Confronting our own ill-will is hard, but if we are to make any headway towards a peaceful heart (let alone liberation from all suffering) we must make the effort.
Example: Let’s say someone we know makes a forceful, bossy, cutting-off comment. We react strongly, thinking “Don’t tell me what to do!” and that the speaker is out of line, disrespectful, treating us like a child, sanctimonious, etc. This is a physical as well as a mental experience; there might be a tightening of the throat, clenching of teeth, and (possibly) seeing red. The stream of our anger is a force of nature that we could easily surrender to, but there is an alternative. We could also stop, breathe, and surrender to our wisdom, thinking “this person is behaving in an unpleasant way, but I don’t have to participate in the exchange”. Silence works very well here; sometimes there just are no useful words. Forgiveness may or may not come later; we may re-evaluate what we choose to share with this person and how much time we’re willing to give them. If we feel we’ve been burned, we might be wary in future encounters. We might also remember that the person has many good qualities as well as some problematic ones (for us, at least).
When this or a similar type of experience comes to us, how do we respond? Sometimes the force of our anger is too much for us and we’re overwhelmed, often making the situation worse. But the choice is there: participate in the exchange or not? Can we recognize that the anger is a hindrance within our body and mind and that it is ours to deal with? Can we feel the power of ill-will and stand up to it?
This sort of exercise may not come up very often, but how we handle it is important. Once we go against the grain and choose wise silence or withdrawal (when appropriate), there is a feeling of self-control, of autonomy, even of liberation. Knowing that we have a choice to go with or against our anger, to choose wisdom even in the heat of the moment, we are on our way to becoming free, at least from the grossest forms of ill-will.
Patience is a key element with this process. One successful confrontation with our own anger doesn’t eliminate it from our psyche. We’ll have to practice choosing wisdom again and again, though it may start to feel more natural as we progress.
Patience is also the quality that can help us with lesser instances of ill-will. This recent article from the New York Times is titled “How to Be a More Patient Person” and I think it covers a lot of useful ground. I’m attaching the link: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/05/smarter-living/how-to-be-a-more-patient-person.html
and also the content as a document, in case you’d like to avoid the embedded advertising. How to Be a More Patient Person by Anna Goldfarb
Please consider reading the article and choosing one or more of the strategies suggested. More on these ideas in the next post…