Category Archives: Anger

Meditation: Meeting Anger with Awareness (15:16 min.)

When anger is held in mindfulness, it can energize us to respond wisely to challenging situations. This meditation guides us in meeting personal or societal anger with RAIN – recognize, allow, investigate and nurture.  

[NOTE: this meditation was given at the end of Tara’s Anger and Transformation talk on 2020-06-10. A brief context is given, then the meditation begins at 4:56.]

For more resources on RAIN, visit RAIN Resources. Also check out Tara’s newest book, Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of R.A.I.N.

En-Français: Méditation: Rencontrer la colère avec conscience (15:48 min.)

Image credit: Donna JS Russo Dogfish Art

Video image credit: Re Guillemin

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Anger and Transformation

The purpose of anger is to let us know there’s an obstacle to our wellbeing, and to energize us to act. While natural and necessary for survival and thriving, this powerful energy often possesses us and leads to suffering.

This talk explores how we can use the RAIN meditation in our personal and societal life, to meet anger with a mindful, compassionate presence. Freed from the identification with a limited, separate reactive self, we can listen to the message of anger, draw on the purity of its energy, and respond from our natural intelligence, creativity and care.

In the deepest way, when we get possessed by anger, we’re really cut off from our full humanness – our full spirit. Let’s reflect together: How do we navigate anger with awareness? ~ Tara

photo credit: Benedikt Geyer, Unsplash

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Meditation: Inner Refuge of Calm (21:10 min.)

In times of great stress, it’s crucial that we have pathways to quiet our minds, relax our bodies and rest in a calm, steady presence. This meditation guides us in using the breath, body scan, and a home base of presence to find that inner refuge that can carry us through difficult times.

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Anger: Responding, Not Reacting

Anger is natural, intelligent and necessary for surviving and flourishing. Yet when we are hooked by anger, it causes great personal and collective suffering. This talk explores how to transform patterns of reactivity by bringing a mindful and compassionate attention to the unmet needs that underlie angry reactivity. When we learn how to pause and connect honestly with our inner experience, we are then able to respond to others from our full intelligence and heart (a favorite from the archives).

“Getting angry with another person is like throwing hot coals with bare hands: both people get burned.”  Buddha

“… When we find ourselves in an aggressive relationship, we need to set clear boundaries. The kindest thing we can do for everyone concerned is to know when to say ‘enough.’ Many people use Buddhist ideals to justify self-debasement. In the name of not shutting our heart we let people walk all over us. It is said that in order not to break our vow of compassion we have to learn when to stop aggression and draw the line. There are times when the only way to bring down barriers is to set boundaries.”
Pema Chödron (from: The Places That Scare You)

Also quoted:
“When the gentleness between you hardens
And you fall out of your belonging with each other,
May the depths you have reached hold you still.”
For Love in a Time of Conflict. ~ John O’Donohue

NOTE: Video is closed captioned.

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Befriending Irene

While Tara is away, this talk is from 2011 after Hurricane Irene hit us with fury. Dorian is now leaving its destruction behind, just as we work with our stormy weather within.

Whether you face chronic anxiety or more violent storms of fear and anger, you can cultivate the wings of freedom–the mindfulness and compassion–that free you. This talk explores how the habit of being reactive causes us suffering and the ways these tools of meditation can be applied to the inner weather systems that most challenge us.

This is for me the gift of RAIN on blame – to shift from a weather system of something’s wrong to a sense of space – of coming back home to a larger sense of being.

The flute meditation at the end of the talk is given by Akal Dev.

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Part 1 – The Answer is Love:  Evolving out of “Bad Other”

These two talks address the inquiry: How do we awaken from the contempt and hatred that causes so much suffering in our world? The first talk looks at how we can use the practices of mindfulness and compassion to decondition our habits of self-blame and self-hatred, as well as the importance of helping each other defuse the trance of unworthiness. The second talk extends the use of these practices to situations where we’ve locked into external “bad othering.” These times need our deepened dedication to love: By intentionally arousing compassion for ourselves and others, we directly contribute to the evolution of consciousness in our world.

Listen and view Part 2 here.

“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!”
~ Edwin Markham

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Forgiveness: Releasing Ourselves and Others from Aversive Blame – Part 3

Rumi invites us to find the barriers we’ve erected against love, and a universal one is blame. These three talks are an invitation to relax those barriers, and to open our hearts to our inner life and to all beings. Part I focuses on chronic self-judgment; Part 2 on the places of deep self-condemnation, and Part 3 on where we have locked into anger, blame or hatred of others. Each includes guided reflections that can support us in directly awakening beyond the confining thoughts and feelings of blame.

We forgive for the freedom of our hearts…

Listen to Part 1 here: Forgiveness: Releasing Ourselves and Others from Aversive Blame – Part 1

Listen to Part 2 here: Forgiveness: Releasing Ourselves and Others from Aversive Blame – Part 2

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Blog: Shifting from Blame to Love: 3 Practices for a Wise Heart

Evolution has rigged all of us with a negativity bias—a survival-driven habit to scan for what’s wrong and to fixate on it. In contemporary society, a pervasive target is our own sense of unworthiness. We habitually fixate on how we’re falling short—in our relationships, our work, our appearance, our mood and behaviors. And while self-aversion is our primary reflex, we also fixate on the faults of others, how other people are letting us down, how they are wrong or bad and should be different. Whether we are focusing inwardly or outwardly, we are creating an enemy, and imprisoning ourselves in the sense of a separate, threatened self.

While the negativity bias is a key part of our survival apparatus, when it dominates our daily life, we lose access to the more recently evolved parts of our brain that contribute to feelings of connection, empathy and wellbeing. What helps us to de-condition the negativity bias? How do we shift from limbic reactivity to “attend and befriend? Here are three ways that help us awaken our full potential for natural presence and caring.

Look for the Vulnerability

The first thing we can do is to look toward the vulnerability, starting with ourselves. When we’re blaming ourselves, we can ask, “What’s really going on underneath here? What has driven me to behave in this way?” Perhaps you’ll see you were afraid to fall short, and that fear made you act exactly how you didn’t want to act. Or maybe you see you really wanted approval because you were feeling insecure, and so you ended up in some way betraying yourself and not acting with integrity. When you begin to understand that you are really hurting in some way, you will naturally open out of blame and into self-compassion.

When triggered by others, first bring a kind presence to your own feelings of vulnerability. Once you are more present and balanced, try to look through the eyes of wisdom at what might behind their behavior. How might this person be caught in their own sense of insecurity, inadequacy, confusion? If you can begin to see how this person might be suffering, you will reconnect with a natural sense of tenderness and care.

Actively Express Compassion

When compassion arises, the next step is to actively express it. This is what brings compassion fully to life. If you’re working on self-compassion, look to the vulnerable part of yourself to sense what it most needs from you. Is it forgiveness? Acceptance? Companionship? Safety? Love? Then from the most wise and kind place in your being, try to offer inwardly what is most needed. Either mentally or with a whisper, you might say your name and send a message of kindness; that you are holding it with love, that you are not leaving. You might place a hand gently on your heart or cheek, or even give yourself a light hug as a way of conveying, from your more awake heart, “I’m here with you. I care.”

If you’re working with compassion for others, then it’s powerful and healing to communicate your recognition of their suffering, and your care. We all know that when we are with somebody we love, if we actually say the words “I love you” out loud, it brings the love to a new level. If you want to reverse your negativity bias with someone—to reverse your habits of blaming or distancing—look for their vulnerability and then, either through prayer or in person, offer them some message of understanding and kindness.

Include those who seem Different  

Part of our negativity bias, and the cause of much racial, religious and other domains of violence, is we assume potential danger—something wrong—associated with those who are different. A practice that evolves us (and our larger society) toward inclusive loving is to intentionally deepen our relationships with others of difference. When we communicate on purpose, trying to understand, it opens us to the larger truth of our interconnectedness.

While our brain has a flight, fight freeze mechanism, it also has a compassion network that includes mirror neurons that allow us to register what it’s like for another. We can sense that others want to feel loved and loving; that they want to feel safe and be happy. When we feel that connection, it enables us to act on behalf of each other and the relationship or larger community. But unless we purposefully take time to pause and listen to others of difference, we won’t automatically engage that part of our brain. And to have these heart-awakening dialogues, we need to intentionally create safe conscious containers.

In the same way as we train on the cushion, we can train in conscious communication with each other, and gradually widen the circles to connect with those who may be more notably of difference. There are many effective practices, like Insight Dialogue, Non-Violent Communication and circles of reconciliation and that offer a formal structure for communicating. Importantly, we need to practice in our close- in relationships. A couple of times a week, my husband and I will meditate together and then we’ll have a period of silence where we reflect on certain inquires, like “What are you grateful for right now?” and “What is difficult for you right now?” We also ask “Is there anything between us that is getting in the way of an open and loving flow.” The other person listens with a kind, accepting presence, and we each get to name what we’re experiencing.   Whatever practice you choose, you can trust it’s important healing work, especially in these times.

What about those who aren’t willing to engage in conversation with us? Fortunately, we can know that our capacity to feel connection isn’t hitched to their capacity to connect to us. Of course it’s easier to feel it when there’s mutuality, but we can still offer kindness from our hearts regardless, and research shows that this kind attention wakes up the part of our brain that feels compassion. It’s possible to do this in every situation, with every person we meet.

It’s natural that in the face of hurt, injustice, deception, and violation we will feel a range of emotions, like fear, hatred and anger. The negativity bias can lock us into being at war with ourselves, and with others “out there.” It is important that we pause, be with ourselves and with each other, and open fully to the feelings that arise. When we honor and listen to those feelings we can get beneath them down to our human vulnerability and the care that is really our essence. It then becomes possible to respond to our world aligned with our hearts. I have a morning prayer that’s really simple: “Teach me about kindness.” When I move through the day with that informing me, the moments become filled with presence, tenderness and aliveness, even when I encounter challenging people, myself included!


Part 2: Awakening through Anger – The U-Turn to Freedom (from archives)

While we have strong conditioning to react to aggression with more aggression, we have the capacity to pause, and instead deepen attention and connect to our natural wisdom and empathy. This talk looks at how we can directly engage in this evolutionary adaptation when we encounter trauma related conflict in our personal lives, and in a parallel way when groups of people who have been part of traumatizing conflict seek reconciliation and healing (a favorite from the archives on 2015-11-18).

Listen: Part 1: Awakening through Anger – The U-Turn to Freedom

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Part 1: Awakening through Anger – The U-Turn to Freedom (from archives)

Anger is naturally triggered when we feel an obstacle to meeting our needs. How do we honor the intelligence within anger, but not get hijacked into emotional reactivity that creates suffering in our individual and collective lives? This talk explores the U-turn that enables us to offer a healing attention to the feelings and unmet needs under anger. Once present with our inner life, we are able to respond to those around us with wisdom, empathy and true strength. (a favorite from the 2015 archives)

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” Mark Twain

Link to the “Parable of the prickly porcupines.”

Listen: Part 2: Awakening through Anger – The U-Turn to Freedom

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