We are angry at times, perhaps everyday, perhaps every hour. In our work we see anger flashing. In the world we see anger’s sharp teeth. Is anger the face of evil? What if we see an angry baby or child? Two dogs facing off sometimes express anger. We do not believe they are evil, do we?
Anger is a signal that we do not believe things are going according to or desires and plans. We want things to go easily. We want them to go our way–right now. If we do not get our way we may explode with anger.
What is this part of us that expects things to go so easily according to our desires, if not the immature self, the inner child? At times, anger may be the correct response to a situation. Need to jump across a cliff to survive? A burst of anger will give you an extra lift of energy. More often, anger is a hot energy that wants to destroy rather than to survive or create beauty. Another part of us knows that a person who is master of some art or craft has spent hours practicing, until most of the unwanted motions or mistakes are eliminated or avoided ahead of time. Then art is achieved seemingly effortlessly and without the heat of anger.
So it seems anger is the smoky energy of inexperience, and thus ineffectiveness, that can only be overcome by further experience, which leads to calm mastery. On the other hand, this life provides so many different kinds of experience and drills to be mastered, there seems an infinite opportunity for anger.
Anger must be the emotion of the beginner, the apprentice, with a far longer journey-path towards mastery than expected. The child expects instant gratification. The adult knows practice and repetitions are required.
It is human to feel discouraged, to feel one has failed, to feel the path is endless with no good ending. All of us have felt this way. Hopefully everyone has had the experience of attempting some goal or practice that was at first difficult and then after much experience became splendidly easy and satisfying.
Certainly we all remember trying to tie our shoes that first time. Now it is done almost unconsciously, our fingers knowing just what to do and at high speed! Older now, our tasks and challenges are far more complicated and demand much greater refinement.
If we recognize our feeling of frustration as merely the energy of a beginner then perhaps we can accept anger as a gauge of our progress. We are far beyond getting angry at tying our shoes or hitting a ball. We are now attempting very difficult things. We have much longer apprenticeships.
We are now attempting to become compassionate beings. This is the highest achievement in the universe. To be loving, patient and kind in every moment is far beyond any achievement with a piano, paintbrush or ball. If you experience a puff of anger you can say, “This is just another apprentice moment, but I will keep trying until the art comes to me. It is only a matter of time. I will let the anger go–and try again.” Anger is actually self criticism, or criticism of another person. Let this anger go and get on with your work.
It is pleasing and satisfying to watch a master at work. The master sees difficulties before they arise–and the master is smiling. The calm smile is the face of the master. When you are experiencing the heat of anger, picture the master’s smiling face. That face belongs to you, when you are the master. Phil