Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us that when anger comes up in us, we should begin to practice mindful breathing right away: “Breathing in, I know that anger has manifested in me; breathing out, I smile towards my anger.” This is not an act of suppression or of fighting. It is an act of recognizing. Once we recognize our anger, we embrace it with a lot of awareness, a lot of tenderness.
We are told that people who use venting techniques like hitting a pillow or shouting are actually rehearsing anger. When someone is angry and vents their anger by hitting a pillow, they are learning a dangerous habit. They are training in aggression. Instead, our approach is to generate the energy of mindfulness and embrace anger every time it manifests. Buddha said that there are two arrows that can hurt us: one is the physical arrow – we cannot do much about that, and the other is the mental arrow – which is how you deal with the first one.
Anger eating demon: a story told by Buddha
Once a hideous monster came into the emperor’s palace while the emperor was away. The guards were stunned by the ghastly monster and they froze. The scary monster went on to sit on the emperor’s throne. At this unthinkable act, the guards came into their senses, and scolded the monster “You cannot sit on that, you get out from here.” With each unkind, angry word, the Monster grew an inch bigger, more scarier and uglier. Eventually the emperor came back and saw this frightening monster on his throne. The emperor knew what to do: he said, welcome, thank you for coming, and the monster grew one inch smaller. At this sight, the guards began to be kind and with that the monster shrunk back to the size when he originally came and continued. With one more act of kindness, the monster became so small it disappeared.
The Five remembrances:
- I am of the nature to grow old. I cannot escape old age.
- I am of the nature to have ill health. I cannot escape ill health.
- I am of the nature to die. I cannot escape dying.
- All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them. I cannot keep anything. I came here empty-handed, and I go empty-handed.
- My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.
A monk was asked why he was putting on weight?
Buddhism is expanding, he answered.