It’s a common, standard, ‘problem’ in meditation. There you are, meditating happily away, and a distracting force – for example anger – comes up. What do you do? Classic answer: as little as possible. You become aware of it, and then let it go. You are practising non-attachment: not suppressing, but not getting caught in it either.
Sometimes this works for me, but sometimes it really doesn’t! The truth is I’m curious about myself and want to know more. And sometimes parts of me really want to be better known! They keep coming up more and more forcefully. How to handle this?
I like watching ‘The Dog Whisperer’ on TV. Cesar Milan is a truly extraordinary teacher – of dogs, for sure, but also of people. This example caught my attention. He was instructing someone about how to handle difficult dog behaviour. He threw in this advice, pretty casually: “Imagine the dog behaviour you’re trying to correct is on a scale of 1-10. Scale 1-5 you ignore it; scale 5 -10 you gotta deal with it.”
Wow! That makes so much sense. If you pay attention to minor stuff the risk is you get caught up in it. If you fail to deal with major stuff the risk is it takes you over.
As with dog, so with meditation.
So now I’m experimenting with this guidance. Minor irritation – notice and let go. Big anger and fury: move into a different mode of inner work. Stuff in the middle: judgement call one way or the other.
The different mode of handling big anger? Well that will have to wait for another post. In the meantime here is a poem on anger that emerged in a meditation session.
Whose anger do you trust?
I know a guy who’s spent a lifetime
transmuting anger (and other stuff) into love and compassion.
I like him. I trust him. I’m a little bit like him.
I know some other guys
who’ve tried to do the same but failed.
Instead they fake it:
the compassion, the spiritual presence.
Their anger is shunted off within and buried
but it leaks out in a smeary kind of way.
I quite like them. I don’t trust them. I’m a bit like them.
I met a guy once who deliberately drove his car
as close as he could to my bike to express his anger.
I caught him up at the lights and we had an argument.
I don’t like him. I’d like to beat his head in.
I don’t trust him, but he’s not a fake.
I’m a bit like him.
I’m this guy whose anger comes and goes.
who tries to transmute it into love
and sometimes succeeds and sometimes fails.
Whose anger gets in the way.
Whose anger makes the way possible.
I mostly like him. I mostly trust him.
I’m a lot like him.