October 2020: A Note from Hope, publisher, Inkandescent Health & Wellness magazine — I have been a follower of the Vietnamese monk and world-renowned Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh for decades. His 1991 book, Peace is in Every Step, has traveled with me from Virginia to California and back. Simply looking at the title encourages me to take a deep breath.
As we enter the seventh month of the COVID-19 pandemic, and feel it’s impact on our habits, planet, and future — and are but a month away from the next US president, election, I personally am looking for ways to deal with my anger and frustration of feeling like I am too small to be the difference I wish to see in the world.
On page 60 of Hanh’s book I found … peace. His “Walking Meditation When Angry,” has become my go-to. With permission from the publisher, I share it with you here, along with a short excerpt about the “Roots of Anger.” I hope these simple, but powerful ideas, will provide you with a sense of calm.
From Peace is in Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh • Bantam Books
Walking Meditation When Angry
When anger arises, we may wish to go outside to practice walking meditation. The fresh air, green trees, and the plants will help us greatly. We can practice this:
Breathing in, I know that anger is here. Breathing out, I know that the anger is me.
Breathing in, I know that anger is unpleasant. Breathing out, I know this feeling will pass.
Breathing in, I am calm. Breathing out, I am strong enough to take care of this anger.
To lessen the unpleasant feeling brought about by the anger, we give our whole heart and mind to the practice of walking meditation, combining our breath with our steps to giving full attention to the contact between the soles of our feet and the earth. As we walk, we recite this verse, and wait until we are calm enough to look directly at the anger.
Until then, we can enjoy our breathing, our walking, and the beauties of the environment. After a while, our anger will subside and we will feel stronger. Then we can begin to observe the anger directly and try to understand it.
The Roots of Anger
Agner is rooted in our lack of understanding of ourselves and of the causes, deep-seated as well as immediate, that brought about this unpleasant state of affairs. Anger is also rooted in desire, pride, agitation, and suspicion.
The primary roots of our anger are in ourselves. Our environment and other people are only secondary. It is not difficult for us to accept the enormous damage brought about by a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or flood. But when damage is caused by another person, we don’t have much patience. We know that earthquakes and floods have causes, and we should see that the person who has precipitated our anger also has reasons, deep-seated and immediate, for what he has done.
For instance, someone who speaks badly to us may have been spoken to exactly the same way just the day before, or by his alcoholic father when he was a child. When we see and understand these kinds of causes, we can begin to be free from our anger. I am not saying that someone who viciously attacks us should not be disciplined. But what is most important is that first take care of the seeds of negativity in ourselves.
Then if someone needs to be helped or disciplined, we will do so out of compassion, not anger or retribution. If we genuinely try to understand the suffering of another person, we are more likely to act in a way that will help him overcome his suffering and confusion — and that will help all of us.