel to receive the 7 Secrets of Anger Management from Ancient Wisdom. The concepts offered below have been somewhat simplified due to my own limited training but perhaps in this way these ideas can be digested by someone who has no prior training.
Who is Anger Mentor?
In the footsteps of a good tradition, you must know the source of this information. My name is Tadas. Most of my life I’ve lived between Vilnius, Lithuania and California, USA. I’ve worked in real estate sales, had corporate jobs, but now I own a small business and have more time to write. Topics like personal growth have interested me my entire life life.
I became a student of Buddhism and have been practicing for the past fifteen years. While I’ll share my personal insights, most of my knowledge that is being passed on to you is coming from a few sources: qualified teachers that I personally had contact with, a heap of fascinating literature, and stories gathered while traveling in India and Nepal.
In order to acquire full competence with both the Western and Eastern styles of working with destructive emotions, I became a Certified Anger Management Facilitator with Anderson & Anderson, a leading provider in anger management classes in USA.
This short introductory e-book is meant to be read lightheartedly with an open mind. Hope you enjoy.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein.
It is said there is no more accurate measure of our mental health than the nature of our problems. Excluding mass accidents and natural calamities, it is safe to say that people are the true architects of their troubles. We design and inhabit a mental house in our heads. We are the building, the tenant and the landlord. It is a big responsibility.
Our duties are not without peril. Distracted by the global ipod-ization, changing pictures on TV, superficial idols, we’ve surrendered our decision making power to egocentric politicians and pharmaceutical ads. We’ve been sold into the idea of competitive spirit and adopted dis-empowering ideological beliefs that have stripped us of responsibility to be a better fellow human being.
Scavenging for an opinion of our own, our senses are on fire and confusion reigns the day. We’ve become nothing but a lousy tenant, a squatter in our own head.
No wonder we’re angry. No wonder we’re burning inside. We appear to command our bodies but the mind has been coasting on autopilot; operated by mental software developed by the ever bewildering world around us.
Refusing to be a puppet manipulated by emotional strings we are looking for answers. We attend classes, read books, try everything under the blue sky to reign in our anger but nothing quite brings the comfort that we seek. Yet we persist. Out of habit. Out of despair. Out of hope for better tomorrow.
A wise physicist knew it – “Don’t try to fix problems using the same mind that created them.” He also keenly pointed out that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is a definition of insanity. Are we insane? Let’s examine this possibility together.
The State of a Modern Mind
“East and West are cross-purposed only because the West is determined to keep on going, it knows not where, and it calls the rudderless voyage “Progress” – Ananda Coomaraswamy in “On non-violence” by Gandhi.
In my opinion, Western style of anger management advances the idea that anger can be managed by the same rigid, immature mind that weaved the very fabric of our problems. The daily tabloid headlines witness that folks who attend these classes are certainly more skilled but are far from being in control.
A young man, Victor, once put it very eloquently to me: “The biggest issue I have with my instructors is that they suggest I should stop and think rationally before I act. Hello…! I’m angry, rationality is out the window; I just want to punch someone in the nose so we can get this over with!”
Advice to stop and think sounds sensible on the surface but the cold reality is that it’s like begging for mercy from a cold blooded psychopath. His brain just does not have the capacity to entertain any other outcomes other than the one driven by his deep neurosis. (Not to say that psychos are hopeless, they too can feel empathy if they learn how to turn it on.)
Nevertheless, those who have caused havoc while riding the anger locomotive can easily attest – the order of events that seems to unfold most naturally is: act first, think later.
Doesn’t it feel that no matter how much we listen to Tony Robbins CDs or read up on anger management books, our minds have a hard-wired program of their own? It’s because they do.
Treating Symptoms Rather Than Addressing the Sources
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Krishnamurti.
“What ails you today?” – A question that leaves good doctor’s mouth upon a visit to the clinic. Of course we have not a faintest clue what the heck is the real problem so what we do is describe the symptoms and hope that the doctor will use his experience to diagnose it. “Oh, it’s a gut bug. Here’s an antibiotic, a stomach acid suppressor” and off you go.
Symptoms masked, problem solved, mission accomplished. Not quite… Six months later you show up again with the same problem because it was never really treated at the root of it. You go back to your doc but this time an antidepressant is in order: “You must be feeling blue.”
Our Western medicine is an indisputable champion of trauma management, diagnostic machines, hygiene and treating the symptoms. However, where it fails abominably is in holistic approach to healing and getting to the very source of the problem.
During the few months when I had my stomach discomforts neither my family doctor, nor a qualified gastroenterologist was able to say how the H. Pylori bacteria ended up in the stomach to start with. However, they did prescribe a handful of drugs to hide the symptoms. It was just another example how our doctors and psychiatrists create a culture of dependency on our medical and pharmaceutical industry.
A superficial approach to merely treating symptoms is also evidenced by a wild abundance of therapists that help dig up the causes of our problems. They analyze our past, and in a way, make us very well educated victims of our own circumstances. “Now you know!”
What good does it do to know that your paralyzing fears are caused by childhood traumas, or that your relationships keep falling apart because you’re modeling the behavior of your abusive father? To a certain extent there is some benefit, as you understand the reasons for your madness but it doesn’t change the fact that you are still mad.
Most of our psychiatrists are mainly concerned with how the outer events influence our inner environment, upon which they dispense a twofold advice: either re-arrange your life to suit your neuroses or take a pill to dumb down the anguish and live happily ever after.
If we follow the approach in the West we’ll be guided to treat anger as a condition. We’ll be introduced to terms such as anger “management,” cognitive therapy, emotional intelligence, and so on. Some of it is useful and provides for some relief, but it always feels like a ceaseless game of Whack-A-Mole.
One doesn’t slap a Band-Aid on a shotgun wound so why do we take a half measured approach to mastering emotions? Life experience says that if the medicine only masks the symptoms then anger roots too will keep rearing their ugly heads in our lives.
Why Ancient Wisdom Traditions of the East?
Not so many hundreds of years ago, mental well-being was woven in the tapestry of humanity. It used to be a part of daily living, culture, diet, studies without any significant reference to spirituality as such.
What we call spiritual today was simply the way of life back then. Wisdom and experience were the most revered and treasured human qualities. One’s status was imperially elevated not due to one’s material but spiritual wealth.
When there was no abundance of CD’s, DVDs and LCDs and instead of bragging about the size of their plasma TVs, children gathered in circles and listened to a community “medicine man” with eye popping curiosity and suspense. There were fewer comforts, but due to vast knowledge about mind’s nature, people had simple answers to the “complicated” mental anguishes faced by modern societies today.
While the West and Middle East were fighting a war after war for land domination and chopping heads to spread their dogmas, countries like India and Tibet (even while facing their own internal problems) enjoyed a relatively peaceful environment, where the most prioritized science was that one of the inner world.
Naturally, it was these societies that produced some of the most convincing people and sages in the world.
What, you might ask, can a tradition developed in a remote Indian forest or an Himalayan cave two and a half thousand years ago can possibly teach Western man in the twenty first century about mental health?
As it happens, the most amazing paradox is that the knowledge amassed by these traditions is as applicable to the modern mind as it ever was. In the finest empirical form, it offers solutions to our human condition based on an unflinching analysis of facts and logic. It provides tried and tested practices arranged in clearly defined steps that can lead us from blazing mental hells to a refreshing ocean of peace and fulfillment.
Treating at the Source of it All
Buddhist psychology advances that anger itself is not a problem. It is a symptom. A symptom of lack of mental health and untrained coping mechanisms. It’s a symptom that the real problems are not being addressed. It’s a symptom of unchecked desires and misguided beliefs. It’s a symptom of poor understanding of how our problems arise, their causes, and their makeup.
Eastern wisdom invites us to fix problems from inside out. Naturally, this calls for a new mindset, a totally different way of looking at our relationship with disturbing emotions and ourselves.
Any solid path towards inner change involves three steps:
- Understanding things as they truly are (having the right view);
- Learning the techniques (skillful means);
- Applying oneself in daily life (practice).
The 7 Secrets is an introduction to the first step – acquiring a new mindset. I invite you to take the time to contemplate the 7 Secrets. This roadmap builds a solid foundation for mental fortitude.
The 7 Secrets
1. Anger is a weakness.
“Violence and anger are signs of vulnerability, disappointment, and fear rather than strength. The best possibility for effectively improving one’s [plight] is to recognize a general responsibility for one’s actions. In doing so, one emerges with a handful of tools from the difficult corners of one’s existence.” – Lama Ole Nydahl, ‘Buddha and Love’
It is said that we fear most the unknown. We tend to label the unknown and assign blame to it in order to objectify our fears – Satan, Lucifer, Dr. Evil, the green monster in the closet… they all represent a mysterious incarnation of an evil figure.
Some relate serious rage episodes to being possessed by the devil while others interpret anger as some sort of power needed for aggressive intimidation to achieve their goals.
Eastern wisdom has a much more rational explanation. Through a deeper analysis and observation, it teaches that anger is an e-motion (energy in motion) which is much like a wave in the ocean arising due to conditions.
Due to our lack of understanding and obstructed energy channels, this energy is being syphoned through the filters of greed, desire, basic ignorance and produces inner heat that makes our minds exceedingly uncomfortable. Once it culminates we automatically spring into action.
Eastern Wisdom believes that pure evil, such as Satan, could not exist as anger is a self-destructing energy. It would self-implode like a fire cracker into a puff of smoke. Yet this logic does not bode well with 70% of Americans.
After all, “How would one explain such blatant acts of violence as suicide bombers, the Rwanda massacres, the school shootings, the world wars?” You must admit, Satan is an easy target here. In fact, if he did exist, he’d like to own up to it and claim his glory, kind of like Bin Laden after 911.
However, even science now openly asks us to exercise reason: “If we accept the message from decades of social psychological research, that at least some instances of violence and malice are not the result of “pure evil” — that otherwise decent individuals can, under certain circumstances, be compelled to commit horrible acts, even atrocities — then the results of these studies serve as an important cautionary tale. [In fact] the longer we cling to strong beliefs about the existence of pure evil, the more aggressive and antisocial we become.”
|Anger is a symptom, a way of cloaking and expressing feelings too awful to experience directly – hurt, bitterness, grief, and, most of all, fear. – Joan Rivers|
It would therefore be reasonable to assume that if pure evil does not exist then one ought to assign responsibility where it’s due – one’s own actions.
If one can make this leap the answers will manifest at the tip of one’s nose. One would clearly see that in order to become a strong person it would make sense to develop wisdom and patience. In Buddhist terms, this would be called adopting an enlightened view. One would apply oneself in practicing this view every day until it would become naturally woven in one’s fabric of personality.
While ladies trusting their superior intuition can accept this with ease, then men, especially the macho types, will have a miserably hard time accepting that anger is a weakness. However, when they do, their transformation is almost immediate. It was for me.
Secret: Any outward expression of anger and aggression is a weakness; it is a sign that a person is not able to cope with life or recognize the underlying feelings behind it.
2. Help the body to help the mind.
“If a person is on proper diet then there is no need for medicine, and if a person is not on proper diet then there is no need for medicine.” – A saying in Tibetan Medicine.
Tibetan medicine believes that 90% of our physical and mental ailments arise in the mind and subsequently manifest in the body. This psychosomatic concept of disease and health suggests that body and mind are closely interrelated inasmuch as the health, happiness, and misery of one directly affects the other.
There is no doubt that our emotional states produce physical changes in our body. Anger in particular raises blood pressure, releases stress hormones, increased chances for heart attack by three fold, and a myriad of other illnesses; it literary makes our blood boil. It is no coincidence that one of the angriest, hateful people that I’ve known in my life recently died of blood cancer. I was in shock how quickly it all happened, but I was not surprised.
Although sometimes it may seem like our feelings manifest out of thin air they actually don’t. Like the waves in the ocean, they are conditioned by the undercurrents of our mind and body.
Diet is one of those conditions that can cause one to have a shorter fuse immediately. I don’t need to tell how you how unbalanced our diet can be these days. We literary stuff our mouths with anything that looks appealing disregarding nutritional value, neurotoxins and additives that agitate our nervous system. Most of us have no clue how this food is going to affect our body and mind.
Ancient science of Chinese and Tibetan Medicine, as well as Ayurveda, are treasures of knowledge if you want to understand how your diet influences your energy system. You might have heard terms such as chi/qi (Chinese), prana (Indian), and lung or inner winds (Tibetan). All of these refer to the so called life energy which is the animating force within the body that promotes movement, metabolism, transformation, and change.
This energy is everywhere around us and inside us. When it comes to our bodies this energy works like water. If it moves freely, it is lively and clear; if it stagnates it becomes dull, and if it is rushed it invites tension and disease.
Our diets influence these inner winds, which in turn influence our central nervous system. There are foods that agitate our nervous system and there are foods that calm the nervous system. Tibetan medicine says that the lung or wind is the horse upon which the mind rides. “If the wind rushes about frantically, then the mind will also follow.”
A physical manifestation of disturbed winds will cause various hormonal disruptions in the body, which in turn can affect your mood. For example, a study from Britain’s Cambridge University found that low serotonin levels make it difficult for the brain to control emotional responses to anger.
Even our sex lives can influence our inner winds. For example, men may think that they get recharged by having sex but most men actually deplete their vital energy and become more irritable the next day.
Ladies close your eyes here… guys’ ears only: nothing depletes men’s energy more than masturbation. It’s a total waste of our potential. This lost life force is absolutely essential to maintain mind’s clarity, creativity, mood, self-esteem and self-control. You can learn more about this in various Daoist and Qi Gong books.
Where were we? Diet. When it comes to our food, our goal should be a fine balance of ingredients that will promote emotional equilibrium and a stable mind. If we maintain a constant nutrient deficiency we are just not going to be able to cope as well as if we ate the right stuff. A balanced diet literally makes the gears in our heads spin better – we’re able to handle more stress and think more clearly.
Obviously, there is no “right” diet for everyone. However, one who easily “flies off the handle” will be advised to avoid… caffeine, alcohol, highly processed foods (high in simple sugars), spicy peppers, onions and….. garlic. As per the latter two, according to Ayurveda and Daoist teachings, “As well as producing offensive breath and body odor, these (alliaceous) plants induce aggravation, agitation, anxiety and aggression. Thus they are harmful physically, emotionally, and spiritually”.
If you have a casein or gluten sensitivity then obviously avoid wheat and milk. According to the Jack Challem, author of The Food-Mood Solution: “Casein, found in dairy, and gluten in wheat can cause some people a toxic effect, creating a substance in the body that leads to aggression or inability to control behavior.”
Instead, there’s plenty of research that supports consuming more Omega 3s. Western gurus are right on board here; they advise that one key for controlling runaway emotions is to increase fish oil in the diet. Some researchers say that a diet rich in Omega-3 decreases violence. Others just plainly claim that “fish is the best anger management food because Omega-3 fatty acids encourage neuron growth in the frontal lobe, which is the part of the brain that manages impulsive behaviors like anger”.
Besides the healthy fats, other diet choices that help with serotonin production include foods high in B-vitamins (brown rice, chicken, corn ,eggs, leafy veggies, legumes, meat, nuts, peas, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast), Calcium (almonds, brewer’s yeast, leafy and cruciferous vegetables, fish with bones, sesame seeds, tofu), Magnesium (leafy veggies, brown rice, sesame seeds, shrimp, salmon) and Tryptophan (turkey, soy foods, peanuts, almonds).
A good diet and herbal supplements alone are not a total solution to one’s mental health but it certainly helps with composure and replenishing one’s vitality.
Secret: Our bodies and minds are intricately connected energy systems. Expecting mental health without proper diet is like wishing for the crippled bird to fly. We must use our body to support the mind and use our mind to help the body.
3. Anger cannot be vented or transformed.
“If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.” – Chinese Proverb.
Contrary to what popular psychiatrists and most people believe (thanks to the misunderstood concept of catharsis by Sigmund Freud), venting anger doesn’t actually work. In fact, it makes things worse.
Yes, screaming and hitting a pillow does provide for a superficial physical relief, however it does something more sinister for the mind – it plants new anger seeds in our consciousness and reinforces a habit of needing to release it.
As a consequence, our brains establish neuropathways (information highways) that will make us feel like the only natural way to deal with anger is unleash it onto some object. Our anger will only lurk in the dungeons of our mind bursting to rear its head when we least expect it. And what if next time there is no pillow near by?
An intelligent anger management program recommends talking to a counselor or writing your feelings down as opposed to venting them. It’s a start. Eastern wisdom encourages to stop “managing” anger altogether. Instead one is encouraged to develop patience.
Mind you, I’m not talking about the kind of patience toddlers are taught while fervently waiting for a Popsicle. I am talking about a space like patience where one learns to “park” one’s mind and feel unaffected by the discomforts of frustration.
|People talk about “conquering” anger. Why would you want to conquer it in the first place? If you were a king, would you rather conquer a waste land or some rich lands? Why would you want to conquer something that you don’t want? What you are really are saying is how do you respond to anger? Perhaps your mind, your body, your energies are not behaving the way you’d like them to. They run a show of their own, don’t they? You are battling anger but it is your mind that is not taking instructions from you.” – Sadhguru|
Make no mistake, the anger would still be there due to a long standing habit but it’d be declawed and placed in a well-lit corner of one’s awareness for it to be examined by the experiencer. One would have more freedom of action and can consciously choose to wait for it to pass before taking the next step.
A popular metaphor in Tibet compares anger to a thief. It is advised to offer a visiting thief nothing to rob. The thief visits less and less often, until one day he just doesn’t come back.
Another reason anger cannot be vented is due to its illusory nature. It appears but can not be located. Can not be x-rayed and can not be localized. Try it next time, point your finger at it when you feel it. Where is it in your body? Where is it in your mind? Can you locate it? Like a soap bubble, the second you point your finger at it – it disappears. My teacher’s words often ring in my head: “If it wasn’t here before and it won’t be in the future – why worry?”
Secret: Anger cannot be vented, forced out or transformed because it is merely an illusion. Much like a mirage, it appears but cannot be located at closer inspection. What really transforms is our habits and our relationship to this destructive emotion. Instead of focusing what wasn’t here before and won’t be in the near future, we can focus on developing patience.
4. Happiness and misery springs from the mind
“Words alone have no power to makes us angry. It is the meaning that we attach to the words that makes us angry.” – Trungram Gyaltrul Rinpoche
Nearly every modern therapist will agree that perception of the world is influenced by the inner mental and emotional landscape of the experiencer. Films like “The Matrix,” “What the Bleep Do We Know,” “The Secret,” are all awesome resources for diving into the world of quantum mechanics and universal laws. However, unique as they are for our age, these films only reverberate what sages like Gautama the Buddha have realized while meditating under the Bodhi tree in India two thousand five hundred years ago.
This ancient mind science and its secret instructions had been carefully passed down via a special teacher-student relationship. It is because of this that it is available today in its shape and form, exactly as it was practiced thousands of years ago.
Amazingly, modern science, with its retinue of most amazing and precise instruments, is slowly catching up to what ancient Buddhist, Daoist and Vedic psychology has known for centuries. That is that all of our happy and miserable experiences in life are all colored by our, so called, perceptual filters.
We view the world individually through lenses of our creed, culture, values, national identity, and personal experiences from the past. Ever since childhood we were taught to manipulate our environment to achieve happiness yet very few were granted an insight that it is the vantage point that paints the canvas of our experience.
Imagine sitting in a movie theater engrossed in an epic movie like Avatar. Now imagine that your consciousness is actually that clear light emitted from a projector; subsequently it reaches and interacts with a film, further projecting an image onto the screen. You see an image and get excited. It’s beautiful. It moves you. Now I invite you to think about it… Does the clear light from the projector contain the image? Where does the picture on the screen come from? Would the picture appear without the clear light? Would the picture appear without the film?
The ancient yogis had realized that our mind-stream itself is a clear light of awareness. In itself, it is pure, wise and compassionate, yet when it’s projected through one’s previous conditioning (seeds planted into our consciousness) it outwardly projects a picture. Due to a strong habit we believe what we see, we identify with it. We actually believe that we are the character in our film and we act upon it.
Even at the movie theater, when we recline comfortably in a lush seat and have our hand in a popcorn, we get so lost in pictures that our daily reality freezes, and we find ourselves in a helicopter surveying the planet Pandora. We feel like we’re there, part of the scene.
When it comes to anger exactly the same process takes place. We observe, we filter the experience at hand through our mental imprints and we react. It happens lightning fast and feels very natural. Then we think, “Oh well, it’s just me, this is who I am, nothing I can do about it.” Or, we reflect and wonder what the heck was that, it wasn’t me acting this out, I’m not like that.
Secret: Anger is projected by the mind. Instead of focusing on the projected pictures, one should work to identify the underling beliefs (the film) that give rise to anger (the picture). Once the true villain has been revealed it is then time to plant the right set of impressions which will project a very different picture. This way next time your eyes see an aggressive face what you’ll really perceive is a very neurotic Chihuahua.
5. The law of cause and effect – your best friend or worst enemy. You choose.
“Without exception, all impressions from past actions of body, speech, and mind are retained in the subconsciousness. They create corresponding outer and inner conditions in this or later lives. The impressions that are formed in the mind from inhuman actions bring, karmically speaking, the worst
results of all.”– Lama Ole Nydahl.
Personally, when I realized how real and how powerful the law of cause and effect (karma) is, it became my main “motivator” to get my act together. It is due to this law that we are spellbound to keep making the same mistakes over and over and I didn’t want that. So I really started watching what I said and how I treated people.
Can you imagine how utterly different our world would be if our politicians, businessmen and religious leaders only took this universal law seriously? The concept of karma is not even such a mystery if one examines it better.
This very principle is skillfully illustrated by Newton’s Law of Motion: “To every action there is always an equal and contrary reaction; the mutual actions of any two bodies are always equal and oppositely directed. To have a single force is impossible. There must be, and always is, a pair of forces equal and opposite.” No law of chemistry, physics, or any other science for that matter, is found exempt from inherent opposite or contrasted principles.
One doesn’t need to look for evidence very far that mind functions like a fertile field that bears fruits of seeds that were planted in it. For example, people with sharp tongues are the most defensive, biggest gossipers live in constant paranoia of being gossiped about, thieves live under constant threat of being robbed, and hot heads constantly attract like kind for a fight.
Mental impressions are just like seeds. Once planted, they can lie dormant for weeks but sprout rapidly when they get in contact with moisture and sun. The same way anger seed can lie dormant for years and will manifest when a set of conditions comes together. As soon as the conditions disappear, they also pull the proverbial plug behind the emotional current.
Before the modern quantum mechanics even hinted at it, the ancient mystics had realized through a mind’s eye that:
- The universe acts like a container where nothing ever disappears, it simply changes form.
- Every action (positive or negative) has a corresponding re-action; karmic seeds inevitably ripen with accordance to their cause.
- If certain causes (karma) are not planted, there can be no result of it; everything that happens has a cause.
- Karmic seeds never lose their potency.
The most important thing we can realize is that our previous thoughts, words and actions produced our current state and we are constantly planting new seeds that will shape our future. That venomous comment will one day make a U-turn; that verbal blow launched today will eventually sucker punch us back; that physical pain inflicted onto others will one day return to haunt our own body “out of nowhere.”
When it comes to working with our minds, disregarding this law bears the same consequences as disregarding gravity. Sky divers rarely forget the parachute, why should we?
This is where Eastern traditions of mental development cardinally differ from theistic religions. One does not have the luxury to roam around carefree in hopes to be forgiven by God after death, as the law of karma cannot be circumvented. Therefore, one is behooved to take responsibility for one’s actions and sharpen one’s mind to prevent unpleasant results now and in the future.
This same responsibility comes with a liberating wisdom that regardless of their “good” or “bad,” fair or unfair nature, no one is actually judging our actions. The only question we must ask ourselves is, “If I do this, am I ready for the consequences?”
Secret: The poetic justice of cause and effect will make sure that no matter how many anger management courses one takes, nothing will work if one doesn’t stop intentionally making others upset. Instead of continuously planting seeds of aggression, one would be wise to cultivate patience. In the mind filled with virtue, old anger germs, however virulent or powerful they may be, will not be able to germinate into new trouble.
6. No ego, no anger, no problem.
Ego is the absence of true knowledge of who we really are, together with its result: a doomed clutching on, at all costs, to a cobbled together and makeshift image of ourselves, an inevitably chameleon charlatan self that keeps changing, and has to, to keep alive the fiction of its existence. Sogyal Rinpoche, ‘Glimpse of the Day’
Initially, grasping the concept of ego as being a separate phenomenon from “ourselves” may feel futile. “Who would we be without ego?” one might ask. “What’s left if ego is gone?” “Who am I, then?”
A sense of ego is profoundly embedded with our sense of identity. Our entire culture is built on competitive spirit and grandiosity of individuality. If we only could, we would bottle ego and erect monuments to it. Some would say that ego is the engine of the Western civilization.
If you asked even a rookie meditator about the source of anger one would undoubtedly mention ego clinging. He or she may not know exactly what that means but they would know where to look for it.
Anger is deeply rooted in the ego. It hides in the crevices of greed, blinding self-significance, pride, and has infinite ways of expressions. It molds our mental make up. This is why it is so painful to eradicate or control. One basically feels like waging a battle against one’s own personality.
When the armchair psychiatrists like to make explanations such as “Anger is an expression of unfulfilled desire,” or refer to evolutionary development of a dominance submission display system in humans, they are only skimming the surface of a vast ocean of insights that is available to a yogi who had spent over years examining her mind with clinical precision in the laboratory of a secluded cave in the Himalayas. What a long time meditator eventually subtly discovers is nothing new theoretically. The difference between her and us however is that she has realized and embodied this new truth.
In its most obvious form, ego clinging can manifest in a few ways:
- When we are overly concerned about ourselves, we tend to ignore the needs of others.
- When we want something really bad we’re willing trample others in order to get it.
- When someone or something gets in the way of our desires we get frustrated and aggressive.
Understanding ego’s ways expands our awareness. However, it is not enough to just simply say it’s “all in the ego.” It’s too abstract as an idea and it doesn’t change anything, does it?
My teacher often lovingly jokes about pride of new practitioners. He says, “Before we were just proud and now we’re spiritually proud.” What he means to say is that we only changed the lingo and sound smarter but have not solved the predicament of our condition. In fact, merely labeling anger as ego clinging simply adds extra weight to our already heavy emotional baggage.
A key point here to make is that once we know the true source of anger we now have the correct diagnosis and can apply the appropriate medicine. Instead of just putting a band aid on a painful spot on the stomach we can now make a fine incision, insert the laparoscope and nip the tumor in the bud.
Practitioner, who learns the skills, reflects, and applies himself in daily life will develop a genuine understanding the extent of suffering brought about by ego clinging. Only then this notion of self-grasping will make sense and bring maturity to him or her as a human.
|“Softer than the flower, where kindness is concerned; stronger than the thunder, where principles are at stake.” Vedic definition of a person with true spiritual qualities.|
By the way, if by any chance you harbor fears that a small ego would somehow hamper your ability to be effective or productive in our society, you will be delighted to find out that it would be quite the opposite. The space left by our shrinking ego is quickly resettled by more humble, nimble, wise and compassionate qualities. As India’s famous Yogi Sri Yukteswar says: “Saintliness is not dumbness! Divine perceptions are not incapacitating… The active expression of virtue gives rise to the keenest intelligence.”
Nothing can be more meaningful and liberating than mature human qualities that are useful to others. It’s a beautiful thing.
Secret: The way big mansions must have many angry dogs to protect them; big egos must constantly stand watch for intruders that threaten to burst their illusory bubble of self. It is hard work to guard an overblown sense of self-significance. The duty comes with immense frustration, fear, paranoia, and aggression. Therefore, it would be quite reasonable to accept that the smaller the ego, the smaller the anger, the smaller the problems.
7. Meditation – your true secret weapon.
“All creative scientists know that the true laboratory is the mind, where behind illusions they uncover the laws of truth.” – Paramhansa Yogananda
Not to be confused with relaxation, meditation is the most powerful and profound skill one can master in this lifetime. It is one true and tested tool to develop our qualities to its full potential. Meditation is also an essential tool and fast-track for taming one’s anger.
Now, I totally respect that someone with a healthy dose of macho would rather hunt tigers in Siberia and live off of tree bark, than sit cross-legged for half hour every day and chant the sweet “Ommm.” In part, you can thank for that the new age movement and a retinue of self-proclaimed TV gurus these days, who aim to create powerful yet temporary experiences. Trust me on this, “these are not the droids you’re looking for.”
What I invite you to do is shrug off any per-conceptions about meditation today and start fresh. Meanwhile, I will attempt to spike your interest with a few fascinating things I learned from my teachers.
The Tibetan word for meditation is gom, which translates to “become familiar with”. The best way to look at meditation is as a process of getting to know your mind. You may say, “Hey I already know my mind; it’s a mess, why would I want to learn more about it?”
Mind is the crown seat of your emotions, perceptions, pain, suffering, as well as the ultimate freedom from it all.
The biggest misconception about meditation is that it seeks to induce a vegetative state, in which we seek to dull our mind and escape the “real world” problems. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Sri Yukteswar says, “All creation is governed by law. The ones which manifest in the outer universe, discoverable by scientists, are called natural laws. But there are subtler laws ruling the realms of consciousness which can be known only through the inner science of yoga. The hidden spiritual planes also have their natural and lawful principles of operation. It is not the physical scientist but the fully self-realized master who comprehends the true nature of matter.”
My own observations over the years are very consistent – with the correct instructions, even an occasional meditator will grow more confident, mature and fearless. It works, and there is a growing body of neuroscientific research to back it up.
The most burning question at hand is obviously this: how can meditation actually help with anger management? Here are only a few practical benefits:
- When you learn to focus your mind in meditation (focusing on an object or breath) the same skill will come to be useful to you when dealing with daily irritants at work and at home.
- Unlike what you may hear out there, meditation is not about “emptying” your mind, it’s not about avoiding thoughts or intentionally seeking ecstatic states. As you’ll hear from the true yogis, meditation is about getting familiar with the experiencer of those thoughts, that awareness behind the thoughts and between the thoughts, and ultimately resting effortlessly in that state of the way things really are.
- One of the best advice one can get from a good teacher is not to judge one’s meditation and simply practice observing things that come and go within the landscape of the mind. Once a thought arises one simply notices it, observes it, and returns one’s attention back to the breath. In this secure and controlled laboratory of the mind, one learns to patiently observe physical sensations and not to cling to concepts or emotional states. This skill will be habitually and timely summoned by your inner teacher (explained later) in a heated situation.
- Regular meditation thickens the prefrontal cortex of our brains. This is the very part that is responsible for self-awareness and self-control. But on the much deeper level meditation works to unbind our “higher” mind from the senses, allowing us to maintain a broader perspective, and allow for things to play out without reacting to them. This expanding spaciousness of the mind is exactly the prescribed medicine for managing disturbing emotions.
|As more and more researchers are telling us these days, with regular meditation practice we tend to enjoy greater physical well-being and better health. We become “well in our own skin.” Then, quite naturally, the more we get in touch with who we really are through meditation, the more we can be completely in touch with others, too. Difficult people, conflicts, and situations that otherwise might have caused us harm or posed a huge problem are softened and easier to deal with. Because our minds are relatively free and uncomplicated we turn out to be good company to others!—Sogyal Rinpoche from the book, ‘The Healing Power of Meditation’|
One Zen parable compares our minds to a drunken monkey. The creature is locked in the house of our stiff fabric of reality and unabatedly roams around wreaking havoc. You can try talking to it but there is so much cackle barking that it doesn’t hear you. You can try to drug it and enjoy peace but only till next morning, when it wakes up even more tense and determined. In other words, no amount of gluttony and entertainment could help us escape the problems that inherently exist within our own minds.
The way to calm the monkey is to open a window. The monkey will become curious of the unknown world beyond the house walls and settle down to observe the scenery. Eventually one can also open the doors. At first, the monkey will hesitate to make contact with the foreign environment but will find it irresistible and eventually take off, leaving the house quiet once more. This is what meditation does to your mind – it quiets the voices of judgment, fear, anger, and eventually unfolds its true potential.
Recently, I read an interesting research summary. Published in the journal Neuropsychologia, it drew particular attention to the skills acquired through musical performance. It pointed out that when playing to an audience or to themselves, musicians demonstrate heightened awareness of their actions: they are able to continuously monitor their playing through auditory feedback and rapidly adjusting their movements to anticipate possible mistakes.” I suddenly thought, “Man, this is exactly what meditation does for anger management!”
Secret: It is absolutely impossible to quash anger without learning to meditate. If real estate is all about location then the path of self-transformation is all about meditation, meditation, meditation. It helps us to “self-monitor” with honest retrospection and see things the way they really are. When dormant wisdom qualities gradually sprout we make fewer mistakes and acquire unshakable confidence.
Thoughts like, “Of course! I knew it…” or “This makes sense, it’s so simple,” might have crossed your mind while reading about these seven secrets. That is because intuitively your inner intelligence already knows this – it comes from there.
The ancient sages did not invent it, they discovered it. By quieting their minds and minimizing distractions they listened to silence. They found it to be pregnant with answers.
You may say, “Look, I fish. There are times I sit out on the lake in total quietude, no distraction – just me and the lake, but I don’t hear no wise whispers in my head.” If you can bear a rough joke – good news – Schizophrenia is not the problem then!
|“You’re trying to handle your wellbeing with your eyes closed. You have to open your eyes.” – Sadhguru|
Actually, if we compared our minds to that of the great mystics, we’d find our minds to be exactly like theirs, with one major difference – they are awake, and we’re asleep. Or they would say, “I simply have less things in my mind than you.” Our inner intelligence is obscured by a plethora of rigid beliefs and disturbing emotions. Our sixth sense, that which can hear the inner wisdom, lies submerged under the five limited senses that we’ve come to rely for entertainment and basic survival.
So how do we ultimately solve our anger problem? We will not solve it by merely wishing to be less angry, we will not solve it trying to stop and think before we act, and we surely won’t stop it purely hoping it will go away when something in our lives resolves.
We solve it by opening our eyes. By developing new qualities. By taking charge of our condition.
Caring for our bodies, meditating, taking karma seriously, and adopting a new way of looking at things, we can open the gates to our sixth sense – our inner intelligence. Spiritual traditions call this increased acumen – the inner teacher.
|Our awakened nature has an active aspect, our “inner teacher.” From the very moment we became obscured, this “inner teacher” has worked tirelessly for us, trying to bring us back to the radiance and spaciousness of our true being. Not for one second, has the inner teacher given up on us. In its infinite compassion, one with all the enlightened beings, it has been ceaselessly working for our evolution—not only in this life but in all our past lives—using all kinds of skillful means and all types of situations to teach and awaken us and to guide us back to the truth.—Sogyal Rinpoche, Tibetan Book of Living and Dying|
Our inner teacher is the key to transforming the nature of our problems, and thus – getting rid of our problems. To awaken it requires effort and skills, and the tools to this are already here.
In the beginning, the challenge may seem overwhelming – “Where to start? Who to believe? What to do? Does it work? If yes, then how soon?” These are all healthy questions by a weary western mind.
The key thing is to start investigating. Start today, even if you’re skeptical. My teacher once told me, “You can doubt your way all the way to enlightenment as long as you don’t doubt the same things over and over.”
What he was saying is – don’t chase your tail in circles; once you established something to be true – build on it.
If you realize that the problem is in your mind then work with your mind; don’t go back blaming others for your emotional turmoil when it’s more convenient this way.
Fortunately, one doesn’t need to move to the Himalayas to practice mind training. With some discipline, it can be done from the comfort of our home, while snacking on dark chocolate and sipping on a cup of fine green tea. What you will discover is nothing short of amazing. You can finally stop fighting with yourself and the world around you.
“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles.” Buddha Shakyamuni
I’m not a lama, swami or a mystic. In fact, up to the age of twenty, I was an awful trouble maker and I could care less about “knowledge.” Now I’m a family man, businessman and a coach. I too love a comfortable car and a cozy home with a fireplace. I’m a sucker for action movies and hi-fi stereo. I too have bills, occasional health issues and quarrels with my family, but all these things do not define me. They do not rule my life.
Ultimately, it’s all about our inner wealth and a path of discovery. I want to walk it with you. You’ll see me do my best to simplify all concepts and make it accessible to you till you start a journey of your own.
As we move into this time of increasing chaos, we need more tools to deal with our desires, frustrations, and to keep the energies of the mind in a calming place. We have to learn how to work with our emotions and apply the antidotes to situations that makes us angry. Time spent on developing maturity and self-control is the best investment we’ll ever make.
|“Forget the past. The vanished lives of all men are dark with many shames. Human conduct is ever unreliable until anchored in the Divine. Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now.” Sri Yukteswar in an Autobiography of Yogi.|
You may find yourself in a situation when overcome with rage you’ve inflicted an immense amount of damage – shipwrecked relationships, lost job opportunities, abused or even killed living beings. But go easy on yourself; history is ridden with examples of irredeemable human beings turned saints.
There have been some seriously disturbed people who managed to achieve full awakening in their lifetimes. None of them had to take anger management classes to achieve enlightenment.
Anger is a byproduct of unrealized intelligence. Once the inner-wisdom is awakened, all destructive emotions lose their power. I truly believe that angry people are full of zest for life; they are bursting with energy and hold vast reserves of potential.
If one took the energy one spends being angry, harnessed it and channeled it through “cleaner pipes” one would lose a mountain of neuroses, and radiate with power and non-sentimental compassion for others.
My personal path is guaranteed to have many challenges and setbacks ahead but I’m committed. In my humble view it is the only thing that truly matters in life, the only thing that makes the most sense. If you care to walk it together, I’ll share with you what I learn and what works for me.
You are here now, with a future ahead of you. Don’t be afraid to change. In fact, you don’t need to become all “spiritual” to become less angry. However, you will reap great benefit by engaging in some skillful inner engineering. By gaining access to that dimension of intelligence and competence within you, you can be who you are, do what you enjoy and be kinder and more patient. Ultimately, that is in line with the spirit of life, and that is what the ancient wisdom ultimately calls spiritual.
 Albert Einstein.
 New Findings Spur Debate: Are Some Psychopaths Curable? – Bioscience Technology.
 Americans More Likely to Believe in God Than the Devil, Heaven More Than Hell, June 13, 2007, Belief in the Devil has increased since 2000, by Frank Newport, GALLUP NEWS SERVICE.
 The Psychological Power of Satan – How a belief in “pure evil” shapes people’s thinking. By Piercarlo Valdesolo. Scientific American, October 29, 2013.
 University of Cambridge, ‘Serotonin levels affect the brain’s response to anger.’
 Kurma, ‘Why no Garlic and Onions?’
 Dr. Barry Sears in ”Diet, Stress, & Emotions: The Mind-Body-Diet Connection”
 Stephen Mihm, University of Georgia.
 In Mihm’s article, “Fish Is Anger Management Food.”
 Famous psychiatrist Sigmund Freud believed that people remained healthy as long as they could freely express their pent-up emotions. He coined the term catharsis, which is associated with a dramatic release of deeply rooted anger. More than likely what Freud had in mind was a structured therapy session with a professional rather than a violent outburst on an inanimate object or another living being.
 Nydahl, Lama Ole. “Buddha & Love: Timeless Wisdom for Modern Relationships.”
 Tibetan Tradition of Mental Development, Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, 1985.
 According to this view first offered by Kraeplin, depression relates to anger in a way that both of the emotional states are a part of the dominance submission display system in humans. When humans need to assert dominance they experience anger and when humans would benefit more from showing submission, they experience depression and its corresponding behaviors.
 ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ by Paramhansa Yogananda.
 The ancient Vedas of India define yoga as “the stilling of the changing states of the mind.”
 Autobiography of a Yogi.
 A study “Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness” by Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts: “Previous research indicates that long-term meditation practice is associated with altered resting electroencephalogram patterns, suggestive of long lasting changes in brain activity. We hypothesized that meditation practice might also be associated with changes in the brain’s physical structure. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to assess cortical thickness in 20 participants with extensive Insight meditation experience, which involves focused attention to internal experiences. Brain regions associated with attention, interoception and sensory processing were thicker in meditation participants than matched controls, including the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula. […] These data provide the first structural evidence for experience-dependent cortical plasticity associated with meditation practice.
 You can read full article at Independent website.
 People who suffer from Schizophrenia are known to hear voices in their heads. I’m simply joking that if you don’t hear any voices, then you’re not suffering from this mental condition.
 Life story of Jetsun Milarepa tells a tale of him murdering dozens of people by a request of his mother. Later on he develops into a greatest yogi Tibet had ever known.