The spectre of anger has hung over my family for at least five generations. Reading our genealogical history is like walking through a museum of dysfunction. Alcoholism, drug abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, emotional abuse, etc. So much abuse that the word ‘abuse’ becomes non-sensical when I say or think it. I think often about the nature of anger and how and why it manifests.
Whilst perusing Facebook today, I ran across a link to this short video by Mingyur Rinpoche entitled “What Meditation Really Is”, which you can watch here.
In five minutes, he was able to slice through all of the conflicting notions I have had regarding meditation, notions that have kept me from establishing a meditation practice. YouTube is always helpful in guiding its viewers to similar videos, so I clicked on the one entitled “Transforming Anger Into Loving-Kindness”, yet another Buddhist concept that I struggle mightily with. Again, in five minutes, he was able to clarify how anger relates to the rest of our emotions in an amazingly clear way. Trying to fight with anger using compassion is futile, because the compassion comes through the anger. Dig beneath the surface of anger deeply enough, and you will find compassion. Anger is often the result of stymied compassion. Seeing how anger and compassion are interrelated helped me see the true nature of my own anger and where it comes from.
In the midst of that clarity, I remembered something that my grandmother said to me during one of my all-too-few visits to her before she died. I was asking her about her family and about some of the things my mother had told me regarding their own abusive relationship. And she said, “I don’t think I was so much angry as I was afraid.” Like a bell ringing in a temple to awaken and clear the mind, all of the aspects of dysfunction in my family and the generations before us became so much clearer. Today, as I still struggle with anger, I strive to remember what Gram said. Anger I have trouble with, but fear I can handle. Fear is greatly quelled by logic and rationality, two things I pride myself of having a good grasp upon. Whenever I am angry, I try to ask myself if I’m angry, or if I’m afraid. Nine times out of ten, I’m afraid of something, usually the future and the unknown. Once I identify my fear, I can find reasons for it to back off.
I feel I am much closer to achieving my goal of establishing a good meditation practice now that these things have been clarified for me. I feel like I have been looking through a dirty window that has just been cleaned, and now the light can get in and I can see things for what they really are. Now I won’t have to waste my meditation time worrying that I’m not doing it right, an attitude that has killed nearly every attempt at meditation I have made. Now I don’t need to fear or fight with my anger. What I seek is inside my anger and fear, and if I make friends with them and direct their energies more positively, I will find my compassion and my loving-kindness. My metta. In that way I feel I will be much more successful in my goal of sharing my bodhicitta, my awakened mind, with others. I have always felt that I have something very important to do while I walk this Earth. Perhaps I am a little bit closer to figuring out what that might be.