The Rise of Anger

It comes in two ways. The first is swift and sharp. If you’re quick you’re on edge. You’ve been chemically rattled. Maybe it’s too much emotion for too long, or maybe too little, or maybe not enough sleep, or hanger (hunger-based anger). These are all common major contributors to quick swipes of meanness between either loved ones or strangers. Treat those more like signals and figure out how you need to get comfortable, and then either sleep or eat.

The nice thing about quick anger is it usually passes fast. Even we’re a little alarmed by our reaction. It came out of nowhere (nature) for us too. So once it settles, learn to go apologize right away. It helps if people understand the difference between simmering anger and a flash. That way next time they might lovingly suggest you eat or rest. But even if they don’t; it’s good to get good at giving apologies to those who are bad at accepting them.

There are also those times where your anger still rises quite quickly on some particular news or event, but it’s not a sudden irrational chemical reaction. These are things you’re rationally upset about. These are things you can explain to the person you’re mad at. You know, those how could you do that!? what took you so long?! what were you thinking!? things.

This latter type of anger can very nearly be avoided altogether. Quick anger is a type of pain. It’s unavoidable given a set of circumstances. Anyone feeling your chemistry wouldn’t like it. But suffering is when we choose to do it–when it’s optional. That’s anger other people might not have in the same situation. That’s because they’d have a different narrative.

Suffering is an ego-action and that takes a narrative. The narrative needs us to populate it with language. Language is something we learned, so it is post-now. It’s us describing a moment ago, not living that moment now. So the fact that we can explain our anger is a sign that it’s egocentric.

The suffering is a narrative which would would include elements like an expectation or two, an attachment or three, and maybe a few beliefs about propriety bouncing around in there too. Well just like it takes me energy to write these words it takes us energy to think a narrative to ourselves. So we’re actually investing energy in our own suffering.

The trick with this sort of suffering is that we get caught up in the whirlwind of our own thoughts. We start being the thoughts instead of remembering we’re the thinker. But if we’re the bike and not the rider, then how do we stick anything in spokes to stop the wheels from spinning? Usually there’s a crash before we remember that we’re a rider on a bike and not the bike itself. We have to learn to feel when we’re peddling.

It’s an expenditure of energy. That energy can create the narrative that’s pissing us off, or it can absorb the world in a way where all of our senses blend together into one giant, wonderful awareness. How we invest it is up to us. But we’re not failing when we put our energy into a narrative. Narratives exist. Without an out there is no in. Just don’t keep yourself there by building yet another narrative about having created a narrative that took you there in the first place. Just let it all go and dive into awareness instead. That’s how you find your way back. Quiet.

We all need to be more tolerant about people’s sharp moments. They need our patience and care. And when we’re wound up ourselves, we have to watch for opportunities to divert or steal energy from our angry, ultimately fearful, narratives, because otherwise that’s when we’ll do damage to our lives.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The 912

Life will deliver disaster, it’s simply a byproduct of existence. Since it cannot be avoided, and since every happy person you know has faced some, what’s really important is our ability to respond to life’s big tragedies. At those times we need to pull together. We need a new rallying point. We need to share a common idea that we can all participate in as citizens of the world.

9/11 now represents a disaster that literally altered the course of humanity. Recently I heard a woman talking about Gander, Newfoundland, and the stories that are the basis for the Broadway hit and Tony Winner, Come From Away. This was the small maritime town in Canada that had an airport big enough for all of those US-destined planes to land when US airspace was closed.

Her point in noting it was that it was a grand example of the natural spirit of humanity. As the best was drawn out of people by the needs of others, we saw an example of how the vast majority of human beings feel about each other: we’re naturally connected. For this reason she called the Gander experience a 912 moment.

I like that. I like that she not only noticed that heroism follows disaster, but that she flipped the names of the days to make her point, because that’s really what all of us need to do. Disasters are inevitable. Our reaction to them is flexible. It would do all of us good to move through our own 9/11 moments watching for the inevitability of the 912 reaction.

The faster we spot that reaction the faster we’ll feel better and be able to amplify it. Sympathy is people joining us in pain. Empathy is them remembering their own pain. Assistance requires sacrifice. Dedication requires love. These are all 912’s. Let us all make this a part of our personal list of experiences.

The Buddhists talk about there being no single sided coins. So if we call up tails and lose a toss in life, the 912 moment shall be hereby described as the moment in which we begin to see or recognize the horizon–it’s that moment when we can see that there is another side, that part of tragedy itself is the response of love in whatever form. It is in recognizing and accepting that relationship that we find internal peace.

Accept that you will have your alarming and painful days. But just as readily accept that there will be a response, both within you and without you. You will find strengths that would not have emerged without the tragedy, and people will demonstrate love in ways you could not otherwise have known. Do not live in hope and fear. Instead, accept the duality of life by not only accepting its 911’s, but in doing so you also guarantee yourself the reality of the 912.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Spiritual Practice

I’m sorry, but a lot of you are not going to like the very healthy message in today’s blog. The reason you won’t is because it will remind you that your spiritual health, your enlightenment, is not an achievement or title, it is a practice. It requires vigilance and dedication and persistence. Your spiritual health does not happen by accident it is a conscious choice. So we’re not talking about just posting some 4000 year old Chinese quotes on your facebook wall and 447 Relax and Succeed - Patience is the companionhaving some books on Buddhism in your bookcase. One of the easiest ways to test your own actual spirituality is by how patient you are. A wise person can still behave impatiently, but if you’re consistently impatient then you can’t be a wise person nor do you understand true spirituality.

The reason a wise person can be patient is because they understand. Not necessarily why they are waiting in any given instance, but they know from experience that it is common for many reasons and so the wise person does not live with the expectation that there will be no waiting. The ego-self doesn’t live in reality it lives in the world of its own egocentric thoughts. So because they made a plan for how they wanted the future to go, they acted like that actually was the future. When reality met their expectations, a conflict ensued and their emotions, from anger to disappointment to sadness, emerge from that.

People whine about waiting in lines. A sociologist I heard calculated that the average urban North American spends 3 years of their life at stop signs and red lights. You can use that time to get angry or worry or think uncharitable thoughts about someone your don’t like, or you can use it to meditate. Work with what the world gives you. If you’re sitting in traffic frustrated then don’t see that as a problem, learn to see that as a gift. How is that different than a martial artist who pays money and invests his time in a place that literally beats him or her up?

All you do when you go to martial arts training is have someone boss you around to do difficult and sometimes painful things, all toward you getting into a ring to have someone try to hit you. Why is this okay? Because you see it as an aspect of your development as a person. Even violence toward 447 Relax and Succeed - Mindset is everythingyou is okay if it is in a context of bettering your life. Same with patience. You have to see patience just like that. The person that is challenging you mentally is liked the sensei who sneaks up behind you and pushes you to test your balance. You can see it as an attack on your life, or you can see it as a rock around which you must learn to flow. Resistance is what you do with people who test your patience. Flow is what a martial arts student has when they volunteer for the challenges of training.

Driving, at the office, with your kids, with yourself—more patience. More tolerance. Less expectation that everything goes perfectly. People are imperfect, all of us included. So we need other people’s patience and they need ours. We don’t need better people, we just need more tolerant ones to help release the best in the people we already have.

Prove your spirituality. Live it as often as you are able. Humour, patience, compassion, love. These are signs you are being spiritual. And a sure sign that you are locked in ego is when you start thinking things should be different than they are. Accept things as they are. Quiet your argumentative mind and instead be aware. You will discover far more than your suffering mind could have ever wanted.

peace. s