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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Letter from Publisher: Thank you, Donald Trump

Nov 01, 2020 09:30AM ● By Paul Chen
You set out to find God, but then you keep stopping for long periods at mean-spirited roadhouses. ~ Rumi

I have written about my efforts to vanquish my hair-trigger anger over injustice—racism, misogyny, anti-gay and lesbian words and deeds, and especially those malevolent actions, committed by the powerful, upon all they choose.

I’m happy to report that I’ve made enough progress to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It might be a long time before I step into that light, but it is visible, which is a massive improvement from where I was only a few short months ago.

And I have Donald Trump and his enablers to thank.

My anger was explosive, violent, full of vitriol, and, frankly, hate. To be sure, I can still be triggered rather easily, but my response is considerably moderated, and I arrive at compassion more quickly.

I’m not sure when I first noticed the anger in myself; I probably assumed it was part of who I was. But I distinctly remember the first time I was told that anger has no merit and should be eradicated. It was during a Buddhist teaching. I had believed, as many do, that anger at injustice is legitimate and can be positive if it’s channeled into right action. Indeed, last year, a spiritual coach sent me an article by the Dalai Lama that, she said, made that point.

But it didn’t exactly. The Dalai Lama actually said that anger could be productive if it is aimed at the situation, but not a person or persons.

“When we’re angry, we’re always wrong,” says Gen Norden, resident teacher at the Kadampa Meditation Center of Georgia. By definition, anger seeks to harm the antagonists, she explains, not help the victims. That’s compassion.

There is a lot of palpable anger these days—from many people on all sides. To help others working to overcome their anger, here is what I’ve learned.

Become aware: It took me a while to realize that my anger was over the top. Righteousness makes one feel that their anger is justified.

Patiently accept and forgive: Many tend to self-blame or despair in the belief that our faults are inherent. Neither is helpful. The first step toward recovery is patiently accepting the situation. “Patience is a mind that is able to accept, fully and happily, whatever occurs,” says Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, founder of the New Kadampa Tradition. “It is much more than just gritting our teeth and putting up with things.” Acceptance creates space for embracing responsibility and the possibility of positive change. Forgiving oneself paves the way for change even further.

Commit: Once one becomes aware, accepts and forgives, the next step is to commit to change. It took me a while to do that. I had been aware of my toxic anger for decades, but it wasn’t until it was being triggered almost daily that I committed to change.

Interrupt: No one frees themselves from anger overnight. One step you can take early in your journey to vanquish anger is to interrupt an anger episode as soon as you recognize it. Then, simply stop, lie down and focus on how anger is manifesting in your body moment by moment. Ask yourself: How does anger physically feel? Where is it located? Where is it moving to? How is it changing?

The biggest trick is not to feed the anger; don’t rationalize it, as in the thought, “I have a right to be angry because...” Feeding anger not only extends the time one experiences it; it reinforces one’s tendency to react with anger.

The greatest benefit of this technique is that it works quickly; starving anger helps it dissipate within minutes.

Another interruption technique is to remember the faults of anger. I wrote a 475-word reminder for when I want to use this device. It starts: “Anger is my greatest enemy. It is 100% delusional, which means that when I am angry, I’ve lost my mind.”   

Remove triggers: Habits are hard to break. I’ve been a news junkie since my teens, having developed the idea that being well-informed was a requirement for being a good citizen. But reading the news these last few years is a constant trigger for those of us who are highly sensitive to injustice. I have tried to stop from time to time, but it wasn’t until recently that I broke through my steady diet of news. What helped even more was taking time off of Facebook. Even though my news and Facebook consumption is on the upswing once again, I have improved from spewing vitriol to merely being snarky.

Pray and meditate: It’s one thing to curtail anger, but another thing entirely to replace it with its opposite. In 2016, I started praying and meditating for the remaining Republican candidates and their supporters. My first effort consisted of 21 consecutive days of meditation, and it netted my first breakthrough. In Buddhism, a “realization” is when something you know in your head reaches your heart. Through that meditation period, I fully realized that, in the most important way, we are all equal. A contemplation in my tradition goes: “Just as I wish to be free from suffering and experience only happiness, so do all other beings.”   

Over the past five years, I have devoted more prayer time to Trump and his enablers than any other entity, by far. My meditation of choice is called “Taking & Giving.” To do it, as you inhale, imagine taking away suffering. As you exhale, imagine giving love.

Relate to your higher self: As of last year, I’ve been supercharging my meditation further by relating to my higher self, the Divine within. It’s similar to the Little Leaguer, stepping to the plate, imagining himself as the Big Leaguer, and blasting one out of the park. Indeed, I wrote a 400-word affirmation about being the Buddha of Compassion, and I recite it from memory almost daily. I credit it for the rapid progress I’ve seen in myself over the last few months.

Get energy healing: For me, the last piece to this puzzle is to receive regular energy healing; it has always been very good to me. Before the start of each session, I set intentions for my desired outcomes, and, inevitably, the energy work eases the issues I’m dealing with and deepens a sense of lightness and grace within me.

✶✶✶

At the beginning of this year, I did not imagine that I would be at the place I am now. For so long, it felt as though anger was an inherent part of me. Don’t get me wrong, injustice is a crime against humanity that we all should seek to diminish, but I know now—in my heart and not just my head—that love is greater than hate.

Thank you, Donald. Lesson learned.
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