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Ducks Don't Do Anger

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'Ducks don't do anger. Ducks fight over a piece of bread and then they just swim away,' says our friend Deepesh.

There is a lot of anger flying around with this election, the financial meltdown, and the continuing disregard the present government has shown towards the needs of the people. But we need not let it stay in our system, as seen in Nelson Mandela's response to Bill Clinton soon after Mandela's release.

Clinton asked him if he wasn't feeling really angry the day he walked away from twenty-seven years in jail. "Surely," Clinton said, "You must have felt some anger?" Mandela agreed that, yes, with the joy of being free, he had also felt great anger. "But," he said, "I valued my freedom more, and I knew that if I expressed my anger I would still be a prisoner."

For Mandela, as for all of us, getting angry back is simply playing the same game and results in the old catchphrase, 'two wrongs don't make a right.' Yes, we have a right to be angry at being treated with disrespect, but shouting back just gets us into further negativity.

As Michael Beckwith writes in our forthcoming book, Meditation Can Change Our World, "Rev James Lawson, who was a cohort of Dr. Martin Luther King, shared with me an experience when he and Dr. King were sitting in an auditorium and a man came up and said to Dr. King, 'Are you MLK Jr.?' and he said 'Yes' and the man spat on him. Dr. King took a handkerchief, took the spittle off of his suit, and handed it back to the man and said, 'I think this belongs to you.' He didn't hit the man, he didn't cuss the man out, he didn't say how dare you, he had this ability to just be in the moment."

It's not that anger is all wrong, it can be the expression of a passion for justice and fairness, for basic rightness, for what is appropriate and humane. But anger can also cause tremendous damage and hurt; it is described as a single match that can burn an entire forest. When we are angry our heart goes out of reach and we lose touch with our feelings.

In its passion, anger pushes away, condemns, and makes everything wrong except itself. Anger is 'I am right and you are wrong.' There is no compromise, no chance for dialogue. And we are the ones who suffer the most, particularly from the affects of the anger within our own minds, hearts and bodies.

Anger causes wars, leads to greed and self-deception. On a world scale we cannot afford the ignorance that this leads to. The fallout can be huge and, invariably, we have no control over the repercussions.

Trying to eradicate anger is like trying to box with our own shadow, it doesn't work. Getting rid of it implies either expressing it and creating emotional damage, or repressing it, which just suppresses it until it erupts at a later time.

Getting to know and make friends with anger is essential. To make real change we have to change the way we think and react. This is growing roses out of rotting compost, transforming fire into constructive action, using the passion but without the destruction.

We need to see what is beneath the anger, what hurt, longing or fear is trying to make itself heard. There may be feelings of rejection, grief or loneliness, so if we repress anger or pretend it isn't there then all these other feelings get repressed and ignored as well.

Anger is invariably a big cry for love because we have lost our connectedness with each other. By naming and recognizing the many faces of anger, we will be able to stay present with anger as it arises, keeping the heart open, breathing, watching emotions come up and pass through us. We watch as anger fills the mind and makes such a song and dance, and we just keep breathing and watching as it goes on it's way.


Ed and Deb Shapiro are bestselling authors of Your Body Speaks Your Mind, corporate consultants, meditation teachers, and the creators of Chillout daily text messages on Sprint cell phones.

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