Reiki's 3rd Principle for Daily Living: Just for today, I will not be angry.
Can you imagine a life without anger? No bad feelings, none of the frustration that usually goes with anger, no damaged relationships...
Anger is among the most destructive of emotions. It harms those we vent it on, it harms our relationships and, most of all, it harms us. It raises our blood pressure, increases our stress, distorts our judgement, impairs our decision-making abilities, and puts us in a bad mood. When we lose our temper, we lose control of our mind too. The mind gets swamped by anger and we lose our ability to think straight.
Why then do we allow our minds to be taken over my this emotion? A common underlying cause of anger is our attachment to expectations, i.e. our desire that these expectations be met. Often these are expectations from others, but sometimes even from ouselves. When these expectations are not met, we tend to get frustrated and become angry.
We may get angry with our children if they don’t do as they are told, or with our partner if he or she doesn’t make enough money, or with our boss if we don’t get promoted, or with ourselves if we make a mistake.
Anger can also stem from feeling helpless in a certain situation. Let us say we feel unfairly treated by a person in authority, but feel unable to tell them what we think. Such a situation is likely to lead to anger that we suppress until we find a soft target for it. This is misdirected anger. The anger originates in one relationship but finds release in another. How many of us find ourselves more irritable with our kids or our household helpers on days when we feel our boss has been unreasonable in some way?
We cannot control all the circumstances of our lives – how others treat us or how others respond to our expectations of them, for example. But we can be in control of our own minds and therefore of our own response to any situation. We can choose not to be angry.
In March 2008, Chinese officials accused the Dalai Lama of inciting protests in Tibet and neighbouring provinces, and called him “a devil with a human face.” In response, the Dalai Lama continued to push for non-violent solutions. “I’m fully committed to eliminating negative feelings among Tibetans, and fear, distrust amont Chinese,” he told reporters.
He called for autonomy for Tibet and the preservation of Tibetan culture and declared himself ready for a dialogue with the Chinese authorities. Asked about the abusive language used against him, he is reported to have laughed and said: “As a Buddhist monk, whatever they call me doesn’t matter.” (The International Herald Tribune, March 22-23, 2008)
This put me in mind of a private audience I had with His Holiness several years ago along with a few friends. Speaking to us about detachment and un-conditional love, he told us we should even love our enemies. Yet we should stand up for what we believe to be right.
If we believe we need to oppose oppression, injustice, or any other form of wrong-doing, we should certainly do so; but without hatred and without rancour. We do what is right simply because it is right; not because we are in the grip of a passing emotion like anger.
How can the Dalai Lama laugh when he is called “a devil with a human face?” He can laugh because he is master of himself, of his emotions and of his thoughts. This self-mastery allows one to remain calm and stable in the face of any external circumstance.
There are many seminars on anger management and they are helpful in the short run for those prone to this emotion. But in the longer term, the idea is to develop a calm and stable mind that is not agitated by external circumstances. This is true self-mastery.
It can take weeks, months or years to achieve even a measure of mastery over one’s own mind. Giving up anger for a lifetime may therfore seem like a daunting task. But how about giving it up – just for today? Can we get through 16 or so waking hours without entertaining this emotion?
It’s certainly worth a try.