Browsing through my Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh this week, I came across that bold and strange statement.
Hanh describes taking care of your anger gently, the way you’d care for a baby. It was a powerful metaphor for me. I liked it enough to want to share it with you…
From Thich Nhat Hanh:
Anger has the power to burn and destroy… That is why, when you notice that anger is coming up, you have to do something right away. It is important to act, rather than react. You have to act by inviting the seed of mindfulness to arrive. We breathe in and breathe out, making steps, generating the energy of mindfulness in order to take care of our anger.
Suppose a mother is working in the living room and she hears her baby crying. Chances are she puts down whatever she is doing and goes to her baby’s room. She picks up the baby and holds it tenderly in her arms. This is exactly what we can do when the energy of anger comes up. Our anger is our ailing baby. We must nurture it in order to calm it.
The practitioner knows that her anger is not her enemy; her anger is her suffering baby. She must take good care of her baby, using the energy of mindfulness to embrace her anger in the most tender way. She can say, “Breathing in, I know that anger is in me. Breathing out, I am peacefully holding my anger.”
When we breathe like this, there are two kinds of energy: the energy of anger and the energy of mindfulness. The energy of mindfulness continues to be generated by the practice of mindful breathing and mindful walking, and it begins to penetrate into the zone of the angry energy. In summer, if you go into a room that is too hot, hopefully you can open a window or turn on a fan or the air conditioner.
The cool air does not need to chase the hot air out. Instead the coolness comes and tenderly embraces the heat. And fifteen minutes later, the air is different. So it is with bringing mindfulness to our anger. There is no fighting in this practice. Your anger is not your enemy; it’s you. It’s not good to do violence to yourself. Don’t say that mindfulness is good and anger is evil, and good has to fight evil. In this tradition of mindfulness, there is no battle to be won. Suppose we are feeling a very deep anger that will not go away. We have to be very patient. By continuing to generate the energy of mindfulness and tenderly embrace our anger, we will find relief.
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Peace in my mother’s garden, in Raleigh…
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