Mindfulness Activity #21
It is a rainy day here where I am writing to you. One of the principles of mindfulness is doing what is effective. Rain is soothing and helps to wash things away. Being effective means not wishing for sun, rather using what is here in the present. So, today I ask you to consider for a moment the emotion of anger and where and when it is effective in your life.
Anger is a very interesting emotion. Unlike fear which is really only justified if something is actually a danger to you in the present moment, anger is almost always justified. In other words, anytime something blocks you from getting something you want or anytime you are misunderstood or treated unfairly, anger makes sense and it is justified. The problem, however, is that anger is not always effective. When is it ineffective? Anger is counterproductive when it is so intense that it interferes with your ability to communicate effectively, or when it creates urges to say or do things that are not consistent with who you want to be. Anger is also unhelpful when it lingers, creating long lasting unpleasant feelings for you which make it harder to get through your day and your life.
To be clear, anger has a purpose. It tells us when we have been wronged; anger provides energy to change things you can change. However, anger about something in the past or anger about things you can’t change can be something you wish to let go of.
There are many things right now that can make us angry. Being socially isolated from friends and perhaps in too close quarters with people we are sheltering with can make us angry and irritable. The fact that innocent people are suffering, the fact that important plans have been cancelled–all of these things can make us angry.
One last fact about anger. It is not an all or nothing emotion. It comes in gradations from irritated to annoyed, to very angry, to rageful. We can, if it is helpful, choose to reduce anger just a bit or try to let it go altogether depending on how the emotion is affecting us today and how useful it is for us.
Today’s mindfulness practice asks you to consider any anger you might be holding today and think about its usefulness. First set your timer for 7 minutes (or however much time you want to practice for). Sit and try to find anger about a situation or a person that you would like to reduce or that you’d like to let go of.
When your bell to begin rings, take a few deep breaths and as you exhale let go of physical tension in your body. This is often where we hold anger, in our jaws and our shoulders. Adopt a position of willingness, palms facing upwards, and keep a soft tiny, half-smile on your face. This is one practice where you may wish to keep eyes closed.
Continue to breathe in and out, listening to the rain sounds on this clip, releasing tension and judgments with each exhale. Allowing the sound of rain and your breathing to melt resentment.
When the timer rings signifying the end of your practice, open your eyes, breathe deeply, and make it your intention to notice things that prompt anger in you today. If you do not wish to feel angry or if it is counterproductive for you in its intensity, take a deep breath and recall this morning’s practice, and allow the feeling to leave making way for the next moment.
Be well today.