Anger in the body

Guard against anger erupting in your body;
Be restrained with your body.
Letting go of bodily misconduct,
Practice good conduct with your body.

Dhammapada v. 231, translated by Gil Fronsdal

This verse starts a series about anger, and is focused on the body as the foundation for awareness. Anger in the body is more obvious and more palpable than in other places (speech and mind). This should make it more workable, more accessible for us to notice and make efforts to counteract.

How does anger erupt in the body?

It could be as gross as striking out at someone or throwing dishware on the ground, or, it could be as subtle as impatience causing us to slice a finger or stub a toe. My personal observation is that anger expressed through the body is responsible for a lot of reckless driving and other activities that cause danger and harm.

How can we guard against anger erupting in the body? The first and most important step is to NOTICE that its there. We have an instinctive reluctance to see our own unwholesome qualities when they come up. There is no remedy for a problem that is unseen.

Having seen anger in our bodies, the guarding is done by our wholesome patterns of mind and body: keep still, investigate, allow the body sensations to be experienced just as they are, without fuelling or suppressing them. Move the attention to just this danger, away from whatever outside stimulus (or thought) is causing the reaction. In this way we bring our wholesome resources to bear; they are the most powerful protection we have.

When the eruption subsides, we can assess what stimulated the outbreak and whether some flaw in our view of things exacerbated or invited it. Did we inadvertently cause offence or hurt? Were we just in the path of someone venting (but not at us)? This is our world, this is dukkha; how will we handle it? Will we practice good conduct with our bodies?

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Filed under Anger, Dhammapada

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