What can I do with this ANGER (or fear or despair) in these difficult times?!? Response to a letter.

sky-birdOur practice is not about denying or minimizing or escaping from the feelings we are experiencing, even the very unpleasant ones, such as rage, fear/anxiety or despair.  It is very different, and may be difficult at first, to allow strong feelings to be present in us, and to see them very clearly, without following our old habit energies in expressing them in ways that are truly not helpful and only make us feel worse in the long run.  For me, it is very important to make the time for looking at them carefully, allowing them to be present, experiencing their presence in my body and mind with acceptance and curiosity.  I find that simply doing this, not trying to change them at all, not “trying to be peaceful,” diminishes their intensity and makes it easier for me to be less reactive to them throughout the day.

When looking at strong emotions in this way, that is within a meditative session, it is helpful and quite important to be very kind and gentle with yourself, and to spend a few minutes with a focus, especially the breath, coming back to it each time you find your mind distracted, using counting or some other method to keep that attention as needed. It can also be very helpful to spend some time really relaxing the body, e.g.’ “breathing in I am aware of my shoulders, breathing out I relax my shoulders,” etc. Having done that, and experiencing some increase in calming within you, then focus on the feelings that arise, with some of your attention still with your breath. In the current situation it might be useful to do several short sessions like this throughout the day.  Before you end the session, return to the breathing and relaxation for a little while.

Note that this is not an intellectual process.  There is no trying to convince yourself that everything is going to be OK, and no running with apocalyptic thoughts either.  The process I am describing is simply recognizing the emotion, accepting it, looking at it with curiosity, and doing this repeatedly.

And do ask for help, for the wisdom and compassion that is always available, in whatever way is most helpful to you.