“Anger, fear aggression… the Dark Side are they.” – Yoda
This is part 2 of a series, so if you missed part one, link here!
I have watched the original Star Wars trilogy many times over the years….probably more than most. I used to keep track of how many times I’d seen the original, but lost track somewhere in the 300s…and that was when I was in middle school. To say I have watched the second installment, The Empire Strikes Back, a thousand times is probably a very conservative estimate. I literally have the entire film memorized.
When I was a kid watching the movie in theaters, it was simply a mind-blowing science fiction extravaganza. As I’ve gotten older, the real philosophy behind the film, and particularly Yoda’s teachings, have rung true on a much deeper level. In fact, Yoda’s teachings are reflective of the teachings of many of the most respected teachers of all time. Siddartha Gautama (commonly referred to as Buddha) and Jesus of Nazareth, in particular, were no doubt the primary inspiration for Star Wars creator George Lucas.
Why does Yoda, the Jedi Master, tell his young trainee Luke Skywalker that anger is a path to the Dark Side of The Force? Well, let’s think about that for a moment. We’ve all been angry, most of us many times, but has getting angry made situations better or worse? Do you feel like anger is something that happens without your consent? Does it control you? Do you often find yourself thinking and/or saying that someone “made” you angry?
I’m here to tell you, that is simply not true.
No one can “make” you angry; not when you are walking in mindfulness and taking ownership of your own being. Anger is a choice you make, as surely as you choose which shoes to wear or what to eat for lunch on a given day. The question is, are you aware that you’re making that choice? Are you far enough down the path of wakefulness to understand the power you have over your own emotions? There is absolutely no reason to play the victim here….you can be in TOTAL control if you choose.
As my dear friend and brother Hawei No Bushi says in his podcast about the Six Medicines of Bodhichristo, you don’t have to pray for the strength to not get angry and then wait for your prayer to be answered; you have it within you already to choose not to get angry.
What happens when you get angry? Do situations generally improve or get worse? Getting angry generally means you have lost control, and when you lose control you say and do things you later wish you hadn’t said and done. You would be better served to stay in control and not allow anger to make a bad situation even worse.
I have a young daughter, and of course from time to time she breaks things I would prefer she hadn’t broken. Welcome to parenting. Her mother’s first response is anger, and as such she tends to start screaming and yelling at our daughter for breaking whatever the item was. She is usually further aggravated by my lack of anger in these situations and accuses me of not caring because I don’t get angry. In response, I have often asked her if my getting angry will “unbreak” the broken object.
No, of course not.
What purpose does anger serve, then? The best response is to clean up whatever is broken and move on. Maybe the thing is replaceable, maybe it’s not, but either way anger does not in any way improve the situation. It can make it worse…much worse….but it can’t improve it.
Life is not unlike a basketball game…the more you practice the better you’ll be when it really counts. Practice breathing….practice remaining calm…practice mindfulness…practice being in control…practice not getting angry. When a potentially stressful situation arises – and it will – try not getting angry.
I believe, based on my own experience, that choosing not to get angry will make the situation infinitely better, at least for you. If those around you still choose to get angry, it’s OK, that’s their choice. We only get to choose our own reactions to things and it shouldn’t bother us when others make different choices. It only hurts them, after all, unless we choose to let it hurt us, as well.
There is a common denominator here: choice. We have choices, and we have them constantly. The more mindful we are when we make our choices the better off we are. After all, anger leads to the Dark Side. Search your feelings…you know it to be true.
6 thoughts on “The Magic of Avoiding Anger”
Bill you sure talked to me in this one. I am a beginner in this walk of choosing to or not to get angry.
When my choice is not too and I respond it’s a peace that comes over myself.
What I don’t understand is bottling up angry over uncontrollable issues what then?
A choice perhaps so….I walk.
Any other suggestions?
It’s a practice, it’s not somewhere that you arrive. Anger is always something that threatens to become our response. I still get angry on occasions, even though I fully understand the importance of remaining calm. The answer to your question is to not bottle things up. Let go. It may sound too easy, but it really is that something. Once you learn to really release things and not bottle them up then the anger will dissipate.
Practice. Bushi’s podcast (linked above) can help!
Does that help?
It occurs to me that I did the classic teacher thing and asked you to do something while making the assumption that you would know how to do it. I usually stop short of offering specific advice because most people won’t go to the lengths I am willing to do to in order to accomplish something, but here are two ways that I let anger go.
1) Daily yoga. I spend about an hour every morning doing yoga before anyone else is awake to interrupt me and before the business of work and parenting finds ways to keep me from doing it. I get up at 4:30 on work days to make sure I have this time. Arnold Schwarzenegger once said he laughs at people who say they don’t have time to work out. There are 24 hours in a day and it’s up to use to determine how we spend those hours. I took his words to heart. No excuses!
2) Daily meditation. I tend to do walking meditation because my house is quite busy and I rarely get quiet time except when I’m doing yoga. I take my beagle and go out and enjoy nature. I breathe the air and notice the feeling of it filling my lungs. I notice the trees, the cycle of life as they bloom, drop leaves, go dormant… I reach out with my feelings and sense their life force. This allows me to clear my mind and release any unwanted tension, frustration, anger, etc.
3) Finally, when you feel anger rising, label it. Step back internally and say to yourself – “Wow! That’s anger trying to ruin my day!” That identification, that stepping back, will also defuse it. Anger arises from inattention and lack of awareness. When you become aware of it, it loses its power.
That’s how I defuse the anger monster. 🙂