Negative emotions, such as anger, fear, depression and shame, are so powerful that they can seem to seize control of our personality at times. We experience everything around us in a colored and distorted lens, leaving us feeling like we’ve been turned into a completely different person.
And for many of us, it seems too great a challenge to take control of these strong emotions. We feel helpless to break free of these powerful, highly charged energies.
I’ve long been fascinated with human emotions – why we feel how we feel. I’ve read many books on how to transform negative emotions and experimented many different techniques.
I have to say that my favorite is still from the teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh – a respected Zen master, poet, peace and human rights activist, and one of my personal heroes. In his book "Taming the Tiger Within,"
He offers simple meditations on transforming difficult emotions – “taming the tiger within,” as he calls it. He says…
- One of the main causes of our suffering is the seed of anger inside of us.
- If you get angry easily, it may be because the seed of anger in you has been watered frequently over many years, and unfortunately you have allowed it or even encouraged it to be watered.
- People who use venting techniques like hitting a pillow or shouting are actually rehearing anger. They are learning a dangerous habit. They are training in aggression. Instead, a wise practitioner generates the energy of mindfulness, and embraces his or her anger every time it manifests.
- Anger is like a howling baby, suffering and crying. Your anger is your baby. The baby needs his mother to embrace him. You are the mother. Embrace your baby. Stop everything you are doing, and take good care of it.
- Whenever anger comes up, take out a mirror and look at yourself. When you are angry, you are not very beautiful, you are not presentable. Hundreds of muscles on your face become very tense. Your face looks like a bomb ready to explode.
- When you see your face booking like a bomb ready to explode, you are motivated to do something to change it. You know in your heart what you can do to look more beautiful.
- You don’t need cosmetics. You need only to breathe peacefully, calmly, and to smile mindfully. If you can do that one or two times, you will look much better. Just look in the mirror, breathing in calmly, breathing out smiling, and you will find relief.
- It’s not healthy to keep your anger inside for long. I always advise my friends, “Do not keep your anger to yourself for more than one day.”
- Practice looking deeply into the nature of your anger to see how it has come about. In the beginning you may not understand it, but if you know how to embrace it with the energy of mindfulness, it will begin to become clear to you.
- Every mental formation – anger, jealousy, despair, etc. – is sensitive to mindfulness the way all vegetation is sensitive to sunshine. By cultivating the energy of mindfulness, you can heal your body and your consciousness.
- Anger is in us in the form of a seed. The seeds of love and compassion are also there. In our consciousness, there are many negative seeds and also many positive seeds. The practice is to avoid watering the negative seeds, and to identify and water the positive seeds every day.
Thich Nhat Hanh makes it sound so simple and doable, didn’t he? Easier said than done, you may say. And you’re probably right. But I know what he says is the truth.
It may have taken many years of watering for the seeds of anger or other strong, negative emotions to take root in our consciousness. It will probably take many years to tame those fierce tigers within and to plant new, positive seeds that will bear beautiful flowers and delicious fruits – such as peace, joy and love.
It’s never too late to start. And in my opinion, it’s surely better to start today than tomorrow. Don’t you agree?
If you haven't already, check out Thich Nhat Hanh's "Taming the Tiger Within." Reading the book is a meditation in itself...