A friend of mine at work said today that he’d like to see a blog post by an angry Buddhist. He thought that would be refreshing and entertaining. So I decided to satisfy his craving. Sort of. 😉
This morning I woke up at 6.20am. Me and 6.20am don’t generally get on, but today I woke up quite excited.
I was up early because I was going to have a celebratory breakfast with some friends of mine who were getting married. I love the significant moments in people’s lives and was glad to be invited to experience it. I had to be at work, but at least I would make the breakfast.
I had been super organised the previous day. Topped up my Oyster card online, worked out the route, planned what time I needed to leave, even which platform I needed to be on. I was assuming that my brain would wake up about 7.30 so I needed to help my future self out by making plans for him. I’m nice like that.
Anyway, all went according to plan, I got my first train, and went to make my connection. But they’d cancelled the train.
Not only that, they hadn’t thought to mention it while I was on the first train, which I would then have stayed on and only been delayed a little while. Not only that, I had to validate my topped up Oyster card… and blah blah blah yadda yadda. It went on like that. The long and short of it was – I was in a foul mood.
Working with foul moods
That you will get in a foul mood sometimes is a given. What you do with it isn’t.
When we’re frustrated like that, we have a strong tendency to want to justify that state of mind. We think of all the reasons why we’re right to feel that way. We get a kind of exhilaration from it. Part of us wants to totally stay in that mental state.
But for the majority of the time it’s pretty unpleasant. It’s the opposite of contentment. Sometimes I think anger is a good emotion to have. It gets you moving. It doesn’t have to result in negative destruction. It can push you through obstacles and give you the motivation to get it done. It doesn’t need to become hatred, it can simply stay as focused, strong energy.
However, when there’s nothing you can do about the situation, really you just want to get back to being happy asap. How do you do it?
Consider the consequences
Considering the consequences is one of the ‘antidotes to the hindrances’ in meditation. Basically, if there’s a particular mental state (such as ill will, restlessness, craving or whatever) that’s stopping you from being able to focus on the meditation object, one way to get back on track is to consciously dwell on the results of staying in that state of mind for any length of time.
Personally, I’ve never used this much in formal meditation (there are other techniques I find work better). But in day-to-day life, I find this really powerful.
It requires a certain amount of mindfulness (you need to be aware that you’re getting angry, rather than simply *being* angry). It also requires a certain pre-developed commitment to, or confidence in the benefits of not getting into that state. I guess that comes with time and reflection. After noticing the arising of different mental and emotional states over a period of time, it becomes blatantly obvious that some are better to be in than others. You don’t need ‘faith in the Buddhist way’ or anything.
Then, with a certain amount of effort and persistence, you can change things around. The state of mind or mood you happen to be in right now is no longer your master. It stops having the power to ruin your day.
Cultivating the opposite
Another antidote, ‘cultivating the opposite’, works great for me both in and out of formal meditation. If you’re wound up by something, consciously bring to mind stuff that makes you happy and relaxed.
For me this morning, I considered the consequences of staying wound up – i.e. I get to my friends’ place and don’t enjoy it and don’t contribute anything to the positive vibe of this beautiful day they have ahead of them.
That gave me some leverage on myself. I then imagined how happy and excited they’d be, until I was happy and excited too.
In the end, I got to their place about 40 minutes later than I’d planned. But I still got a chat with them and a cup of tea. And I got to share with them one hour of a day they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. And I got to give them a hug and wish them well. Totally worth it. I’m so glad I wasn’t fuming at the British train system the whole time!
You can’t control life. That goes double for public transport in England. So, even though the people at the top are skimming off the profits instead of sorting out the infrastructure, and increasing prices for a sub-standard service in a time of recession, I must embrace the situation as it is right now. In any one moment, reality always wins. Might as well let go of the fantasy.
And maybe also write a little blog post, so I get to have a dig at the buggers.