Guard against anger erupting in your mind;
Be restrained with your mind.
Letting go of mental misconduct,
Practice good conduct with your mind.
The wise are restrained in body,
Restrained in speech.
The wise are restrained in mind.
They are fully restrained.
Dhammapada v 233-234, translated by Gil Fronsdal
Most difficult of all is observing and restraining anger in the mind. This is where the discipline of making the effort to direct our actions and words toward the wholesome becomes a meditation.
When we start out with the intention to make our actions and words more wholesome, there’s a lot we can’t see, and a lot of our experience doesn’t seem to offer the opportunity for wholesome or unwholesome action; we’re just doing what we normally do. After a time, we see that we can brush our teeth with impatience or patience, we can cook and wash the dishes with generosity or resentment, we can travel to work/school/etc. with an awareness of our body sensations and surroundings or lost in daydreams. Slowly and subtly, it becomes a different life – we can see opportunities for awareness everywhere. This is one very effective mind training: look for opportunities to keep to the wholesome in body, speech and mind.
It’s very important not to strain when training the mind. Use what wisdom you have to set aside unhelpful subjects for contemplation and take up constructive ones. The third time you worry or fret about something, find a way to acknowledge it and look into why you might be obsessing about it. Could you bring some new information or a different perspective to bear might allow you to put this nagging thought aside?
Restraint is a bad word in some circles, but in our context, it is foundational. If we want to tame our harmful motivations and give the healthy ones room to grow, restraint becomes an attractive tool. Today, our intention is stronger or weaker, but is the direction the same? Are we leaning into the wholesome?